Bob Reeder '84 and David Braff '84: Sharing a Pro
Growing up in Greenford, a small town in northeast Ohio, Bob Reeder '84 came to Moritz knowing he wanted to practice law. Clevelander David Braff '84 came to law school by default. Not knowing what he wanted to do, David thought law school might help prepare him to become a teacher.
David considered himself a civil libertarian and was surprised and delighted when Professors Clovis and Shipman opened the doors of the business world to him. Bob was influenced by the late Professor Claude Sowle, who taught him to think like a lawyer, and Professor Jerome H. Reichman, who steered him toward a large firm practice. In fact, when Bob told Professor Reichman about his summer clerkship offers, Professor Reichman said, "Take Cahill Gordon, it's head and shoulders above the rest" and then handed the phone to Bob who called on the spot to accept the offer.
Both David and Bob clerked for Cahill Gordon & Reindel. They were among a number of Moritz students clerking in New York that got together socially throughout the summer.
Although Bob thought he might like to litigate, he was asked to work on a business deal that summer and so enjoyed the work that he shifted his emphasis to corporate law. David's experience confirmed his interest in litigation and a New York practice.
Following graduation, Bob accepted a clerkship with the late Anthony J. Celebrezze, former Cleveland mayor, Kennedy administration cabinet member, and federal appeals court judge for the 6th Circuit. "He was a true humanitarian," says Bob, "He said we are put on earth to do more than make money and his life reflected his commitment to public service." By example, Judge Celebrezze reinforced Bob's preexisting commitment to helping others.
David joined Sullivan & Cromwell's litigation department where he has remained. David says it was the right decision for him because it allows him to work on both small and large complex cases and pursue pro bono work simultaneously. He persuaded Bob to join Sullivan & Cromwell upon completion of his clerkship.
An openly gay attorney, David concentrates his pro bono practice on gay rights cases likely to have the broadest impact. Among them was a 1988 case in which gay teachers requested domestic partner benefits from the City of New York. The groundbreaking case was eventually settled when Mayor Dinkins' administration gave domestic partner benefits to all city employees. David was also a member of the team of attorneys who challenged the U.S. Military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. David is currently working to counteract an anticipated challenge of a New York City ordinance requiring businesses that do work for the City of New York to extend domestic partner benefits to their employees. David also serves on the board of directors of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, a not-for-profit law firm founded in 1976, which finds unique ways to tackle the problems facing disadvantaged and underrepresented New Yorkers.
Bob's pro bono practice is more varied. His most satisfying case was representing a "little old widow" who was being evicted. According to Bob, she received a dunning notice saying she owed the landlord $20,000 because her rent had been miscalculated for years. Working with Legal Aid, Bob was able to get a restraining order and strike a settlement in which she received a better apartment, moving expenses, and reduced rent for five years. She sent Bob a key chain inscribed "God loves you and so do I" which he treasures. His work on the case won him a Legal Aid public service award.
Bob is a long-standing director of TEAK, a program that helps economically disadvantaged but intellectually gifted New York City students gain access to and succeed at top public, parochial, and independent high schools. Bob takes each class of 25 students to a performance of the Nutcracker and to lunch at the Hard Rock Café annually.
Bob was also tapped to coordinate the firm's pro bono response to the terrorist attacks of September 11. He headed firm initiatives to adopt a firehouse in which only one firefighter survived, help small businesses with leases and other disputes arising from their proximity to the attack site, and staff a legal support desk at the 9/11 intake center for three months. The firm's work on the firehouse charity became a prototype for firehouses citywide and earned the Lawyers Alliance for New York's Cornerstone Award.
The depth of Bob's and David's commitment is best understood against the backdrop of their demanding careers. An example of Bob's responsibility was his work as the lead attorney for the registration of Goldman Sachs' $3.6 billion IPO, the largest public offering ever made at that time. For two years, he worked non-stop, eventually moving into a hotel and only going home to Connecticut on weekends to spend time with his wife, Lorraine, and their two children, Robbie and Sarah.
David was named managing attorney of the firm's 170-attorney litigation department in 2004 after serving five years as deputy managing partner. Most recently, he has represented financial institutions in industry-wide regulatory investigations and related civil litigation, and in the nationwide Enron litigation.
Both David and Bob take pride in Sullivan and Cromwell's pro bono culture, with Bob having served on the firm's Pro Bono Committee for more than 11 years. Partners meet with new associates each summer to give them a sense of the range of volunteer opportunities that are available and to encourage their participation. The firm has found that associates who work on pro bono cases in their first year are far more likely to take additional pro bono cases throughout their careers.
Bob says, "The resources of the firm are rich and it is not unusual to pay for whatever expert testimony is necessary on a pro bono case." David concurs, adding that in addition to financial resources, he has the luxury of calling on some of the smartest people around to serve his clients' interests. He adds, "If you're smart and committed, you see and serve all clients the same."
Throughout their careers, David and Bob have been sounding boards for one another and their friendship has deepened. When Bob and Lorraine needed to select an executor for their estate, David was their choice. Bob feels he has been given much - "so many great gifts" - and David says he is more fulfilled than he might have been had he specialized in public interest law exclusively. Bob and David share an overwhelming sense that they have been truly lucky. Others argue it is their clients and their firm that have been even luckier.