Andrew Sandler of Buckley Sandler. (Gittings Photography)
Everyone has had a boss they wanted to pie in the face. But why get fired when you can do it for charity?
On Thursday, the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia announced that it had raised $1.79 million as part of its 2017 Generous Associates Campaign, a fundraising drive launched each summer by the nonprofit to raise money for the neediest of those living in the nation’s capital seeking access to free legal services.
This year’s haul broke a D.C. Legal Aid record set last year, when the organization raised $1.475 million through its Generous Associates initiative. Helping contribute to Legal Aid’s coffers this year were lawyers from Buckley Sandler, a fast-growing Am Law 200 firm based in Washington, D.C., which touted its “Pie a Partner for Legal Aid” program.
Buckley Sandler chairman and executive partner Andrew Sandler, a former Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom partner who helped form Buckley Sandler in 2009, wasn’t afraid to get himself dirty in the effort to assist Legal Aid’s fundraising drive. Buckley Sandler and several other firms gathered donations through traditional and more unconventional means—such as pushing a cream pie into the face of a partner.
In a slow-motion video uploaded to YouTube last month, Buckley Sandler partner Christopher Witeck was the recipient of a pie to the face from Cyndy McCollough, the firm’s director of marketing and business development. Another YouTube video shows Buckley Sandler partner Jonice Gray slapping one onto Sandler’s face as he holds a sign with the words “Taking One for The Team.”
“I think it’s a great thing that [Legal Aid] provides the vehicle that begins to create the habit to give and participate earlier in [a lawyer’s] career,” Sandler said Thursday. “It’s important for those muscles to be flexed early. This is a great way to do it and we are delighted to support it.”
In a statement provided to Above the Law, which last month noted Sandler’s pastry plunge, Buckley Sandler said that its lawyers and staff “bid on the opportunity to plant a pie in the face of 13 participating partners—who then had the option to return the favor by tripling the amount bid. In all, the firm raised more than $21,000 for Legal Aid. No partners were injured during the taping of this event, but there was a carpet that needed serious cleaning.”
The critical shortcomings that many legal aid groups face can be somewhat offset by Big Law donors, a subject covered by The American Lawyer two years ago in a cover story. Legal Aid D.C.’s Generous Associates Campaign seeks to solicit contributions to help fund programs that provide a variety of legal services, most often in the areas of consumer law, domestic violence, housing and public benefits.
Many Am Law 200 and other notable firms in Washington, D.C., participated this year in Legal Aid’s fundraising call. The largest contributors, as noted by Legal Aid, were Latham & Watkins (which raised $187,000); Williams & Connolly; Mayer Brown; Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman; Alston & Bird; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe; and Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz, the latter a litigation boutique started last year by two former litigators from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.
Seth Waxman, a noted appellate litigator and co-chair of the U.S. Supreme Court litigation practice at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, served as honorary chair of this year’s Generous Associates Campaign. Waxman, a former U.S. Solicitor General, is proud of the record-setting sum raised to support Legal Aid D.C.
“The Washington legal community it uniquely generous in supporting our local Legal Aid Society,” Waxman said. “Every year we’re trying to set a new record and help more poor people with legal representation. We think it’s important to get young lawyers—associates in particular—in the habit of making financial contributions to the provision of legal aid services in the city in which we live and work.”