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Davis Polk & Wardwell

The Davis Polk & Wardwell Fund was a long time in coming to The Trust. Almost 30 years ago, the firm, acting as pro bono counsel, sued on behalf of 70,000 female members of the New York City Employees' Retirement System.

The court ruled in favor of the women in 1981, and referred the case to a special master to formulate a remedy. Davis Polk lawyers met with Trust staff to discuss the possibility of creating a fund with us, using a portion of the attorneys' fees they expected. They checked back every couple of years, and finally, in late 1997, the relief was finalized—resulting in benefits to the class members of hundreds of millions of dollars—and the firm was awarded $1.9 million in fees, all of which was contributed to charity. The fund was set up with $1.3 million for "general charitable purposes, with special consideration for grants that benefit women," and the firm’s partners asked Trust staff to make the grants.

Paul W. Bartel II, a partner at Davis Polk, was the lead lawyer in the case and instrumental in creating the fund. "We took this case on as a pro bono commitment to help benefit the community. When we were awarded attorneys' fees, we decided, as a firm, that we wanted to use the award to benefit the community as well," said Bartel. "The emphasis on women was a natural outgrowth. We have been delighted with the grants The Trust has made and we have been impressed with The Trust's professionalism."

One of its grants supported inMotion, which gave legal assistance to Latina girls and women who have suffered domestic violence.

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