By Leslie E. John, partner at Ballard Spahr LLP, and president of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation.
This is my first column as President of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation. It has been a privilege to serve as a Trustee of the Bar Foundation since 2010 and as a member of the Executive Committee since 2014.
The mission of the Bar Foundation—to remove barriers to justice, encourage support for legal aid, and educate people on their right to equal justice—reflects principles that have guided both my professional and personal life. The programs, grants, and partnerships developed and implemented by the Philadelphia Bar Foundation have never been more important than they are right now. The legal community has a critical role to play and it is imperative that we work together to demonstrate our shared commitment to access to justice.
I see that commitment throughout the Bar Foundation and I am honored to have been a part of many of the decisions that have kept us moving forward. I chaired the Raising the Bar and New Development Initiatives Committees, co-chaired the Access to Justice Benefit Committee, and served as a member of the Awards and Programs, PBF-PBA Review, Individual Giving, and Equal Justice Center Committees. Our work is changing lives.
For those of you I have not yet had the opportunity to meet, please allow me to introduce myself. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and attended the University of California, Berkeley, where I received both my undergraduate and law degrees. My husband, Greg Blackman, is a research scientist at DowDupont. We’ve been married for more than 25 years and have two children—one an aspiring opera singer and cross-fit enthusiast, the other beginning a career in the sciences.
On the professional front, I am the Practice Leader of the Antitrust Group at Ballard Spahr. We handle civil and criminal antitrust cases across the country, from multidistrict litigation and class actions to investigations by federal and state officials. We also offer strategic guidance on business collaborations, securing antitrust clearances, and developing competition strategies that will hold up in court, at the negotiation table, or before an antitrust agency. My clients include global corporations, many of whom are leaders in the pharmaceutical and life sciences, aerospace, infrastructure, communications, and consumer products sectors.
I also serve on Ballard Spahr’s Diversity and Inclusion Council, which promotes the hiring and retention of lawyers from all backgrounds and ensures that all lawyers are included in all aspects of firm life from effective integration to development and engagement. I also am involved in Ballard Women, a firm-wide affinity group that provides mentorship and networking opportunities to women lawyers at every level and across our 15 U.S. offices.
As many of you know, Ballard Spahr has a longstanding commitment to providing pro bono legal services to people and organizations in need. Our lawyers and staff donate more than 50,000 hours of pro bono legal services each year and have a 90 percent participation rate. We are deeply involved in Philadelphia’s non-profit community, and all of the communities in which our offices are located. I recently was involved in the successful representation of a transgender woman who was appealing the court’s denial of her petition to change her legal name.
Over the next two years, we have much to be excited about at the Bar Foundation. Very soon, we expect to break ground on the Equal Justice Center. We are spearheading the construction of a building at 8th and Vine Streets that will house a significant number of the city’s legal aid organizations. By providing a single home to these organizations, we will enable them to direct more resources to their clients. The center—believed to be the first of its kind in the nation—will be a hub that will foster cooperation, increase desperately needed services, and deliver significant cost efficiencies to the participating organizations.
I am excited about what lies ahead for the Bar Foundation, and about working with you. Thank you for joining me in advancing the mission that unites us—ensuring equal access to justice and leveraging the strength of our extraordinary legal community to make our region a better place.