Leslie Patterson Moore, general counsel of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), says her job fits perfectly with the career path she envisioned for herself, even as a child.
“I wanted to do something that upheld justice and was fighting for what is good and right in the world,” she says. “I was an idealistic little kid.”
In 2008, an estimated 11,773 people died as a result of crashes involving drunk drivers, according to a statistic on MADD’s Web site from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Traffic Safety Facts June 2009 report; that’s 31.6 percent of the 37,261 traffic deaths in 2008.
“Drunk driving is 100 percent preventable,” Moore says. “So the tragedies that occur with drunk driving don’t have to occur. So being able to work on this issue, knowing we could actually put ourselves out of business at some point, is exciting.”
“MADD has a three-pronged mission: to stop drunk driving, to help victims and also to stop underage drinking,” she says.
The organization’s in-house legal department is slim, with just Moore and an associate GC who works 32 hours weekly. Like most general counsel, Moore prefers to handle as many legal matters in-house as possible. MADD has about 400 employees nationwide, and contributions to the nonprofit from corporations, foundations, individuals and special events were about $41 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009, she says.
Employment matters that Moore handles in-house include classifying employees’ exempt or non-exempt job status, handling misunderstandings between employees and termination issues, she says.
The department also is responsible for all the organization’s contracts, which range from office supplies and sponsorship agreements to lease agreements and general liability insurance for MADD’s 500 offices nationwide, she says. Moore manages the organization’s intellectual property — trademarks and copyrights — and supervises outside counsel used for employment or IP litigation.
She assists MADD’s board of directors with governance issues such as verifying that the organization complies with state and federal laws affecting nonprofits.
“We are regulated by the state attorney general’s office and the IRS,” she says.
Moore says she works on MADD amicus briefs in cases involving issues such as law enforcement’s use of Breathalyzers or warrants to obtain blood to determine blood alcohol levels.
“A lot of times we will file an amicus brief to give our opinion and credence to an issue that will affect drunk driving,” she says. “We get requests weekly from various organizations or lawyers who are asking MADD to weigh in on a particular legal issue in a case they are dealing with.”
She says researching and crafting an amicus brief is an arduous, time-consuming project.
“Frankly, we can’t do very many,” she says. “We probably do about 12 a year.”
The daughter of a minister, Moore says she knew while she was growing up in Los Angeles that she wanted a career where she could help people. She recalls that when she was 7 years old she had to write a paper about what she wanted to be and had to choose between her then-favorites: policewoman or lawyer.
“Those were the two things I wanted to do,” she says. “If you know me, I have no physical prowess, so being a cop was out.”
In 1994, Moore earned a bachelor’s degree in social science from Bethany College (now Bethany University Santa Cruz), which she describes as “a little Bible college in Santa Cruz, Calif.”
Between college and law school, Moore says she worked as a financial aid officer at Bethany College and got married in 1995. She moved to the Dallas area, where her husband studied at the Art Institute of Dallas, and she worked as an administrative assistant for a marketing company called Streetball Partners Inc. in Carrollton. Then her husband supported her while she attended law school.
She obtained a J.D. in 2000 from Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law in Dallas and became an associate with what was then Brewer Anthony & Middlebrook of Irving, where she had worked as a summer associate.
That firm had a nonprofit section, she says. “I knew going into it that I was going to be practicing nonprofit law, which was a perfect fit for me,” she says.
In 2005, a friend mentioned to Moore that MADD had an opening for an associate general counsel, and Moore applied for the position.
“I was happy at my job but was looking for something where I didn’t have to do billable hours and with a schedule to accommodate children a little bit better,” she says. She has two children, a 3-year-old son and a 6-year-old daughter.
Moore says she also was attracted to the idea of focusing on one client, especially an organization like MADD.
“Just the ability to be a part of an organization that was really making a tangible difference, was exciting to me,” she says. “You’d be pretty much hard pressed to find anybody nowadays who doesn’t know somebody who has been in a drunk-driving crash.”
Moore was touched personally by drunk driving several years ago, when her uncle’s wife and five children were hit head-on by a drunk driver.
“They were all severely injured,” she says. “Nobody died, thank goodness.”
Moore says she joined MADD in 2005 as associate general counsel and was promoted to GC in 2007. Her annual salary is $125,000, she says.
For outside counsel on intellectual property matters, Moore says she turns to Thompson & Knight of Dallas.
“The majority of our IP issues stem from the misappropriation of our trademark,” she says.
The incidents run the gamut from people who don’t know they are misusing the trademark and use the MADD name to add credibility to their efforts, to people who are using MADD’s name and reputation to defraud the public, she says.
Moore says she will handle an incident in-house by sending the company or offender a letter letting them know that their actions can be confused with MADD and its trademark and ask that they stop using the name.
“It’s a soft-pedal cease-and-desist letter,” she says. “We’re not trying to be the bad guys here, but we’ve got to protect our brand. Our reputation is our greatest asset.”
If the people misappropriating the trademark don’t stop, Moore will turn the matter over to the lawyers she uses in the Dallas office of Thompson & Knight.
“She is very much on top of any issue that we discuss with her and very much on top of the facts,” says Herbert Hammond, a partner in the firm’s Dallas office who works with Moore. “It’s not a situation where she simply hands it off. She lets us do our job, but she always knows pretty much what is going on.”
Moore says she is not shy about letting outside counsel know how she feels about billing rates.
“If it makes sense, I would prefer to have an associate work on something rather than a partner because it is so expensive to have a partner work on an issue,” she says.
At Thompson & Knight, two associates, Deborah Lively and Remy Davis, handle most IP matters for MADD; Hammond says he handles complicated litigation matters.
Most clients prefer that outside counsel use legal assistants and junior associates that bill at lower rates, says Bob Bragalone, co-managing partner of the Dallas office of Gordon & Rees, the firm Moore uses for employment matters.
“She doesn’t have a large staff, so it’s not like she has a huge pyramid to delegate stuff down,” Bragalone says. “She stays involved in all matters at all levels. I would say that at any given time we have five open files across the country. She knows what is going on with all five, the status of each case and what we’re trying to do with each of them.”
In April, Moore will join a crowd taking part in the Dallas Walk Like MADD 5K, one of a series of 3.1 mile fundraising walks MADD has scheduled in 41 cities in 2010. During MADD’s 2009 fiscal year, the walks were held in 31 locations and raised more than $1.8 million, she says.
“It’s a great time to spend with friends and family, and it obviously raises awareness for our cause,” she says. Not only is Moore participating in the April 25 Dallas walk, but as the organization’s top lawyer, she also is handling the contracts and agreements for the events, including those involving vendors, facilities, security and sponsors. Moore says she is looking forward to the Dallas event she has walked in every year since joining MADD, except last year when her daughter was sick with pneumonia.
“Because I walk with my kids, it usually takes us a couple of hours to complete,” she says. “But we all love it.”
Moore says that some evenings when she gets home, her daughter will ask, “Well, mommy, how many lives did you save today?”
“Although I’m not out on the front lines, I’m part of that, and it’s very satisfying,” she says.
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