In addition to leading the firm he joined in 2004, Bhavik R. Patel chairs Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard’s wealth planning and special needs planning group.
Patel often makes presentations to families, school districts, foundations and organizations that care for people with special needs. He also is an emeritus board member of the Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition, which assists in placing foster children and training foster parents.
Under his direction, the firm has rebranded to better reflect its values, culture and commitment to service while growing to nearly 350 employees in the past three years.
What motivates you most in your work as an attorney and as an advocate for Diversity & Inclusion?
Having the ability to educate families, help them plan for the future and allow them to better navigate around the things that keep them up at night regarding their assets and their families is the most rewarding and motivating aspect of the work I do. When it comes to diversity and inclusion, I think greatness comes from the discussion, understanding and input of many views. The more perspectives and views I can get, the better human I become . . . Additionally, the more well-rounded the firm can be allows us to better provide the help our clients need and deserve. As an advocate, I know it’s my responsibility to create an opportunity for discussion, listening, learning and action among my peers and within my firm.
How do you give back to your community?
I work with the Urban League, offering education presentations and services to the organization, and serve on the board of directors for the St. Louis Zoo and St. Louis ARC. I also co-chair the yearly St. Louis ARC Superheroes for Kids event to support St. Louis ARC’s programs for children with developmental disabilities. To support my estate planning clients, I founded and manage two of my own charities — Families at Ease and BSpecial Foundation. Families at Ease, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, serves as a funding source to provide educational opportunities to families who have a loved one with special needs. BSpecial works with children with disabilities in our area to send them to camps without financial worry.
Who has most inspired you in your work for Diversity & Inclusion, and why?
Gandhi has always been influential to me. Not only was he a well-respected lawyer, he was an advocate for nonviolent resistance in seeking civil rights. His ability to inspire and motivate peasants, farmers and laborers to protest discrimination has always inspired my belief that one person can make a difference, and people working together for change can be powerful.
What must Missouri’s legal community do to promote meaningful and long-term diversity within its legal/justice system?
The legal community needs to commit more time and resources to actively recruit and retain minority talent. This goes beyond showing up at a recruiting event or hosting on-campus interviews. As an industry, we need to be speaking with attorneys, students and leaders in antiracism to understand how to create truly diverse and inclusive cultures within our firms and make the necessary changes to make these cultures a reality. As practicing attorneys and leaders in our industry, we all must start speaking out against racism and micro-aggressions as we see them — even if it means parting ways with clients or colleagues.