Allegheny Graduate Defends Marginalized as Pro Bono Counsel for Multi-National Law Firm

Don Salzman
Don Salzman

Don Salzman ‘82 advocates fiercely for the disadvantaged — from his time as a public defender to his current position as pro bono counsel for the past 20 years at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, a multi-national law firm. Salzman says that an Allegheny College professor was a huge inspiration to him. 

“Francis Giles Wayland-Smith [professor emeritus of political science] reinforced my direction, which was to serve others and to look at the world to understand the inequality, the tremendous gaps in fairness in this country,” Salzman says. “The influence of that one particular professor really stuck with me throughout my career.”

After graduating from Allegheny College with a bachelor’s in political science, Salzman attended law school at George Washington University, where he represented misdemeanor defendants in court as a third-year student in the Law Students in Court clinic.

His first job out of law school was with a commercial law firm. Two years later, Salzman left the firm to pursue his indigent defense passion as an assistant public defender in Montgomery County in Maryland, where he remained for almost 15 years. 

In 2002, Salzman joined the board of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and, since then, has led teams on cases that freed innocent men who collectively served 157 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.

At Skadden, Salzman coordinates and supervises pro bono work performed by firm colleagues and leads case teams. He is devoted to assisting underprivileged individuals who cannot afford legal representation and nonprofits serving the public interest. 

“I feel very lucky and gratified that I get the chance to work every day on behalf of marginalized people,” Salzman says. 

The Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia honored Salzman with its 2014 Servant of Justice award, and the DC Law Students in Court, on whose board he now serves, presented him with its 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award. 

Salzman advises students to “find something you’re passionate about because that is what drove my career, and that’s what made it rewarding for me.”