Entering Its 100th Year, Davis & Gilbert Celebrates Diversity
By Promoting It Internally and Helping Clients Achieve It
Working with a client is more than just practicing
law at Davis & Gilbert LLP in New York; it’s a relationship in which law firm and client work together for mutual benefit, including working on diversity initiatives.
“We are a full-service firm that handles all of our
clients’ needs,” says Howard J. Rubin, a senior
partner who serves on the Diversity Committee.
“We pride ourselves on not just being lawyers,
but being partners, advisers to our clients.” Howard J. Rubin
Davis & Gilbert formalized its diversity efforts in
2005 when the law firm formed a seven-member
Diversity Committee. “What started us on creating the Diversity Committee was working with
clients,” Rubin explains. “We were working with
clients to help them be more diverse, and we
were not as diverse as we wanted to be.”
The Davis & Gilbert Diversity Committee works
to promote an inclusive workplace at the firm. It
focuses on retention and recruitment as well as Jacqueline
encouraging more people of color and other N. Howell
members of diverse groups to apply to the firm.
Davis & Gilbert participates in the New York Bar
Association’s Minority Fellowship Program. In
addition, it offered a summer internship to a Howard University law student who approached
Jacqueline N. Howell, a litigation associate who
serves on the law firm’s Diversity Committee, at
a conference where she was speaking. Howell
regularly speaks at conferences to encourage students of color and other members of diverse Mitchell W. Karsch
groups to enter law school and become lawyers.
One initiative of the Diversity Committee is that Davis &
Gilbert’s attorneys read to and mentor second-graders at an
“What started us on creating the
Diversity Committee was working
with clients.” —Howard J. Rubin
elementary school in Harlem as part of the Corporate Read
A Loud Program, which is run by the nonprofit organization
In addition to reading to the children, Davis & Gilbert also
has purchased books for them and spoken to them about
what it’s like to be a lawyer. The hope is that such efforts will
encourage diverse children to enter the legal profession.
“There is a real pipeline problem, and we hope to address
that through programs like this, ” Howell says.
But the firm’s lawyers also benefit. “We’re being taken out
of our regular work environment, and it’s enriching,” Howell
says. “I think clients from diverse backgrounds are
better able to relate to lawyers who are more well-rounded and are used to working in diverse environments.”
The law firm also uses speaking engagements
and community-based efforts to develop relations
with African-American lawyers and clientele so
“they seek us out,” explains Rubin, co-chair of the
firm’s Employment Practices Group and its
Hiring at Davis & Gilbert is decentralized, and the
Diversity Committee has encouraged each department to use recruiters who work with people
of color and other diverse populations.
The law firm has instituted domestic-partner health
benefits, in part to reach out to gay men and lesbians. “It shows a lot about the firm’s direction
and openness that we offer this,” says Mitchell W.
Karsch, a partner who serves on the firm’s Diversity Committee.
Davis & Gilbert has had to find innovative ways
to recruit and retain people of color and other diverse lawyers. “It’s a different kind of challenge for
us,” Karsch says. “With 100 lawyers, we can’t really have affinity groups or we would have a lot of
affinity groups of one person.”
One way that Davis & Gilbert has expanded its
reach is by working with other organizations. For
example, the law firm sponsors programs at the
Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association (BESLA). Davis & Gilbert also has begun to
diversify its clientele by marketing to members of
the urban music scene, an untapped opportunity. “There is a
tremendous amount of legal work generated by Black [owned]
businesses,” Howell says.
Davis & Gilbert also offers a number of diversity-related
services for clients. Its lawyers perform compliance audits.
“We have a booklet that asks 100 questions on how clients
do their human-resources functions to make sure everything
is not only legal but fair, ” Rubin says.
For government contractors—whether on the Federal,
state or city level—Davis & Gilbert helps draft and review
affirmative-action plans. It counsels all clients on anti-discrimination laws.
Whether it is Davis & Gilbert’s internal diversity efforts, its
community outreach or the firm’s efforts to help clients,
there’s a big payoff. “The more diverse you can be, and the
more points of view that your employees have, the wiser
you are in making decisions because of those multiple points
of view, ” Rubin says.