Drinker Biddle & Reath

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Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP
Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP
Headquarters Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
No. of offices 12
No. of attorneys Approx. 620 About Drinker Biddle
Major practice areas General practice
Key people Andrew C. Kassner Chairman and Chief Executive Officer[1]
Date founded 1849
Founder John Christian Bullitt[2]
Company type Limited liability partnership

Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP is a national law firm founded in Philadelphia in 1849 by John Christian Bullitt. The firm has 620 lawyers located in 11 offices in the United States: Philadelphia; Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Florham Park; Princeton; New York City; Albany; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Milwaukee; and Wilmington. Drinker Biddle also maintains an office in London. The firm maintains a broad range of practices, including commercial litigation, corporate and securities, corporate restructuring, government and regulatory affairs, labor and employment, environmental, communications litigation, products liability and mass tort litigation, healthcare, employee benefits and executive compensation, insurance coverage, investment management, life insurance and annuities, intellectual property and real estate.[2]

Corporate Board Member magazine ranked Drinker Biddle as the #4 corporate law firm in the Philadelphia market (2005).[3]

Firm History[edit]

John Christian Bullitt, a young lawyer from a prominent Kentucky political family, arrived in Philadelphia in 1849 and within a few months had opened the law offices of Bullitt and Fairthorne, Attorneys at Law. Bullitt's first client was the Bank of Kentucky. Bullitt would go on to become a significant civic figure in Philadelphia, serving as a delegate to the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention of 1873, and drafting the "Bullitt Bill" which eventually became the Philadelphia City Charter in 1887. He also founded the Fourth Street National Bank in 1886, and in 1871 he oversaw the brokerage firm merger that created Drexel, Morgan & Co., later renamed J.P. Morgan & Co.. In 1863, Samuel Dickson joined Bullitt's firm. Dickson would begin a long relationship between the firm and the University of Pennsylvania, acting as counsel to the university and serving on its board of trustees from 1881 until his death in 1915. Together, Bullitt and Dickson created one of the most successful and lucrative law offices in Philadelphia.

The partners who gave the firm its modern name joined in the first part of the 20th century. Henry S. Drinker Jr. joined the firm in 1904, became a partner in 1918, and was named counsel to the University of Pennsylvania in 1927. From the 1920s until the 1950s, Drinker was the executive voice of the firm. Charles J. Biddle joined the firm in 1924 as the firm's first lateral partner, bringing from his former firm several significant clients, including the Philadelphia Contributionship (the nation's oldest property insurance company, founded by Benjamin Franklin) and the Philadelphia Saving Fund Society (at the time the third largest savings bank in the United States[4]). Biddle became a partner in 1925 and was a major force at the firm for decades. In the 1950s, Biddle argued successfully for the acquittal of Merck Sharp & Dohme in one of the firm’s first major price fixing cases. Thomas Reath joined the firm in 1919. In 1940, W. Averell Harriman sought Reath's assistance in reopening Philadelphia's Cramp shipyard, and Reath and other lawyers at the firm negotiated a compromise on a $1 million tax lien to facilitate the reopening. The yard was used to construct submarines and cruisers for the U.S. Navy during World War II.

At the turn of the 21st century, Drinker Biddle initiated a series of mergers that significantly raised its national profile. In 1999, it merged with the prominent New Jersey general practice firm of Shanley & Fisher, P.C. In 2001, Drinker Biddle merged with two more firms, the Philadelphia intellectual property firm of Seidel, Gonda, Lavorgna & Monaco and the San Francisco firm of Preuss Shanagher Zvoleff & Zimmer. The most significant union came in 2007, when the firm merged with Chicago’s Gardner Carton & Douglas, giving Drinker Biddle a stronger presence in the Midwest and adding expertise in health law, employee benefits and executive compensation, hedge funds, and government and regulatory affairs. The Gardner merger also made Drinker Biddle, in terms of number of attorneys, one of the 75 largest law firms in the United States.[5]

