Ballard Spahr LLP was the recipient of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law's 2012 Frances Perkins Public Service Award for extraordinary pro bono work provided over many years. The prestigious award was presented to the firm by Section Chair Stewart Manela at the ABA 6th Annual Labor and Employment Law Conference in Atlanta in November.
The firm was recognized for providing significant assistance to women athletes and organizations supporting women's athletics over the last two decades. The firm has provided thousands of hours of pro bono work in virtually every aspect of women's athletics, from assisting elite female athletes to supporting national women's sports organizations as well as organizations supporting young girls in inner cities. As noted by John Langel, the Ballard Spahr partner who accepted the Award, the work had been especially gratifying in changing the legal landscape for all women involved in sports at all levels.
The firm has also supplied behind-the-scenes legal support for numerous organizations that are enhancing the lives of girls and women of all ages and social backgrounds. These organizations are providing important life skills to young women across the country. Much of what the organizations have accomplished was made possible by the substantial pro bono assistance of Ballard Spahr LLP.
Building on the rights provided to women athletes through Title IX, the firm provided legal support to a full range of women athletes to empower them at the negotiating table when they were attempting to attain wages, benefits, training and travel assistance comparable to that provided to male athletes. For instance, the women's soccer team that won the first American Olympic gold medal in 1996 learned that the US Soccer Federation compensated and supported the women's team at much lower levels than the men's team. When John Langel was approached by the captain of the women's team for assistance in addressing a number of these issues, Langel waived all fees. He and colleagues at Ballard Spahr renegotiated the team's contract with the US Soccer Federation to secure more equitable treatment. These services have been provided by Ballard Spahr to the US Women's Hockey Team as well as the US Women's Softball Team.
Ballard Spahr has also provided pro bono support to the Women's Sport Foundation (WSF), which was founded in 1974 by Billie Jean King. The WSF mission is to advance the lives of girls and women through sports and physical activity. The WSF provides scholarships and grants to female athletes and sponsors ground-breaking research, public awareness and advocacy campaigns across the country. Ballard Spahr has also provided hundreds of hours of pro bono support to the Black Women in Sport Foundation, serving as the organization's General Counsel since 1994. The Black Women in Sport Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded by leaders in intercollegiate and national women's sports dedicated to increasing the involvement of black women and girls in all aspects of sport, including athletics and coaching and administration. Ballard Spahr has also provided pro bono general counsel services to the Dawn Staley Foundation which provides after-school programs for inner-city girls to help them develop self-confidence, team building and leadership skills.
In addition, Ballard Spahr has provided pro bono support to a number of individual women athletes in grievances covering such diverse issues as training and preparation activities for the US Championships, status as participants in the bobsled competition in the Olympics, doping accusations and sexual harassment. Further, Ballard Spahr has provided pro bono services for a number of local organizations including the Denver Women's Hockey League, the Haddonfield Girls Travel Softball Club, the Anderson Monarchs, Moorestown Field Hockey Boosters and the Philadelphia Area Girls Lacrosse Association.
It's clear that the important pro bono work of Ballard Spahr LLP has been significant and has resulted in dramatic changes in the work and personal lives of girls and women engaged in athletics.
Do you know of a firm, lawyer, or organization providing exceptional pro bono representation? Chances are, you do. Nominate them now for the 2013 Frances Perkins Award. The deadline for nominations is early July 2013 and you can find the nomination requirements on the Section Website.
This article was prepared by Anne Purcell, Public Co-Chair of the Section of Labor & Employment Law Pro Bono Work Committee.