Return to Articles

The Tally on Talley

by Nancy L. Hebble

Winter 2003, Vol. 65, No. 4

Some say she'll get the deal done; others say she's already left an indelible mark. Either way, it's no coincidence that her initials spell ACT.

"I have always loved adventure and the out-of-doors. "I like immersing myself in a completely different culture where the day-to-day will be nothing like home.

"I have a lifelong interest in antiquities and anthropology. I believe that looking at the development of cultures, structures, civilizations and nature makes me more knowledgeable.

"Four years ago I spent ten days alone in a cabin at the base of the mountains in the Amazon territory in Southern Venezuela. Access was by two-seater airplane. I could hear nothing but insects, birds and animals.

"In the morning I took walks with a guide; in the afternoon we canoed downstream so I could take pictures of tropical plants and wildlife. Passing the natives as they fished or gathered wood, I marveled at the contrast to our culture and the simplicity that continues even into our time.

"I saw people living as they had for hundreds of years, unencumbered by anything. "In the moment, I truly envied that."
Those are the words of Audrey Camille Talley, soon to be the first African-American female Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association. Born in Nashville forty-nine years ago last month, she is the sixth of seven children born to Lucius and Marguerite Talley. Her father was a mailman and her mother a homemaker. Together they instilled in their children the importance of getting an education, of being independent and able to take care of themselves.

"I always assumed that I would have to work hard all of my life," she says. "That just seemed to be a matter of fact."

Today Audrey Talley is a partner in the Philadelphia law firm of Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. She is a business lawyer concentrating in securities and investment management. She is a nationally known speaker and writer on the topic; in the past eight years she has lectured nearly thirty times in locations like Wharton and Wall Street. She is also known for her interest and activism on women's issues.

Away from the world of law, she is a global traveler to unusual and interesting destinations, an accomplished photographer who documents the people and places all around her, and an avid gardener who plants the seeds of color and beauty in her environment. She clearly holds dear the values of love of family and friends, of the importance of pursuing dreams and goals, of living a full life, of giving back to the community of which you are a part, and of being true to yourself.

As a single woman, devoted to her large, extended family, she commits her time to both personal and professional interests, and she does so wholeheartedly. Audrey Talley does not simply live the single life; rather, hers is a singular life, one that is daring in its scope and promise.

Advancing the Agenda
During her year as Chancellor, Talley plans to bring a fast-forward attitude to any task at hand. The proof of that is in statements like these:

"I want to propel the Bar Association into the next phase where there is a much larger role for the organization to play for all lawyers.

"The pace of a lawyer's practice constantly undergoes change, but keeping pace is exactly what makes us relevant, and that's demonstrated in how we communicate and how we deliver legal product.

"Philosophically, moving ahead requires that we set new priorities for real community outreach, outreach that produces a positive result, both in the way we practice and in how broad an impact we have on issues."

Translating those thoughts to practical action, Talley plans to direct the Philadelphia Bar Association's effort toward strengthening ties and furthering common goals with other organizations in the business community, including the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

"Certainly the establishment of a coalition for reform of the local tax structure by the Bar, the Chamber and grassroots community organizations could be an important step to cultivating a better business climate in Philadelphia. Fairer taxation will make this city more attractive to corporations and businesses looking to locate in the Mid-Atlantic or Northeastern United States. It also will make Philadelphia more attractive to law students looking to begin practicing in this city after they finish law school here—but that's part of our outreach to the law schools as well.

"The Chamber has asked for our support for their initiatives, and if we can build a strong bond by doing our part where their interests coincide with ours, then we'll be on our way to crafting a stronger partnership with the business community, one that truly supports economic development in the Delaware Valley. These kinds of efforts," she adds, "go right in step with lawyers playing a stronger and more important role in the region."

As for increased interaction with the law school community, Talley will launch the Bar Association's Ruth Bader Ginsburg Legal Writing Competition for area law students. Also planned for next year is a symposium on the impact of government regulation on business, cosponsored by Villanova Law School and the Chamber of Commerce.

Another item on her agenda is more public education about judicial independence and the selection of judges. "Next year is an election year, and we want to contribute to a more informed electorate," Talley says. She thinks that the Bar's Commission on Judicial Selection and Retention can be key to an increased awareness by bringing public discussion to Republican Party v. White, the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows judicial candidates the right to speak out on issues.

"It's a balancing act between the candidates' right to free speech—to state positions on issues—versus the rights of litigants to appear before unbiased judges. It's an interesting, controversial and significant subject that can focus attention on the upcoming elections and hopefully more fully engage Philadelphia voters," she says.