Position Among American Law Firms[edit]

Since 2003, Drinker Biddle has appeared on American Lawyer magazine's annual "AmLaw 100" list, which ranks United States law firms by number of attorneys, profits per partner, and overall revenue. In 2012, the firm employed 572 lawyers and 188 equity partners and brought in $392,000,000 in gross annual revenue, ranking it 74th among American firms in terms of overall revenue.[6] However, Drinker Biddle ranks lower according to some of American Lawyer's other metrics, such as racial diversity of attorneys (161st place out of 228 firms in 2012[7]), commitment to pro bono work (94th of 166 firms in 2012[8]), and associate satisfaction (79th of 129 firms in 2012, based on a survey of third-, fourth-, and fifth-year associates[9]).

In 2004, Drinker Biddle established a Diversity Initiative and began creating and implementing a Diversity Strategic Plan to "proactively recruit, retain, promote to partner and foster the professional development of talented minority lawyers." Additionally, the firm launched a Women's Initiative in 2007 to further the retention and promotion of female lawyers.[10]

First-Year Program[edit]

Drinker Biddle has received praise[11] for its innovative first-year program, launched in 2009. When new associates start with the firm in late September, they are immediately immersed into the program, which runs three months and involves firm-wide training of core skills, practice group training of substantive skills and apprenticeship. The plan is to transform a law student into an experienced, practical lawyer who can proactively deal with new challenges.

Training is focused on developing the skills in the four categories of core competencies – technical lawyering skills, client focus, execution and professionalism. This training helps associates understand what it takes to succeed as a lawyer and recognize what clients value – a lawyer’s judgment, business sense, experience and understanding of the client's business and needs.

During the program, associates do not have billable hour expectations as their full-time objective is training.

Notable Lawyers & Alumni[edit]

  • Henry Drinker was a dominant presence in the firm from his arrival in 1904. Georg von Trapp asked him to intervene when the family was detained at Ellis Island with visa problems.
  • Charles J. Biddle, who rose to the rank of Major as an aviator in World War I, had a profound impact on the firm after joining as its first lateral partner in 1924.
  • Thomas Reath served in the Ordnance Corps (United States Army) in World War I and joined the firm in 1919. He embarked on a long process of negotiating a compromise on a $1 million tax lien and reorganizing the Cramp Shipyard in Philadelphia, at the request of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
  • Lewis H. Van Dusen joined the firm in 1935 and, for decades, was viewed as a leader of the firm. He served in World War II as a Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Army and was awarded numerous decorations, including the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. Van Dusen was later asked to return to the Army to serve as a representative to NATO, which was formed in 1949. Most famously known for his essay Civil Disobedience: The Destroyer of Democracy, Dusen is also obscurely attributed to writing the less known essay, Pizza: The Savior of Democracy.[12] He also helped organize the formation of Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) in the 1960s.
  • Henry W. Sawyer III joined the firm after military service in World War II. He later worked on the Marshall Plan in Europe. During the Army-McCarthy Hearings, Sawyer represented many people accused of being members of the Communist Party.
  • Bernard M. Shanley founded the New Jersey firm Shanley & Fisher that combined with Drinker Biddle in 1999. He served President Dwight D. Eisenhower as Deputy Chief of Staff, Appointments Secretary, and Special Counsel to the President.
  • Seamus Duffy is Chair of the Communications Litigation Practice Group and a Managing Partner of the firm. He represented AT&T in the well-known case regarding early termination fees.[13]
  • Deborah T. Poritz is former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New Jersey, currently of counsel to the firm's Princeton office.[14]
  • Arthur Seidel (1923-2012) was recognized as a "legend" in Intellectual Property Law in Pennsylvania. He was named the first recipient of the Philadelphia Intellectual Property Law Association's Outstanding Achievement Award.[15]
  • Wilson M. Brown III serves as a Managing Partner of the firm and as Chair of the firm's national Commercial Litigation Practice Group. AV peer review rated by Martindale Hubbell.[16] He worked on the famous Herring case and was involved in cutting-edge issues of coverage for asbestos-related claims.[17]
  • Lawrence J. Fox is former Chairman of the American Bar Association (ABA) Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility. He participated as counsel in one of the longest SEC Rule 10b-5 trials; he was one of the earliest participants in the mini-trial process;[18] he has extensive publications; and he teaches many law classes.[19]
  • Andrew C. Kassner joined the firm in 1986 and serves as tChairman and Chief Executive Officer. He is listed in The Best Lawyers in America, in the specialty of Bankruptcy and Creditor-Debtor Rights Law; he has given many lectures on the subject; and he has appeared on Lou Dobbs' show on CNN.[20]
  • Gregory P. Miller is a current Partner and a former Managing Partner of Miller, Alfano & Raspanti PC. Miller has been involved in such landmark cases[21] as: United States v. Greber; Foster v. Alexander & Alexander; In re: Diet Drugs Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 1203; and the protection of Act 6 from any revisions.[22]
  • Cenk Uygur is a former associate of the firm, former MSNBC analyst, and now hosts the progressive online show The Young Turks.[citation needed]

