David Davis — from Fighter Pilot to One of Austin’s Most Influential Attorneys
David Davis took nothing for granted when he founded Davis & Wilkerson in 1985. After all, his experience as a fighter pilot in the Vietnam War taught him, among other things, to seize the moment. And that is exactly what Davis and the firm by extension have done over the last quarter century.
Even today, Davis has the option of taking it easy. But that is not in his DNA. This philosophy is exemplified by a robust legal practice, which focuses on medical malpractice, professional liability and personal injury defense as well as the representation of clients in product liability/medical device cases, insurance law, health law, government liability, and commercial litigation.
With that in mind, we chose Davis as the worthwhile subject of our regular Wednesday interview.
1. Describe your legal practice? What are your specialties and what made you choose that area?
My practice consists of civil litigation with an emphasis on the defense of professionals including physicians, other health care providers and hospitals. I am Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization since 1984 and The National Board of Trial Advocacy in Civil Trial Advocacy since 1989. I am an Advocate of the American Board of Trial Advocacy. My certifications are primarily due to my work as an attorney defending these professionals in health care since 1978. My initial law practice was more administrative and regulatory health law; but, determined to focus on the litigation side early on due to an interest in and appreciation of the significance of our civil justice system and jury trials.
2. What are the advantages to practicing law in Austin, TX? Do you think that practicing law in Austin has advantages over other cities?
The advantages of practicing law in Austin are similar to that for all other professions – it is Austin! Also, despite being a City and region of well in excess of a million people, the “community” of lawyers who practice in my specialty in this area is relatively defined, highly professional, exceedingly qualified and typically very ethical. In that sense it is “small town” and “very satisfying” for a trial attorney.
3. How would you improve the legal profession? Do you think that the legal profession in America has many flaws?
Lawyers need to be more like Clarence Darrow and appreciate the importance of our constitutional guarantees even when asserted for unpopular causes and, in particular, the guarantees of the 6th and 7th Amendments to the United States of the right to a jury trial; more like Harper Lee’s Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird which celebrated 50 years in print in 2010 by taking on pro bono representation of those who are less fortunate; and, more like Dan R. Price, an Austin attorney who understood the need to provide community service as a part of his profession and who is remembered through an annual award by the State Bar of Texas. We also need to keep our sense of humor – Vincent Gambini may not have been the best example of a defense trial lawyer; but Joe Pesci’s exchanges with “Judge” Fred Gwynne can remind us that practicing law is also fun.
4.Who or what was your biggest influence in becoming a lawyer? What ultimately made you want to become an attorney?
I ultimately became a lawyer because I grew up in the 1960’s and had the examples of great lawyers who were righting public wrongs in civil rights, checking unbridled power in governments, and the freedom of speech and other civil liberties. The lawyers I knew growing up were respected members of my church and my community. I saw judges as the linchpin of a civil society, including US Supreme Court Justices Douglas, Brennan and Warren and Texas US District Judges like Justice in Tyler. Lawyers and Judges were making a positive difference. Being the son of an Air Force career NCO and graduating from an Air Force Base High School in Alaska, I was blessed to spend many of my formative years in an integrated “society”. Becoming a lawyer was a pathway to making a difference.