March 29, 2013

Alumni Committee Corner: A Closer Look at David Abernethy

This month, David Abernethy reflects on his upcoming 26th anniversary at the firm.

I’m about to celebrate 26 years at Drinker Biddle & Reath – and even though that comes with a lot of extra gray hair I think it’s worth celebrating, for a lot of reasons. For more than a quarter century I’ve had the opportunity to do challenging work, practicing with (and going against) some of the best lawyers in the country, with all the advantages of big firm practice, including a deep bench of talented colleagues and the support of outstanding professionals and staff. And after all these years, when I attend the firm’s alumni events, I’m struck by the many “generations” of superb lawyers I’ve practiced with at Drinker – giants from the firm’s past, veteran partners who were young lawyers when I arrived, and many who joined the firm after I did, some still my colleagues and some pursuing other opportunities.

Seeing so many of our “alumni” makes me realize how much of learned, and from how many different lawyers, during my years at Drinker. I’ve worked with and learned from many more experienced lawyers, from the late Lew Van Dusen and Pat Ryan, to the firm’s best litigators today, incredible lawyers like Alfy Putnam, Ed Posner, Wilson Brown, Tom Campion and many others. And many of the lawyers from whom I’ve learned a great deal were junior to me in age and experience. I became a better writer (and better thinker) by working with Mary Catherine Roper, whom I supervised when she was a summer associate and who eventually became a partner here before joining the ACLU. I’ve become a far better appellate practitioner learning from Alicia Hickok, who joined the firm after I did, but who has a depth of skill and experience in appellate practice that few among us will ever acquire. I’m surrounded every day by younger colleagues who taught me critical lessons I apply in practice every day, and many more are now alumni, who have taken their talents and experience to our clients, to academia, to public service organizations and many other exciting opportunities. I’ve concluded that the lawyers who keep getting better throughout their careers are the ones who know you can learn from all of the talented people you work with –not just the senior lawyers you work for but the younger lawyers who work for you.

Reaching out to our many alumni and staying in closer touch with them offers a lot of benefits for me and for the firm – the opportunity to continue learning from the experiences of my colleagues, even if they no longer call Drinker their professional home, but also the pleasure of renewing friendships and deepening ties with people I care about and who care about me. I hope our growing alumni program, and this website which supports it, will help us all enjoy more of both.
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