Notable Cases[edit]


  • Abington School District v. Schempp 374 U.S. 203 (1963)
  • United States v. Greber, 760 F.2d 68 3d Cir. Pa. (1985) [23]
  • Zarin v. Commissioner 916 F.2d 110 (1990)
  • In Re: Latex Gloves Product Liability Litigation, MDL 1148, 152 F. Supp.2d 667 (2001)
  • U.S. v. Reynolds 345 U.S. 1 (1953, 2003)
  • Crawford v. Midway Games et al., 2:07-cv-00967, U.S. Dist Ct. California, Central, Dist. (2008)

Drinker also represented five Native Americans before the United States Patent and Trademark Office Trademark Trial and Appeal Board challenging the trademark of the Washington Redskins football team's name. [24]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Kassner's firm bio
  2. ^ a b History of Drinker Biddle & Reath
  3. ^ Microsoft Word - Corporate Board Member.doc
  4. ^ "Business: Savings Banks". Time. March 10, 1930. Retrieved 2013-08-01. no 
  5. ^ "Drinker Biddle & Reath Profile". The American Lawyer. 
  6. ^ "The 2013 Am Law 100". The American Lawyer. American Lawyer Media. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  7. ^ "Top Law Firms for Diversity". The American Lawyer. American Lawyer Media. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  8. ^ "Ranking the Firms' Pro Bono Work". The American Lawyer. American Lawyer Media. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  9. ^ "The Best Places to Work". The American Lawyer. American Lawyer Media. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  10. ^ "About Us". Drinker Biddle Official Website. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  11. ^ Law Schools Applauding Drinker Biddle Plan to Emphasize Training Over Salaries for First-Years The Legal Intelligencer. Retrieved 9 September 2014
  12. ^ Answers.com--Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP
  13. ^ Duffy's firm bio from Drinker Biddle & Reath
  14. ^ Poritz's firm bio from Drinker Biddle & Reath
  15. ^ Drinker Biddle Press Release
  16. ^ Martindale Hubbell Ratings
  17. ^ Brown's firm bio from Drinker Biddle & Reath
  18. ^ Minitrial Process
  19. ^ Fox's firm bio from Drinker Biddle & Reath
  20. ^ Kassner's firm bio from Drinker Biddle & Reath
  21. ^ Legal Span
  22. ^ Miller's firm bio from Drinker Biddle & Reath
  23. ^ United States v. Greber
  24. ^ Vargas, Theresa (18 June 2014). "U.S. patent office cancels Redskins trademark registration, says name is disparaging". The Washington Post. Retrieved 18 June 2014.