When Andrea Nieves found out that she had been accepted to the Bickel & Brewer Latino Institute for Human Rights at the New York University School of Law, it was a dream come true. The program, which provides full-tuition scholarships to two students each year, meant that the California student would be able to move across the country to study law at NYU.
"The reason I pursued law school was because I wanted to give back to the Latino community," Nieves says. "A program designed to help me do just that was beyond what I could have wished for. Without the scholarship, I would not have been able to afford to attend NYU."
Nieves, part of the Institute's second graduating class, is working for the Fair Trial Initiative (FTI) in Durham, North Carolina. As FTI's only fluent Spanish-speaking attorney, Nieves helps ensure fairness for indigent defendants facing the death penalty.
"I benefitted from incredible mentorship from my professors, and an alternative Spring Break session spent at Bickel & Brewer's Dallas office," Nieves says. "The Institute allowed me to spend a semester doing death penalty work in Alabama with NYU Law's Capital Defender Clinic."
Founded in 1984, Bickel & Brewer specializes in the resolution of bet-the-business litigation matters involving substantial dollar or business exposure, cutting-edge legal issues or significant public policy questions.
The firm is among front-running companies that are participating in an emerging trend of philanthro-capitalism.
Some leading philanthropists are now doing more than just writing checks-they are leveraging their capital resources and creative energy to develop original ideas that effect widespread, positive change.
"Giving back is how our firm is changing our world."
-William A. Brewer III
Bickel & Brewer Latino Institute for Human Rights is the first program of its kind that recruits and trains aspiring lawyers committed to advancing the interests of Latino communities in the United States, and to promoting human rights concerns internationally.
William A. Brewer III, firm partner, says that the Institute fulfills a vision that he and partner John W. Bickel II had when they first started their firm.
The idea for the Latino Institute grew from the Bickel & Brewer Storefront, the firm's pro bono law office that provides legal counsel to residents in the low-income South Dallas area.
"The Institute provides a conveyor belt of talented young men and women who want to give a portion of their career to getting involved in cases that help underserved communities," Brewer says. "My partners and I are absolutely passionate about our practice and what we do to generate the opportunities to make these programs possible."
Brewer credits John Sexton, NYU president, for his role in making the Institute come to fruition.
"We told John about our idea, and months later, we were in operation," Brewer says. "He and Richard Revesz, dean of the law school, believed in us, and it's been a complete gift."
In further support of its commitment to education, the firm created the Bickel & Brewer Future Leaders Program (FLP), an academic, leadership development and enrichment program that benefits young men and women typically from economically-disadvantaged circumstances. The FLP now serves more than 170 students from the Dallas Independent School District (DISD). The FLP's "College Readiness Initiative" provides deserving high school students with year-round testing services, specialized college counsel and the opportunity to annually visit colleges and universities across the country. At a time when the dropout rate within the DISD is almost 60 percent, 100 percent of FLP seniors recently graduated from high school. They received 40 college acceptance letters and more than $1 million in scholarships. Two of those Dallas students who first visited NYU several years ago as part of the college trip funded by the Bickel & Brewer Foundation are now freshmen at NYU.
Another partnership with NYU is the firm's International Public Policy Forum (IPPF), the first and only debate competition that gives high school students the opportunity to participate in written and oral debates on issues of global public policy.
The competition is currently celebrating its 10th anniversary. More than 300 schools-representing 42 states and 36 foreign countries-registered for the 2010-11 competition.
The competition is offered free to all public and private high schools around the globe. The contest culminates in the "IPPF Finals" each April, when eight debate teams from around the world visit New York for an all-expenses-paid trip to participate in an exciting weekend debate tournament. The IPPF Champion last year was Singapore.
"I tell my children that they are obligated to try to change the world if they're able to," Brewer says. "If you change the world for somebody, you've changed the world. Giving back is how our firm is changing our world."