Talley also will focus her efforts toward implementation of the Pro Bono Task Force's recent assessment of the Bar's responsibilities in providing legal services. "We must accept responsibility for pro bono, from the individual to institutions like the Bar Association to the entire legal community. We must support the provisions of the Code of Professional Responsibility that obliges us to assist with cases and to provide funding," she says.

Last year Talley was appointed to head a subcommittee to review the report of the Task Force, and former Chancellor Seymour Kurland (1987) commends her for the way she handled the review process. As chair of the Pro Bono Task Force, he recalls that she brought a fair and balanced attitude to the work.

"The Task Force, commissioned by Chancellor Allan H. Gordon, had such a vested interest in the project; this was important work that we had spent months putting together," Kurland explains. "Audrey showed a real sensitivity to that fact, writing a specific resolution for each recommendation. In the end, the whole report was adopted, so I'm happy with what she did," he says.

"Former Chancellor Abe Reich (1995) often spoke of the importance of not throwing away what other Chancellors have done," Talley says, noting, "There's real wisdom in that, and we'll follow through on the recommendations of the Task Force. We'll spend time implementing the specific calls to action in the report."

In conjunction with the Philadelphia Bar Foundation and with the sponsorship of Citizens Bank, Talley also will establish a pro bono awards program for lawyers and law firms next year.

Four Simple Reasons
Audrey Talley's interest in volunteerism and giving back to the community goes far beyond the Bar Association, and a recitation of her awards and honors shows that the community values her in return:

She has received the Women of Distinction Award from the Community Women's Education Project and the Doris Mae Harris Image Award from the National Bar Association's Women Lawyers Division. She has been named one of Pennsylvania's "Best 50 Women in Business" by Business Journals of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. She has received the Chisholm Award from the Philadelphia Congress of the National Political Congress of Black Women, the Woman of Achievement Business Award from the March of Dimes and the Business Philadelphia Woman to Watch Award.

She lists four simple reasons for her extraordinary level of community involvement, reasons that belie her simply being a joiner:

"I want to help advance the interests of others.

"Increasing responsibility results in personal growth.

"I enjoy learning things and meeting people, in addition to helping with a nonprofit's goals.

"I get real personal and professional satisfaction from volunteering."

In the larger legal community and beyond, Talley's pursuit of her broad interests has resulted in stints on the boards of many organizations, including Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, Community Legal Services, the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Association of University Women, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the Greater Philadelphia Committee for UNICEF.

Women in the Profession
As a woman lawyer, Talley's decade-long volunteerism with the Bar's Women in the Profession Committee mirrors her other work in the community interest. Under her leadership, Talley created the Bar's Sandra Day O'Connor Award for women attorneys, initiated monthly professional development programs for women attorneys, launched the "Statement of Goals of Philadelphia Law Firms and Legal Departments for the Retention and Promotion of Women," chaired the committee for the 1996 Women Judges Reception, as well as the 1997 event, "Celebrating More Than a Century of Women Lawyers in Philadelphia: A Reception in Honor of Trailblazing Senior Women Attorneys."

Talley credits Andre L. Dennis, 1993 Chancellor and partner at Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, LLP, with her becoming involved with the Women in the Profession Committee. Talley had recently become the first African-American female partner at the firm at the time when Dennis was lining up people to serve as committee chairs during his year as Bar Chancellor.

"I knew she had talent, and so I urged her to head the Women in the Profession Committee. She certainly fulfilled her potential with that group by launching many new initiatives, including the Sandra Day O'Connor Award. The Justice accepted the invitation to come to Philadelphia for the first awards ceremony. My recollection is that it was a wonderful time for Audrey," Dennis says.

Stephanie Resnick, partner at Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, LLP, echoes that thought and believes that Audrey Talley would count the establishment of the Sandra Day O'Connor Award as her most significant accomplishment with the committee.

"It was Audrey who first recognized that the legal community had never honored women lawyers in Philadelphia who had made significant contributions to the profession. Many of these women also had overcome major obstacles to their full participation in the profession and had worked to advance the careers of other women attorneys," Resnick says.

Resnick also comments on Talley's leadership, with the able assistance of Deborah Weinstein, former Women in the Profession co-chair and partner in the law firm of Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, LLC, in the crafting of the "Statement of Goals of Philadelphia Law Firms and Legal Departments for the Retention and Promotion of Women," guidelines first adopted by the Bar's Board of Governors.

