Today’s panel, What is Our Legacy? The Black Lawyer’s Role in History is led by one of the foremost authorities on the history of the black lawyer, Harvard Law School’s David Wilkins, the Lester Kissel Professor of Law and faculty director of the Center on the Legal Profession. He is joined by a rock star panel of legally trained leaders: Chairman of the Board and CEO of Merck & Co., Kenneth C. Frazier who rose to partner at the law firm of Drinker, Biddle & Reath, LLP before joining Merck & Co. and rising to general counsel and subsequently being promoted to the leadership of Merck & Co. as its Chairman and CEO; President and Direct-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), Sherrilyn Ifill who began her career as Assistant Counsel of LDF before joining the faculty of the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore and teaching for over 20 years, then rejoining LDF in its top leadership role to guide the direction of the nation’s premier civil rights law organization; and Partner and Co-Chair of the Litigation Department at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, Theodore V. Wells, Jr., who served as a partner at Lowenstein Sandler LLP before joining Paul Weiss, where his experience with complex litigation and white collar defense makes him one of the nation’s most regarded trial attorneys. This panel explores the backgrounds of the panelists, their mentors and motivation and their desire to make society a better place. This panel also shines an important light on the need for long term preservation of the history of African American legal history. The discussion ends with a Q&A session with questions from The HistoryMakers LawMakers Advisory Committee. Be sure to tune into this captivating discussion of race, law and the pursuit of social justice, racial equity and societal advancement and opportunity.
This 90-minute program is scheduled to stream on YouTube at 12:00 noon EST on Friday, December 11, 2020 as the eleventh installment of The HistoryMakers 20@2020: 20 Days and 20 Nights Convening and Celebration.
David B. Wilkins is the Lester Kissel Professor of Law, Vice Dean for Global Initiative on the Legal Profession, and Faculty Director of the Center on the Legal Profession at Harvard Law School. Professor Wilkins has written over 80 articles on the legal profession in leading scholarly journals and is the co-author or editor of five books, including one of the leading casebooks in the field. In 2007, he co-founded Harvard Law School’s Executive Education Program, where he teaches several courses. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Harvard Law School Alumni Award, (2016), the Aptissimi Award for Academic Excellence from ESADE UNIVERSITY in Spain (2014), the Distinguished Visiting Mentor Award from Australia National University (2012), the American Bar Foundation Scholar of the Year Award (2010), the J. Clay Smith Award from Howard University School of Law (2009), and the Order of the Coif Distinguished Scholar Award (2008).
Sherrilyn Ifill is the President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF). Ifill is the second woman to lead the organization. Ifill is a prolific scholar who has published academic articles in leading law journals, and op-eds and commentaries in leading newspapers. Her 2007 book “On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 21st Century,” was highly acclaimed, and is credited with laying the foundation for contemporary conversations about lynching and reconciliation. In 2013, Ifill was invited to lead the LDF as its 7th Director-Counsel. In that role, Ifill has increased the visibility and engagement of the organization in cutting edge and urgent civil rights issues, while maintaining the organization’s decades-long leadership fighting voter suppression, inequity in education, and racial discrimination in application of the death penalty.
Kenneth C. Frazier has served as the chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Merck since 2011. He joined the company in 1992 and has held positions of increasing responsibility including general counsel and president. Prior to joining Merck, Kenneth Frazier was a partner with the Philadelphia law firm of Drinker Biddle & Reath. His contributions, especially in the legal, business and humanitarian fields, have been widely recognized. He sits on the boards of PhRMA, Weill Cornell Medicine, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Catalyst and Cornerstone Christian Academy in Philadelphia, PA. He also is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, The Business Council, the Council of the American Law Institute, and the American Bar Association. Additionally, Kenneth Frazier is co-chair of the Legal Services Corporation’s Leaders Council.
Theodore V. Wells Jr. is a partner and co-chair of the Litigation Department at Paul Weiss. He is among the nation’s best-regarded trial lawyers. The National Law Journal named Theodore V. Wells Jr. one of “The Decade’s Most Influential Lawyers” in 2010 and over the years has repeatedly recognized him as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America, including naming him the “Lawyer of the Year” in 2006. He has also been recognized as one of the outstanding jury trial lawyers in the United States by numerous publications, including Chambers USA. Benchmark Litigation has named him in similar categories, including winning individual recognition as “Trial Lawyer of the Year” for 2019, and being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2020. The Legal 500 has recognized him as a Leading Lawyer in white-collar criminal defense and as a Leading Trial Lawyer.