Franklin M. Lee


Franklin M. Lee

Franklin M. Lee is one of the country’s leading authorities on socio-economic policies that promote the use of small, minority-owned, and woman-owned businesses in government contracting.  For more than 25 years, Mr. Lee has advised businesses on regulatory compliance with such policies, and the federal, state, and local governments on establishing and defending commercial non-discrimination policies and public contracting programs.  Mr. Lee also assists multi-national corporations with efforts to promote fairness and diversity in their use of commercial vendors.

Prior to entering private practice, Mr. Lee served for six years as antitrust litigation counsel at the Federal Trade Commission, and for over fifteen years as Chief Counsel to the Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.  In the latter position, he advised numerous governmental entities in drafting minority business and disadvantaged business enterprise programs, and in defending those programs against constitutional challenges.


Representation of Minority- and Women-owned Business Enterprises

An experienced administrative lawyer and a litigator, Mr. Lee helps businesses navigate all the intricacies of minority and disadvantaged business policies.  He assists his clients in:

  • Obtaining Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), Women Business Enterprise (WBE), and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) certifications from state and local governments;
  • Obtaining 8(a) program certification from the Small Business Administration;
  • Bid protests;
  • Economic inclusion strategies to enhance private development project outcomes;
  • MBE/WBE policy enforcement; and
  • Civil rights class actions and other complex commercial litigation.


Representation of Corporations

Mr. Lee advises large corporations on compliance with various socio-economic policies, regulations and strategies including:

  • Equal business opportunity programs;
  • Commercial non-discrimination policies;
  • Subcontracting goals;
  • Establishing supplier diversity strategies and policies to enhance M/WBE mainstream participation in emerging markets such as medical cannabis and community solar power;
  • Teaming and joint venture collaborations with small and disadvantaged businesses; and
  • MBE/WBE/DBE/HUB/SBE/SLBE contract requirements.

He also facilitates joint ventures and partnerships among Fortune 500 corporations and smaller contractors and vendors to increase capacity and enhance market access among historically disadvantaged businesses.  He also conducts diversity business audits and helps large companies open up their procurement processes to new sources of supply and to promote non-discriminatory treatment of suppliers and vendors.


Representation of Governments

Mr. Lee’s representation of dozens of government clients has brought him national recognition.  Among his many governmental clients are the Cities of Baltimore, MD; Boston, MA; Charlotte, NC; Greensboro, NC; Palm Beach County, FL; Richland County, SC; San Antonio, TX; San Diego, CA; and Columbia, SC.  His academic/non-profit clients include the North Carolina Institute of Minority Economic Development, the Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the School Board of Broward County, the Palm Beach County School Board, and the University of Minnesota.  He has also advised the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Transportation regarding proposed regulatory reforms of federal economic inclusion programs.

Mr. Lee has advised governmental entities on:

  • Minority Women Business Enterprise (“M/WBE”) programs;
  • Small Business Enterprise (“SBE”), Small Local Business Enterprise (“SLBE”), and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (“DBE”) programs;
  • Linked deposit policies for financial institutions;
  • DBE airport concessions programs;
  • Capacity building initiatives;
  • Centralized bidder registration;
  • Formation and oversight of multi-jurisdictional disparity study consortiums;
  • Disparity study oversight and review, and procedures for economic inclusion policy deliberation;
  • Working capital lending programs;
  • Bonding assistance programs;
  • Supplier development programs; and
  • Various public private partnership initiatives that serve "economic inclusion" and economic development objectives.

Mr. Lee has assisted numerous governments in reforming their procurement practices and policies to make them more accessible.  Several of these reforms have involved the deployment of technologies that automate the government vendor registration and contracting processes.  He has provided detailed guidance to government clients regarding such procedures including the Metropolitan District Commission in Hartford, CT, San Diego, CA, Columbia, SC, and San Antonio, TX.


Appellate Representation

Mr. Lee has been involved in some of the most consequential appellate decisions concerning MBE/WBE policies around the country.  His federal appellate court experience includes:

  • Supervising and drafting of appellate briefs as amicus curiae and as an intervening party in numerous constitutional challenges to federal, state, and local minority business programs (Carpenter v. Dole, Tennessee Asphalt v. Farris, Associated General Contractors v. San Francisco, Concrete Works v. City and County of Denver, and S.J. Groves v. Fulton County.); and
  • Preparing briefs and pleadings in U.S. Supreme Court cases involving the constitutionality of minority business programs (J.A. Croson v. City of Richmond, Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Pena, and Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Mineta; these cases addressed complex legal and factual issues under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment).