"The policy was later adopted by virtually all of the city's large law firms as well as many smaller firms and corporate and other law departments," Resnick says, noting that "the Statement of Goals became a model for bar associations in other cities seeking to encourage the advancement of women lawyers by eliminating obstacles based on gender-biased considerations and stereotypes."

Mary F. Platt, another former Women in the Profession Committee co-chair and partner at Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoads, LLP, admires Audrey Talley for her creativity. "You can always count on Audrey to come up with a fresh idea and turn that idea into a success story," she says. "For example, it was Audrey who suggested that the committee offer leadership training to women lawyers before this type of training became available from other sources. She's a wonder in my book," Platt says.

At Womens Way, the first fundraising federation in the United States formed specifically to benefit social service agencies for women and children, Talley's volunteerism culminated with her serving as chair of that organization from 1996 to 1998. She was a member of the Board of Directors and committees from 1992 to 1998. In 1994 and 1995 she was co-chair of the Annual Fundraising Dinner; she has been a member of the group's Leadership Council since 1998.

Resnick now serves as chair of Womens Way, having come up through the ranks during Talley's tenure. Resnick, who says she "counts Audrey as a mentor, role model and friend," comments on Talley's leadership style:

"Audrey's quiet forcefulness, thoughtful elocution, outstanding judgment and perseverance commands respect and attention. One soon realizes that she is a leader for our time—someone who stands above the crowd without having to get on a ladder. Her persistence in pushing priorities meaningful to her and many other people—including attention to those less fortunate and the advancement of women professionals—has already left an indelible mark."

Moving Boulders
Talley believes that the past two decades have seen tremendous achievement for women lawyers, noting the first female U.S. Supreme Court Justice was appointed when she was in law school. "Remember, being a trailblazer means building a new road. Knocking down trees and moving boulders is a tough job."

But Talley knows all that firsthand. As an African American, she's had to move boulders of her own. She says she entered the workforce just as the landscape was changing. "I endured my fair share of times where people were not used to African-American college graduates and professionals. There have been unpleasant experiences," she notes, "but I've learned how to deal and how to make a better environment."

Talley makes it clear that just because she won't repeat stories of discrimination and prejudice in her life doesn't mean there's been a free ride. "I have encountered what others have encountered, but I was fortunate in that I kept my eye on the ball," she says, maintaining, "It's all in your attitude.

"But make no mistake, race has always been a real issue for me," Talley adds. "My defining experience as a professional—and this is especially true of my early years in practice—is that I have often been 'the first and the only.' My real challenge has been how to maintain goals and achieve professionally without the distraction that can occur in such circumstances."

Talley states that there's also been an internal focus, "one that motivates me to do well because I have so often been that first-and-only. And there's an element of this feeling that never really goes away, no matter how long I've been in practice and no matter what confidence I've gained. I still see much that needs to be accomplished in terms of parity, especially in the mainstream legal culture, so it is precisely this feeling that motivates me to continue to work for change," she says.

Front-Page News
If parity means being represented in the senior ranks, then Audrey Talley has certainly arrived at Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. "She's been a great addition to our firm and a good resource nationally because she's so well-connected in the industry," according to Michael P. Malloy, Talley's partner and the head of her practice group. "She has had a big impact on our practice, and she's a real contributor," he says. Malloy also calls Talley a straight shooter and a self-starter. "She's the one you want on your team, because she's extremely capable and she's willing to do the work to accomplish the goals," he explains.

William A. Humenuk, senior vice president, administration, general counsel and secretary of Lone Star Industries, Inc., Indianapolis, worked with Talley for more than ten years when he served on the board of one of her clients.

"She brings a sense of competence and confidence to the lawyer/client relationship. As a client/lawyer, that was particularly reassuring to me," he says.

Humenuk believes Talley's special skill is that she is particularly creative at finding practical, helpful solutions to difficult problems. "She's always looking for ways to resolve thorny issues that enable the client to achieve an objective that's not adverse to where he or she wants to be. She's very successful in bringing diverse points of view together to form consensus. She's not at all the fire and brimstone type, but there is a forcefulness to her convictions," he says.

And from the first recipient of the Sandra Day O'Connor Award, U.S. District Court Senior Judge (E.D.Pa.) Norma L. Shapiro, come these words of praise for lawyer Audrey Talley: "Her career path demonstrates superior talent and ability. When she lectures in her area of concentration, securities and investment management, she often expresses cutting-edge ideas, such as the offering of securities via the Internet. Her experience in corporate finance and general corporate matters was clearly recognized when her move to Drinker Biddle & Reath was carried as front-page news. What an inspiration!"

