Unions and workers today are in the fight of their lives, battling to retain jobs, increase wages, protect benefits and strengthen the right to organize. They want Deborah Willig—a lifelong champion of workers—on their side. In 2023, Deborah received the American Bar Association's Margaret Brent Award for her professional excellence and for paving the way for other women in the legal profession.
A trailblazer and sought-after workers’ advocate, Deborah has handled labor relations and employment law for more than four decades. She advises and negotiates on behalf of labor unions whose members represent a broad cross section of the labor market. As part of the core negotiating team for some of the region’s most significant labor contracts, she has helped to secure fair outcomes—raising wages, improving living standards, protecting pension and health care benefits and ensuring that rules are equitable and properly enforced.
Among Deborah’s union clients are teachers and public-school employees; public health, social services, library and recreation workers; firefighters, teamsters, musicians, cafeteria, and hotel and restaurant employees. For decades Deborah has been involved in every collective bargaining negotiations between City of Philadelphia and the School District of Philadelphia and their respective Union employees.
Deborah’s work for public and private sector unions includes interest and grievance arbitrations as well as providing guidance regarding internal governance and staff matters. She also represents Trustees in jointly administered public and private sector health and welfare funds and is highly skilled at analyzing health benefit plan designs and costs and advising clients on their impact. Among her multiple successes in negotiating health care and other benefits, Deborah secured a major arbitration victory requiring a large Philadelphia employer to provide domestic partner benefits years before they were commonplace.
As the Managing Partner of Willig, Williams & Davidson, Deborah carefully oversees the hiring of equally dedicated lawyers to foster a culture of inclusion, advocacy, community and service. As a result of these efforts, the firm is home to strategic and proactive lawyers who believe in what they do and work to protect the rights of workers.
The first female Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association in 1992, Deborah shattered the glass ceiling and set the stage for women as leaders in the legal profession. She continues to serve workers and lawyers by presenting at the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, the Pennsylvania Bar Institute, Temple University Beasley School of Law and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Deborah has been recognized for her work and advocacy in numerous ways, including with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Legal Intelligencer Lifetime Achievement Award, the Sandra Day O’Connor Award from the Philadelphia Bar Association, the Philadelphia Business Journal Women of Distinction Award, the Labor Human Rights Award from the Jewish Labor Committee, The Agent of Change Award from Women's Way, the Israel Labor Medal from the State of Israel Bonds, the Vocational Service Award from the Rotary Club of Philadelphia, and the Outstanding Service Award from Pennsylvania Citizen's Action. She was also selected by a nationwide group of peers as a Member of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers.
WHAT INSPIRES ME ABOUT MY WORK
“We help our clients when they, their loved ones or their rights are in peril. We fight for justice on their behalf—we fight on the side of the angels to level the playing field. I work with a fabulous team of motivated lawyers who come from union backgrounds and families. It’s an inspiration to work on behalf of dedicated clients alongside a stellar team. I love what I do; I love who I do it for and I love who I do it with!”
AWAY FROM WORK
“My pursuits have changed over the years. Today I love spending time with my daughter, and I enjoy sitting on the beach listening to a playlist of some of my favorites—Carole King, James Taylor, The Beatles, Nancy LaMott and The Philadelphia Orchestra.”