The Barristers' Association of Philadelphia, an affiliate of the National Bar Association, was established by five distinguished African American lawyers in 1950. The founding attorneys were Curtis Carson, Thomas Reed, Arthur Thomas, Charles Wright and Robert Williams with the stated mission, “To address the professional needs of Black lawyers in the City of Philadelphia.”
Barristers' President David C. Williams says the organization promotes and fosters professional and practice development, economic and political empowerment, charitable community service, and justice and equal opportunity. Williams adds, the organization also promotes the hiring, retention and promotion of Black lawyers as well establishing a pipeline for Black law students to enter the profession who will hopefully ultimately fill positions in law firms and in the judiciary.
Williams is a partner at the Kline & Specter law firm, located in Philadelphia.
He specializes in catastrophic injury and represents people who have been killed, paralyzed or hurt in medical malpractice cases. He also represents the families of victims of hazing at universities and sexual assault victims. He is a graduate of the Penn Law School, where he was president of his class, that is, after serving five years in the Army and a stint in Iraq. Regarding the issue of relevancy in these changing times, Williams says, “If you look at the numbers of African American partners and attorneys in large law firms the numbers are basically the same for the last 30 years. And that's just not acceptable.
Also if you look at our state courts, one African-American on the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. And, there are no African-Americans on either the Commonwealth Court or Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.” For those interested in becoming involved in the organization, President Williams says there are three paths one can take. “First everyone should sign up for a membership at Phillybarristers.com, for law students membership is free. If you're a new lawyer or a public sector lawyer the membership price is reduced. Second, if you're a paralegal or a law student or a lawyer or a judge you can come to our general body meetings for 2019- 2020.
All of our general body meetings are going to be held at the Greenberg Traurig law firm, located at 17th and Arch Streets. And then, the next level is to volunteer to help out at some of our signature events, such as our annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Annual Memorial Breakfast, where we give out anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000 to law students.”
What does it mean being a part of the African Diaspora?
“I'm proud to be part of this rich diverse community that spans every part of the globe. So I've traveled to Africa, Latin America and had conversations with folks from the Caribbean and you realize from these conversations that we have shared experiences in history and you realize the dignity and resiliency of our ancestors. And, we have more importantly the need to struggle together to make the world a more equitable place for ourselves and our children.”