O. Randolph Rollins ’68

October 5, 2009Duke Law News

Helping a friend restore lost driving privileges so that he could keep his job got Randolph Rollins thinking about others in similar situations.

“Not having a driver’s license is a huge barrier,” says Rollins. “There are many lower-income people living in rural areas that need their licenses to get the kind of job that they are looking for — service-related jobs like plumbers, carpenters and HVACs specialists that have to drive to get to their job sites,” he says.

That realization inspired Rollins, a former Virginia Secretary of Public Safety, to found Drive-to-Work, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Richmond that helps low-income drivers in the state get back on the road. Rollins serves as the organization’s president.

Since its start in 2007 Drive-to-Work has helped approximately 120 drivers restore full or partial driving privileges and currently has retainer agreements with almost 400 clients out of more than 800 formal applications, Rollins reports. He says business is growing rapidly.

“[We] get a lot of referrals from lawyers who either know of us or have clients with pending traffic cases, who know that if a person is trying to get their license back, it’s a good equitable defense. We also get clients sent to us by judges or probation officers or social workers.” Drive-to-Work has received more than 1,700 requests for information about its services, he adds.

Rollins is assisted by an administrative assistant and bookkeeper who process applications and review clients’ driving records and financial needs and establish payment plans for outstanding fines and levies that may have led to suspensions. Lawyers and paralegals from McGuire Woods, where Rollins was a partner for 22 years, also provide pro bono assistance; the firm makes its offices, conference rooms, and library available as needed.

Now with a satellite office in the Petersburg/Tri-Cities area, strategically located in a state-run, full-service employment service center, Rollins hopes to expand the organization’s geographic reach further with additional financial support. “The business model could be duplicated in other states, with lawyers licensed there,” he says. Drive- to-Work is currently funded by grants from community foundations, corporate donations, and individual contributions.

After a successful career in corporate and securities law at McGuire Woods, Rollins joined the administration of Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder in 1990 as secretary of public safety. His portfolio included oversight of the Virginia State Police, the Department of Corrections, and the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board; he also and served as the governor’s contact to other public safety agencies.

“During my service, I became quite familiar with both the opportunity for treating and training incarcerated persons with employment and life skills to enable them to re-enter society when they are released,” says Rollins.

Drive-to-Work’s board of directors reflects both phases of Rollins’ career; members include the former Virginia attorney general — one of two McGuire Woods partners who have served on the board — a former chair of the state Parole Board, Virginia’s DMV Commissioner and a member of the state’s General Assembly, among others.

Still connected to Duke

Rollins joined McGuire Woods after meeting with a recruiting partner who had graduated from Duke Law. It wasn’t the first persuasive pitch he had received from a member of the Law School community, he says. Having been drawn to Duke — “the top school in the state” for his undergraduate education after growing up on a North Carolina farm — he was recruited to Duke Law by Dean Elvin Latty.

“Dean Latty told me, ‘You ought to come to Duke. Don’t go to Harvard,’” Rollins recalls.

He says he made the right choice. He served as the comment editor of the Duke Law Journal and particularly enjoyed former Duke Law professor William Van Alstyne’s Contracts and Constitutional Law courses, which he says were challenging but fascinating. Looking back, Rollins credits the Law school with helping him develop the analytical skills necessary for a successful law career.

Noting that two of his children have graduated from the university as have multiple other family members, Rollins observes that Duke connections are lasting.

“Once you get hooked up with Duke, you can’t get away,” he says.