According to the latest statistics, 49,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. The plight of these displaced soldiers have become mission of public good for Albert S. Dandridge III, the 88th chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association. Known as being a speaker of truth and a champion of diversity and inclusion, Dandridge — the fourth African-American chancellor of the 211 year-old-organization — is challenging the 13,000-member association to include veterans in its focus on community and collaboration.
“We are making strides in the inclusion of all races, genders and cultures,” said Dandridge. “We are reaching across the world to share positive solutions to problems and issues that affect other bar associations and the world community, not just our Bar Association and city. But, we could be doing more, and we could be doing more to foster collective endeavors.”
In the spirit of giving back, Dandridge believes that “participating in the Bar Association supports the entire city, not just the legal community.” As a former Marine (he holds the Bronze Star and Purple Heart), Dandridge explains his mission is an extension of the military motto he maintains that “we leave no one behind.”
“I come from a long history with my family and my service in the Marine Corp and the things that I have done so far in my professional career, so service means a lot to me,” explained Dandridge. “My clarion call to all of those who are participants in this profession is that we owe it to our community to try to be as much of service as we possibly can. Don’t get me wrong, we do a lot of things — we write a lot of checks and we serve on a lot of boards and a whole lot of pro bonos — but I ask for people to do more. Our community needs that help. The way Philadelphia is situated as a major city with such a high rate of people living in poverty, our veteran community and our community of color, we need to roll up our sleeves and hopefully people we realize that as we try to do something.”
Each year, about 150,000 veterans become homeless — about one in 10 former military men and women. Dandridge is the fourth African-American leader to help in promoting programs to help our veterans.
“We will commit to strengthening our outreach to the veterans’ community, including seeking legislative solutions for that community, to participate in military assistance programs, such as, among other things, counseling military personnel about predatory lending practices, and, to join in the outreach to the Veterans Administration to explain to and assist veterans in receiving the benefits that they are entitled to. The high rate of suicide in the veterans’ community is unacceptable.”
“For people who have put on the uniform, who have stood on that wall to serve our country, and at the end of the day to see them living in cardboard boxes living underneath a highway overpass, begging on the streets or just homeless is just heartbreaking,” continued Dandridge. “Obviously no one should be out there homeless and suffering the trials and tribulations of living on the street, but in my heart, it is especially for our veterans, people who have given up their lives to protect us and know that they are out there facing those elements like that is heart wrenching — and I am going to try to do as much as I can to help.”
An alum of both Temple and Penn, Dandridge is a partner at Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP. He also serves as the firm’s chief diversity officer and chair of its Securities Practice Group. Before joining Schnader, Dandridge served the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as associate director of small business and international corporate finance in the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance. In addition, he served as special counsel in the Division of Corporation Finance. From the Philadelphia Diversity Law Group to The Legal Intelligencer to USO of Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey, Dandridge has given much of his time to serve on a number of law-related and community-related boards over the years, serving the citizens of Philadelphia and beyond.
Some of Dandridge’s other recent distinctions include that he’s recipient of The Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia’s Honorable William F. Hall Award; last year’s recipient of The Legal Intelligencer’s Lifetime Achievement Award; last year’s Philadelphia Business Journal Minority Business Leader Award winner and, he was awarded the 2011 John Stephen Baerst Award for Excellence in Teaching by Morin Center at Boston University School of Law, where he served as an adjunct professor for 16 years. Dandridge and his wife Vera reside in Chestnut Hill, where they continue to be active in their community.
“At the end of the day,” noted Dandridge about his fellow legal counselors, “it is my hope that when each of you tell people that you are a ‘Philadelphia lawyer,’ their response might be ‘thank you for your service.’”