Partner, Pepper Hamilton LLP
Vice Chancellor, Philadelphia Bar Association
CLASS OF 1981
Michael Pratt decided to attend W&J because of its strong academic environment and the chance to play sports at a collegiate level. But when he arrived on campus, he found that there were many other reasons to love W&J, notably the closeness of the faculty to the students. As he looks back on his experiences at the College, Pratt realizes that the strong commitment of the College to the future of its students helped him appreciate how valuable knowledge is.
The professors and administrators at W&J helped Pratt to obtain a better world view by advising him to widen his perspective and be open to new ideas. This prepared him to make a contribution to the society. He speaks of how their doors were always open to inspire and encourage him. Dr. Joseph DiSarro, a political science professor, encouraged Pratt’s interest in becoming a lawyer, and after college he went to law school. After he graduated from law school, he spent one year clerking for a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and then interviewed at Pepper Hamilton LLP, where he has been employed for the past 20 years as a litigator focusing on complex commercial disputes and toxic torts. He enjoys the challenge of being creative in law and being in a unique position to give something back to his community and profession. Most recently, he has been elected vice chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association and will become chancellor in 2008.
“There has been an increase in diversity since I was at W&J,” he says. “And being African-American, this is very important to me.” However, while Pratt admits to experiencing some racially insensitive episodes, he does not mention any difficulties with others or direct discrimination during his four years at W&J. He also is impressed at the physical changes on campus since the time when he was a student here. “There has been a great deal of new construction,” he notes. “And, the campus looks good.” Knowing that W&J continues to improve, while maintaining the same commitment and concern for students that it has always had, Pratt says, “I’m very proud to say that I’m a graduate of W&J.”