Berkeley Law has received the largest gift a law firm has ever made to the school in honor of one of its partners.
The $500,000 donation from the law firm of Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass comes in the form of The William K. Coblentz Civil Rights Endowment Fund. It honors William Coblentz, the firm’s senior partner and one of the nation’s most prominent attorneys.
The Coblentz Fund will support student and faculty research and similar activities related to racial and ethnic justice in California and the nation. Income from it will be used to help selected student fellows who best reflect Coblentz’s passion for civil rights, commitment to diversity, and involvement in the community. Beginning next year, those students will work as research assistants or summer interns.
The fund “was unanimously and enthusiastically supported by the firm’s partners as a gesture of respect and admiration for Bill and his lifelong work and passion for civil rights,” said Richard Patch, a name partner at the firm. “His personal influence in the civil rights area goes far beyond lawyering—his commitment to diversity and equality are paramount in his practice and his life. We honor him for his work and intend for the endowment to continue it for generations to come,”
In his 50 years of practice, Coblentz has achieved a remarkable record of service to the legal profession, the business community, the state of California, and UC Berkeley, for which he served as chairman and member of the Board of Regents.
An expert in land use and development, real estate, and complex business transactions, Coblentz has served as director, trustee, regent, and counselor of public entities, charities, businesses, foundations, and families. His clients include long-established national developers and retailers, newspapers, foundations, business owners, professionals, and celebrities.
As a young attorney, Coblentz was a keen observer of the injustices and inequalities endured by minorities in his community. He was deeply moved by the inadequate treatment he saw and heard about from some of his closest friends. Coblentz was instrumental in supporting the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. as a board member and as an active supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union. He also serves on the Honorary Committee for Human Rights Watch.
“It is our great honor that Bill and his law firm have chosen to continue his longstanding, generous support of civil rights by establishing the Coblentz Fund,” said law school Dean Christopher Edley. “As one of the premier public law schools in the country, we are resolute in our commitment to advancing issues of racial justice and equality under the law through legal education and advocacy. Endowments like the Coblentz Fund are critical to the important mission of preparing future generations of leaders who are passionate about civil rights. We are both grateful and honored for this opportunity to continue Bill’s legacy at Berkeley Law.”
Listed in Best Lawyers in America, Coblentz now serves on the boards of directors of McClatchy Newspapers, the Koret Foundation, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. A 1943 UC Berkeley graduate, he is a recipient of the Berkeley Citation—the highest honor awarded by his undergraduate alma mater.
Coblentz’s law firm will endow the fund by making annual contributions of $100,000 beginning in 2009 and ending in 2013. Each year, Berkeley Law will use $20,000 of the contributions to fund that year’s Coblentz Fellows, with the remainder to be applied to the endowment fund. In 2014, CPDB will fund the balance of the corpus to $500,000.