Memorandum from Drinker Biddle Chairman Outlining Formation of Barbara McDowell Foundation

The Barbara McDowell Foundation was created by Jerry Hartman, Barbara’s husband, and Drinker Biddle in April 2009. The memorandum below from Alfred Putnam, Chairman of Drinker Biddle, describes the formation of the Foundation:


TO: All Offices 
FROM: Alfred W. Putnam, Jr. 
Andrew C. Kassner 
DATE: April 6, 2009 
 RE: “High Impact” Pro Bono Initiative to Continue the Work of Barbara McDowell

As many of you will recall, our partner Jerry Hartman’s wife, Barbara McDowell, lost her year-long battle with brain cancer in early January of this year. Barbara was one of the country’s leading appellate advocates, first as a partner at Jones Day and then in the Solicitor General’s Office, having argued 18 cases before the Supreme Court of the United States before 2004. In that year, however, she left that distinguished practice behind and joined the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia as its First Appellate Director. In that capacity, she handled more than seventy cases on a broad range of issues and became the leading voice for the poor and disadvantaged in the appellate courts of the District of Columbia.

Jerry has advised the Managing Partners that he would now like to devote a significant portion of his time to continuing Barbara’s work and has invited the Firm to join him in this undertaking. This suggestion – and Barbara’s example – struck a chord, which is to be expected given our firm’s long history of commitment both to pro bono representation and to public service. In fact, we should probably express that thought in the plural and speak of more than one firm because that commitment has been a hallmark not only of Drinker Biddle & Reath but also of Gardner Carton & Douglas and Shanley & Fisher and other firms or groups with which we have combined over the past few years.

The Managing Partners responded to Jerry at their March 24th meeting by endorsing his suggestion of a new “High Impact” Pro Bono Initiative designed to continue and honor Barbara’s work. The Initiative will undertake matters that are deemed likely to have a significant impact on important social justice concerns facing indigent persons or charitable or civic groups who are unable to afford the services of an attorney. The overall mission of the Initiative is the enhancement of the economic, health, social conditions, and civil liberties of low-income and disadvantaged people. A fuller description is provided in the attached initial implementation plan. As noted therein, the Initiative will be administered as part of the Firm’s overall Pro Bono Program and consistent with the policies and procedures we apply to such matters.

The Managing Partners have asked Jerry to lead this Initiative in 2009. Initially, he will be attempting to identify appropriate cases – whether in the form of a class action or an individual case that could have important precedential impact – that can only be undertaken by a firm of our size and resources and which fit the mission. We hope that attorneys in each of our offices will want to join in this very unique effort for a law firm that will become a continuing and integral part of the firm’s Pro Bono work. Jerry plans to continue his employment discrimination practice, but he will be devoting substantial time to this Initiative and has considerable experience with complex litigation not only from his many years in private practice but also from the time he spent in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.

If you have an interest in participating, please send Jerry an email. Similarly, if you know of any project that you think would fit within the aims of the Initiative, please send the suggestion to Jerry. We believe that this Initiative will greatly enhance the Firm’s already robust Pro Bono efforts and we thank Jerry for his willingness to undertake the task. We also can think of no better way to honor Barbara’s memory than to continue her work in this fashion.