Philadelphia Business Journal’s 2021 Best of the Bar: Melanie S. Carter and Bridget Mayer Briggs
Blank Rome partners Melanie S. Carter and Bridget Mayer Briggs were profiled as 2021 Best of the Bar honorees in a special edition of the Philadelphia Business Journal, published on October 29, 2021. This year's Best of the Bar honored 35 attorneys in the region who have “distinguished themselves in their practice specialties” over the past 12 months.
Melanie was honored in the category of Business Litigation, and Bridget was honored in the category of Pro Bono. They were presented with their awards on October 28, 2021, at an evening event hosted at Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia.
Melanie's and Bridget's full profiles are available below, as published in the Philadelphia Business Journal.
Firm: Blank Rome
Law school: Temple University (2011)
Carter, who was elevated to partner in January, serves as national counsel for a large pharmaceutical company in multidistrict products liability litigation, successfully defending a motion for nationwide and state class certification filed by plaintiffs. She assisted in a November 2020 win for Chiquita Brands International in a claim that the company was at fault for the decedents of plaintiffs allegedly being killed by Colombian paramilitary group AUC during a civil war. She also successfully represented clients in two separate actions consolidated under Super Salvage and Duffield House that questioned the constitutionality of tax assessments brought by the School District of Philadelphia and the City of Philadelphia.
Who has been your chief professional mentor and what is the biggest lesson you learned from that person? U.S. District Judge Joel Slomsky, my first boss out of law school, has been a constant professional mentor throughout my career. He has taught me to approach my work with diligence and joy, to remember that relationships and people are invaluable, and to never let the law get in the way of a good meal.
What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to fictional accounts of lawyers and lawyering? That we are calculating and untrustworthy. The lawyers I’m surrounded by are caring, compassionate, and perceptive.
What is your favorite restaurant in the Philadelphia region and your go-to dish there? I love Vientiane Café on Baltimore Avenue. The shrimp lab salad is delicious.
What needs to happen for more women and minority lawyers to become managing partners and chairs of law firms? This may be inevitable as firms become increasingly inclusive, embrace differences in leadership styles, and cultivate environments where attorneys from all backgrounds stay in private practice. It also requires buy-in and insistence that the next generation of leaders includes us.
If there was a legal matter of historical significance that you could have handled, which one would you pick and why? I can’t pick just one. So many significant cases created the framework of a society in which I, a woman of color, could shape my own destiny (and enjoy the most regular of freedoms like choosing my profession and owning a home).
Firm: Blank Rome
Law school: University of Virginia (2009)
While managing her duties as a litigation partner, Briggs’ efforts were instrumental to a Blank Rome team securing a criminal record expungement for Philadelphian Vincent Moto. He spent over 10 years in prison for a crime – attacking a young women in the city in 1985 – that he did not commit. He was the first person in Pennsylvania to be exonerated based on after-acquired DNA evidence. Moto’s conviction was overturned in 1996 due to after-acquired DNA evidence, but the Philadelphia District Attorney would not agree to expunge his criminal record. Blank Rome has been seeking an expungement since 2007. Briggs scoured the entire trial record and helped coordinate with the Innocence Project and some of Moto’s prior lawyers to mount a new effort to get the DNA tested again. Moto’s record was expunged on Feb. 16.
Who has been your chief professional mentor and what is the biggest lesson you learned from that person? My dad. My parents were franchisees, and taught us from a young age to show up and work hard every day – and that I am not too good for any task that needs to be done.
What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to fictional accounts of lawyers and lawyering? The lack of nuance. Cases almost always involve complex issues in which there is no clear protagonist or antagonist, but difficult issues upon which reasonable people can disagree. Unfortunately, the public likes a hero, and nuance does not make for good storytelling.
What is your favorite restaurant in the Philadelphia region and your go-to dish there? I love La Calaca Feliz, where my husband took me to celebrate making partner at Blank Rome. The chorizo fundido and sweet plantains – sweet and savory, crispy perfection – are favorites we order every time.
What needs to happen for more women and minority lawyers to become managing partners and chairs of law firms? If women are to take on more leadership roles, there needs to be a shift in the still prevalent expectation that women will manage the home and children. That said, not every woman necessarily aspires to become a managing partner or chair, and that is their choice as well.
If there was a legal matter of historical significance that you could have handled, which one would you pick and why? Gideon v. Wainwright, which provides that indigent defendants have a right to counsel free of charge in criminal cases. It established that the poor have certain inalienable rights and is fundamental in ensuring the fairness of our criminal system for all defendants.