Bouncing Back
Throughout her childhood, Audrey Talley, her siblings and her mother grew large flower and vegetable gardens. Today, at her Philadelphia home, she plants magnolia trees to remind her of the south. "That flower is my favorite," she says, "but I also have other southern plants as well, like pink dogwoods and crepe myrtle."

She loves roses of all kinds and chooses them not for their fancy names or rarest species, but for their color and size. "Every rose garden must have the reddest of the red, and I love best the contrast of the yellow rose with the red ones," she says, adding that in recent years she has brought pink, peach and coral roses into the mix. "I also have miniature Japanese maples, with leaves from the green/gold to the fiery red. All of these add form and color to a garden," she adds.

"What draws me to gardening is being able to nurture and see things blossom in a short period of time. Gardening becomes all-consuming of your thoughts. It's strenuous work, but it clears out your mind and generates a peaceful state," she says.

Talley uses her interests like gardening to create balance in her life. "Lawyering can get so intense. Everything becomes focused on my professional/emotional involvement in getting a result for my client. It's the most demanding life there is. The expectations are high and the stakes are sometimes higher, and that generates a pressure and tension that can be draining."

Talley finds she needs to get really far away mentally in order to bounce back, whether that's through gardening at home or travel abroad. She has visited more than thirty foreign countries. "I bounce back better when the environment is totally different—that's what brings me back to life," she says.

Grace and Good Judgment
As Chancellor, Talley hopes to shape policies in a manner reflecting current times with the benefits of Bar membership at the core. "We should be a partner to every lawyer at three levels," she says. "First, as a services and programs provider, we should respond to the needs and interests of the lawyer individually. Second, as an organization, we should help lawyers and law firms target the business of law, and third, as an institution, we should advocate for the legal profession.

"The barometer of our success, of course, is how effectively the Bar Association is viewed as a partner to the legal community," she quickly adds.

Talley says she's observed that many times a Chancellor's year can be very different from what he or she planned because unforeseen problems arise. "I want to have the wisdom and understanding to accomplish a formal agenda as well as the grace and good judgment to successfully deal with issues that come up during my year. I hope I know what's right and what's best, since a good outcome is always at the intersection of these two."

Talley's friend Doreen S. Davis, Chancellor in 2000, thinks she'll do just fine: "Audrey is going to make a great Chancellor. Nobody I know is more thoughtful and organized. She has meticulously planned for her year and has a very exciting and full agenda. Her perspective, as a business lawyer, will really help her get the deal done."

Nothing Trumps Experience
When Audrey Talley becomes the 76th Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association in January, she will have a decade of experience in leadership roles within the organization under her belt. In the year 2000, she ran for Vice Chancellor and served in that post in 2001. In 2002 she served as Chancellor-Elect. In 1997 she was elected to the Bar's Board of Governors and served as its chair in 1999.

Active in the Business Law Section, Talley was its chair in 2000. She served on the Executive Committee from 1996 to 2001. She is a former secretary and treasurer of the section and was co-chair of the Investment Companies Committee from 1997 to 1998. In 1997 she was chair of the TRANSACT Conference, a one-day continuing legal education conference for transactional lawyers. She was a member of its planning committee in 1996.

In addition to business law-related activities with the Association, Talley has long been active with the Women in the Profession Committee, having served as co-chair from 1993 to 1995.

Other past and present committee memberships include Women's Rights, Minorities in the Profession, Legislative Liaison, Long-Range Planning, Budget, Survey, Proposed Bar Home, Nominating, Diversity and the Gender Fairness Task Force.

In related organizations, Talley is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation since 1996 and a charter contributor to the Foundation's Hamilton Circle. She served on the Philadelphia Volunteers for the Indigent Program Board of Directors from 1995 to 1997 and in 2002. In 1993 she was a member of the Board of Directors of the Philadelphia Bar Education Foundation.

"Wisdom and understanding are important when it comes to getting a job done, but nothing trumps experience," says Talley, who also has been active with state and national bar associations. In the Pennsylvania Bar Association, she served as co-chair of the Commission on Women in the Profession from 1997 to 1998 and is a member of the Committee on Minorities in the Profession.

In the American Bar Association (ABA), she is a member of the Business Law Section, Federal Securities Regulation Committee, Regulation of Investment Companies and Investment Advisers Subcommittee and the Investment Services Subcommittee.

With the ABA Conference of Minority Partners, she is a former Advisory Board member, a former editor of Amici Briefs newsletter and a former member of the Program Committee. With the ABA's Law Practice Management Section, she is a member of the Women Rainmakers Interest Group and has been a presenter on its conference panels.

She also is a fellow of the American Bar Foundation.