Franklin M. Lee

Franklin 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, he 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.  He also assists multi-national corporations with efforts to promote fairness and diversity in their use of commercial vendors.

Prior to entering private practice, Franklin served for six years as antitrust litigation counsel assigned to merger investigations in a number of industries 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, Franklin 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 sector development project outcomes;
  • MBE/WBE policy enforcement; and
  • Civil rights class actions and other complex commercial litigation.

Representation of Corporations

He 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

Franklin’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.

Franklin 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;
  • ACDBE airport concessions programs;
  • Capacity building initiatives;
  • Centralized bidder registration systems;
  • 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.

He 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

Franklin 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).

Public and Community Service

Franklin is actively involved in matters concerning minority-owned businesses.  He has served in numerous capacities to promote the advancement of MBEs.  He served as a member of the City of Baltimore’s Mayor’s Advisory Council on Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises where he chaired the Economic Development Framework and Special Projects Subcommittee and co-chaired of the City Government Culture Change Subcommittee. 

In 2022, the Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council inducted Franklin into its MBE Leaders and Legends Hall of Fame.  He was chosen for this lifetime achievement award because of his tireless advocacy for small, minority-owned, and women-owned businesses in government contracting. 

In 2021, the American Contract Compliance Association recognized Franklin with its 2021 Parren J. Mitchell Crusader Award.  He received the award for his steadfast service as an instructor and advocate for contract compliance officials who have been attending ACCA’s National Training Institutes for the past 35 years.  The award is named in honor of the late Maryland Congressman Parren J. Mitchell, who is a revered national icon for minority business enterprises.  Affectionately known as “the Godfather of Minority Business Enterprise,” Congressman Mitchell was a tireless and fierce advocate for economic inclusion who devoted his entire 16-year Congressional career to such advocacy, as well as the passage of trailblazing federal legislation on behalf of small and minority-owned businesses.  For nearly 40 years now, Mr. Lee has strived to follow Congressman Mitchell’s example of principled public service and leadership, fighting to provide equity and opportunity for all minority business entrepreneurs.

In April 2013, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake unveiled the Advisory Council’s plan to rebuild a stronger Baltimore through economic inclusion.

Also in 2013, Franklin became a recipient of The Daily Record’s Leadership in Law award.  This annual award recognizes Maryland legal professionals dedicated to their occupation and communities.

In 2012, he was invited as a participant in a MBE Roundtable of business leaders, academia, and government officials.  The MBE Roundtable was convened by the late Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings to develop policy recommendations and strategies for reforming Maryland’s MBE Program 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 him 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 Franklin.

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

Franklin is a perennial mentor for youth that express career interest in the field of law.  Some of his past efforts at encouraging young people to pursue legal careers were 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, he 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) 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
  • American Bar Association
  • American Contract Compliance Association, seminar faculty
  • Speaker, "Strict Scrutiny & Narrow Tailoring," COMPASS Institute Conference, September 2022
  • Speaker, "Best Practices in Bid Solicitation and Contract Language for MBE Contract Compliance," ACCA Training Institute, August 2022
  • American Contract Compliance Association's Parren J. Mitchell Crusader Award, 2021
  • Airport Minority Advisory Council
  • Florida Association of Minority Business Enterprise Officials
  • Black Professional Men, Inc.
  • University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law Alumni Association
  • American DBE Magazine, author, "Survival Strategies for DBEs in the Age of the COVID-19 Pandemic: When Health Disparities Become Wealth Disparities," August 2020
  • Meritas, Law Firms Worldwide, panelist, "Legal Cannabis and the Health Care Industry," November 2019
  • "Making Money While the Sun Shines: Rebuilding Urban America Through Economic Inclusion," Baltimore's Mayoral Advisory Council on Minority and Women Business Enterprises Report, September 2015
  • American DBE Magazine, author, "New Blessings, Old Curses: DBE Final Rule," Winter 2015
  • The Telegraph, quoting Franklin Lee, "Attorney Says It's Important that Minority Businesses Get a Boost," regarding Macon-Bibb's outreach to women- and minority-owned businesses for opportunities at government contracts, January 2015
  • Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland's Economic Development Workshop, lead presenter, "Taking it to the Next Level/Policy Tools to Close the Gaps and Build Legacy Wealth," November 2010
  • FAMBEO, presenter, Legal Update for MBE Law and Transformation Through Innovation
  • Author, 'Columbia to Give Preference to Local Businesses," September 2010
  • Greater Baltimore Committee, The 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
  • Black Enterprise Magazine interviews and quotes in "Washington Report: Business Advocates Applaud Maryland Law," regarding the enacted commercial non-discrimination statute in Maryland (of which Franklin was a primary author), September 2006
  • Baltimore Business Journal interviews Franklin Lee in reporting on MBE participation in Maryland road projects in its "State Lacks Minority Businesses to Compete for Road Work," July 2006
  • The Daily Record turns to Franklin Lee for insight in a report on a commercial non-discrimination measure passed by Baltimore City Council to target discrimination in contracting it its "Keeping the Devil Out of the Details," February 2006
  • National Association of College and University Attorneys, lecturer on discrimination law, Tempe, Arizona, March 2005
  • quotes Franklin Lee in "States Look Beyond Quotas to Promote Minority Firms," January 2005
  • Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council, pro bono General Counsel, 2022
  • Project PLASE, Board Member
  • Airport Minority Advisory Council, "Capitol Hill Day", Speaker, March 2024
  • Durham County Business, Black History Month Event, Speaker, February 2024
  • Podcast Speaker, “The Assault on Affirmative Action – A Tale of Historical Schizophrenia”, American Contract Compliance Association Northeast Region, February 2024
Honors & Awards