2010 Recipient

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Where presented : 
Exemplar Award Dinner
Recipient(s) name: 
Rick Cotton
Recipient title: 
Executive Vice President and General Counsel
Recipient organization: 
National Broadcasting Corporation
Recipient organization city: 
New York
Recipient organization state: 
New York
Reason for selection of recipient(s): 

Under Cotton’s leadership, the NBC Universal Legal Department embraced a goal of having 50 percent of its lawyers participate in pro bono projects, and its recent public-oriented activities focus on a wide range of organizations, including Dress for Success, Street Law and Alliance for Children’s Rights. 

In 2010 the NBCU West Coast legal team won the Los Angeles County Bar Corporate Law Department Pro Bono Award, and in December 2008 a member of the company’s West Coast team accepted the GE Pro Bono Award, which is given annually to a single lawyer in the worldwide GE legal organization in recognition of outstanding pro bono work.

In the 1970s, Cotton served as special counsel and managing attorney for the Concord office of New Hampshire Legal Assistance, where he secured representation for individuals without the means to pay for a lawyer. 

From 1974 to 1976, he was a staff attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Palo Alto, California and from 1977 to 1981, Mr. Cotton worked in the Department of Health Education and Welfare. He was appointed deputy executive secretary under Secretary Joseph A. Califano and was named the executive secretary in 1978. In 1980 he became the special counsel to Deputy Secretary John Sawhill of the U.S. Department of Energy. 

In the mid 1980s, while in private practice, he successfully litigated a major pro bono case in defense of funding for national support centers, which served as a resource to attorneys representing at-risk and underserved clients, including older Americans, Native Americans, immigrants and migrant workers. 

In the 1990s, Cotton spent eight years as the chair of the board of the Primary Care Development Corporation, which provides financing and expert support for health centers in underserved communities in New York. He currently serves as the chair of the Dean’s Council at the NYU School of Public Service. Rick Cotton was named to his current position in August 2004. He supervises the NBC Universal Law Department, which provides legal advice to all NBC Universal business units for their ongoing operations and for new strategic plans and acquisitions. In addition, he oversees NBC Universal’s global regulatory and legislative agenda, including the company’s worldwide anti-piracy efforts.

Rick Cotton served as law clerk to Judge J. Skelly Wright of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from 1969 to 1970 and to Justice William J. Brennan Jr. of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1970 to 1971.