The Bright Future of the Bar Foundation


By Wilson M. Brown III, Senior Counsel at Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP and President of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation.

I have been honored to serve as a Trustee of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation since 2009 and as a member of the Foundation’s Executive Committee since 2013. As the Foundation’s new President, I am now challenged to build upon the extraordinary leadership of Leslie John, whose years of commitment to access to justice for all Philadelphians has been inspiring.  

The Bar Foundation’s mission is to remove barriers to justice by educating our citizens on their right to equal justice, encouraging support for legal aid, and facilitating the delivery of legal services to those in need. For many years, the Foundation has lived this mission through fundraising and grantmaking: Foundation grants provide bedrock support for many legal services organizations in the City and help assure their accountability on an annual basis.  

The Foundation’s role, however, involves more than grantmaking. It aims to be a “thought leader.”  Over the past decade, under the leadership of Leslie, Deborah Gross, Tom Brophy, and Steve Bizar, the Foundation committed a great deal of time and energy to the concept of an Equal Justice Center, a facility that would provide the needy with ready access to an array of legal aid providers and essential legal services. This facility promises not only improved accessibility but significant efficiencies, which will allow providers to commit more of their resources to serving clients. Unfortunately, the dislocation caused by the pandemic untracked one plan for such a Center. But, the Foundation remains committed, and will continue to explore with its grantees creative ways to achieve the Center’s goals.

Ooops! There I go again. Launching full speed into what is weighing on my mind without having properly introduced myself.  

I grew up in Virginia and North Carolina, attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and then headed to the University of Virginia for law school. I seemed destined for a career in the mid-South, when one of my law school friends told me about Drinker Biddle & Reath in Philadelphia, where he was considering a summer clerk position. My parents and siblings had recently relocated to the Philadelphia suburbs, so I had some modest incentive to look there. And, I did.

I never looked back. Summer clerk, associate, partner for 35 years, and Senior Counsel at what is now Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. My practice focus is commercial and insurance disputes, which has given me the opportunity to appear in courts throughout the country at both trial and appellate levels. I also have had various management roles, ultimately leading our commercial litigation practices and assisting with the firm’s growth initiatives on both the coasts and Chicago. I have also taken on a number of pro bono matters, most recently a class action on behalf of Pennsylvania’s death row inmates that succeeded in ending the Commonwealth’s practice of holding these inmates in permanent solitary confinement. I am gratified that Faegre Drinker is every bit as committed to pro bono service as its predecessors.

My wife, Anne Elliott Brown, is an educator and Reading Specialist. She has put up with all of my antics, and kept us on an even keel for the last 47 years. We have two sons, Wilson, who has a successful music and sound design studio in New York City, and Stuart, who is Director of Strategic Planning for Louisiana’s Coastal Restoration and Protection Authority in Baton Rouge, and some wonderful grandchildren. I look forward to telling you all about well as the Foundation.

I am very much looking forward to working with all members of Philadelphia’s extraordinary legal community to help us continue our efforts to ensure equal access to justice for all. The Bar Foundation’s future is bright. Together we will make it so.