In the early 1950s, when Jim Crow segregation laws still reigned in the United States, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Edward L. Dowd Sr. hired several black prosecutors to work in his office. In the mornings, they would try cases on behalf of the State of Missouri; at lunch, they weren’t welcome at certain restaurants.
Asked whether Dowd Sr. received any blowback for his hiring decisions, his son, Edward L. Dowd Jr., said: “If he did, he never told me about it. But he was the kind of person who wouldn’t have cared about that anyway.”
Those black prosecutors, by the way, went on to illustrious careers: Theodore McMillian became the first African American judge on the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Clyde S. Cahill Jr. became a U.S. District Judge; Curtis C. Crawford was appointed to the U.S. Parole Commission; and George W. Draper II became a judge in Washington, D.C.
Dowd Sr.’s hiring decision left another legacy: It influenced his son. The younger Ed Dowd earned his own law degree and worked his way up to U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri in 1993. From that perch, he followed his dad’s example and hired diverse candidates. One of them was Gabriel Gore. After stints at what is now Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, both are now at Dowd Bennett.
Dowd co-launched that firm with James F. Bennett in 2006. Gore joined a bit later. When he did, there were only about nine or 10 lawyers in the firm. He spoke to the founding partners about how to increase diversity. In contrast to the sporadic, reactive approach he felt other firms took — wherein they would receive some criticism for homogeneity, then try for a while to hire minority candidates — Gore suggested a steadier, more intentional approach: regularly recruit participants from the St. Louis Diversity Clerkship Program, which helps diverse 1L students find summer work.
“I’m really glad Gabe thought of that,” said Dowd, “because it’s made the whole office a better place.”
Since then, Gore said, Dowd Bennett has had at least one diversity clerkship participant in its summer associate program, the latter of which has consisted of three students maximum at a time. Later this year, when Dowd Bennett takes on a summer associate from 2018, the firm’s 32-lawyer roster will be 50 percent women or lawyers of color (with none double-counted).
The diverse lawyers already at the firm are making a splash. For example, Gore and colleague Arsenio Mims represented St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez, who was sued in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois after an altercation in a bar. The plaintiff had sued Martinez for alleged assault, battery and civil conspiracy; Gore, Mims and their co-counsel won summary judgment and a dismissal of all claims.
As another example, partner Megan Heinsz and associates Caitlin O’Connor and Adam Simon are members of the team that is representing Anheuser-Busch in a high-profile case in federal court in Wisconsin that involves an advertising campaign that was launched during the Super Bowl.
Founding partner Bennett said that Dowd Bennett “strives to be at the forefront of diversity and inclusion, and will continue to demonstrate this commitment through recruitment of excellent attorneys from all backgrounds as well as gender and orientation.”