Richard Frank Looks Back on the Founding of Lawyers Have Heart

By Jeffery Leon

January 3, 2017

In 1991 attorneys Richard Frank and Alan Raul founded Lawyers Have Heart, now the leading philanthropic event involving the D.C. legal community, to raise funds for and awareness about heart health. Frank recently discussed with the D.C. Bar how it all started.

Richard Frank, OFW Law, Photo courtesy of Rick FrankHow did Lawyers Have Heart begin?

About 26 years ago, the Washingtonian ran a cover story with the picture of a lawyer with a blindfold on, and the caption said, "First, kill all the lawyers," which is a line from Shakespeare. I had started my law firm, OFW Law, 10 years earlier and I was relatively young, and I wondered, why does everyone hate lawyers? I worked really hard, went through law school, and it distressed me that everyone hated lawyers. I thought, well, maybe they need to give back more to society, and that’s when Lawyers Have Heart popped into my head, and it was such a delightful oxymoron. I owned the trademark to that title, which I sold to the American Heart Association for a dollar. I don't think I'm gonna try and get it back (laughs).

How did you decide on the American Heart Association as beneficiary?

After I decided that lawyers had to give back to the community, and because my father had open heart surgery a year or two before, I decided that the event should benefit the American Heart Association. I approached the association in the District, which at the time was chaired by Nancy Chapman, and she loved the idea.

How did Alan Raul get involved?

After getting a great response from the American Heart Association, I threw myself into the project and realized early on that with only seven lawyers, OFW Law couldn’t create the critical mass to make the event work. Since I was a food and drug lawyer who does a lot of work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, I decided to reach out to Alan Raul, who was then the general counsel of the USDA and a runner. I knew Alan could get other runners involved, so I shared the idea with him and he loved it. He and I became the cofounders and cochairs of Lawyers Have Heart.

What was it like running the event in the first few years?

I'm a little surprised it's become an institution. When Alan and I started it, we had a pretty strong coordination with the government. There would be the general counsel of USDA, which was Alan, then in later years we had the [D.C.] attorney general as an honorary chair. If you want to stimulate participation, the government is a good place to do it because there's a lot of people who work there and a lot of them are runners. If you want to stimulate dollars, then you need corporate and law firm sponsors. So the strategy was to get participation from the government and law firms, and to get contributions from companies that provide services to the legal community.

For the first couple of years Lawyers Have Heart [was held] down at West Potomac Park. Then we moved over to the Washington Harbor in Georgetown where we've been since.

How do you feel about how big the annual race has become?

Lawyers Have Heart is creating an intersection between the legal community and a great charity, and I’m proud that it’s lasted 26 years and has raised over $11 million toward heart research. I've been to nearly all of the races, and every time I go I'm charmed at seeing all the runners, families, summer associates, and the hundreds of custom race shirts from different firms and businesses. It's become an annual event—lots of law firms and businesses take it seriously, and it's fun. The legal community has made a wonderful contribution to heart education and research.