Community Service

Mr. Lee is actively involved in matters concerning minority-owned businesses. He has served in numerous capacities to promote the advancement of MBEs. Recently, he was invited as a participant in a MBE Roundtable of business leaders, academia, and government officials. The MBE Roundtable was convened by Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings to develop policy recommendations and strategies for reforming Maryland’s MBE Program in 2012 to make it more effective in facilitating the growth and expansion of MBEs into the mainstream of Maryland’s economy. Also, Governor O’Malley appointed Mr. Lee as a member of the Maryland Task Force on Minority Business Enterprise and Equity Investment Capital.

He has also served on the "Bridging the Gap" Advisory Panel of the Greater Baltimore Committee, which awarded him the "Bridging the Gap President’s Award" in 2008 for his dedication to promoting the advancement of minority-owned business in central Maryland. He was the only attorney selected to Maryland Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s Task Force on MBE Reform in 2003; in May 2006, at the conclusion of the Task Force’s work, Governor Ehrlich signed into law groundbreaking MBE legislation crafted largely by Mr. Lee.

Deeply committed to improving the quality of life for the poor and disadvantaged in the City of Baltimore, Mr. Lee has been a long-term volunteer with such organizations as the Sandtown Habitat for Humanity and the Eternal Light of Helping Hands, Inc.

Mr. Lee is a perennial mentor for youth who express career interest in the field of law. Most recently, his efforts at encouraging young people to pursue legal careers have been directed towards The Just the Beginning Foundation (JTBF), a national non-profit dedicated to promoting greater diversity in the field of law. In 2008, he was a member of the Executive Planning Committee for the Foundation’s biennial conference sponsored by bar associations in Washington DC, the State of Maryland, and the State of Virginia. Additionally, he co-chaired the Foundation’s "Robes in Schools" programs in Maryland that year. These programs brought together dozens of judges, lawyers, law professors, law students, college students, and high school and middle school students to share in the judges’ inspirational stories of their careers and life experiences in the law.

Additionally, Mr. Lee helped coordinate the JTBF’s Mock Trial program in Washington, DC, in which dozens of high school students from across the region played the roles of lawyers, witnesses, and jurors in a mock trial based upon a trial transcript and evidentiary exhibits derived from an actual case. For many students, this event provided their first hands-on introduction to legal argument and the practice of law.



Attorney Profile



  • University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law (J.D., 1980) Member, Moot Court Board; Asper Fellowship with NAACP
  • University of Chicago (B.A., 1977) National Achievement Scholar

Bar Admissions

  • State of Maryland

Court Admissions

  • U.S. District Court, District of Maryland
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit
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  • American Bar Association
  • American Contract Compliance Association
  • Airport Minority Advisory Council
  • Florida Association of Minority Business Enterprise Officials
  • Black Professional Men, Inc.
  • University of Maryland School of Law Alumni Association
  • Board of Policy Advisors for The Policy Center at the North Carolina Institute of Minority Economic Development
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  • Baltimore City Mayor’s Task Force on Urban Solar Initiative Pilot Projects, Co-chair, 2014
  • The LEADERSHIP, Board of Directors, 2013-2014
  • Project PLASE (People Lacking Adequate Shelter and Employment), Board of Directors, 2012-2014
  • City of Baltimore's Mayor's Advisory Council on Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises, Appointee, 2012-2013
  • National Conference on Equity in Procurement and Contracting, Panelist, Minneapolis, Minnesota, May 2011
  • Governor Martin O'Malley's Maryland Task Force on Minority Business Enterprise and Equity Investment Capital, Appointee, 2010
  • Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland's Economic Development Workshop entitled "Taking It To The Next Level/Policy Tools To Close The Gaps And Build Legacy Wealth," for a discussion by a distinguished panel of entrepreneurs and professionals regarding various innovative policy approaches aimed at transitioning MBEs to the next level of competitive viability, Lead Presenter, November 2010
  • Legal Update Presentation for MBE Law; presented to FAMBEO
  • Transformation Through Innovation; presented to FAMBEO
  • GBC Leadership Program, Class of 2009
  • Just the Beginning Foundation, Executive Planning Committee, co-chair "Robes in Schools" programs in Maryland, and coordinator of Mock Trial program in D.C., 2008
  • Greater Baltimore Committee, "Bridging the Gap" Advisory Panel, 2007
  • Lectures on discrimination law for the National Association of College and University Attorneys, Tempe, Arizona, March, 2005
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