Davis & Gilbert’s business strategy is laser-focused on one industry — advertising. Neither a litigation shop, a mergers and acquisitions specialist nor a regulatory firm, the New York shop provides a full menu of legal services demanded by ad agencies, buyers and media outlets. Matters range broadly from false advertising to copyright infringement to lease negotiations for office space.
Although small by the standards of the global legal industry, the firm is a giant within the advertising sector. Founded more than a century ago, it is located in a single office with 110 lawyers — many of whom have defected from big firms and are well versed in practicing specifically for ad industry clients. Davis & Gilbert is unusual not only in offering legal advice across a wide variety of disciplines, but also in offering strategic advice on marketing efforts.
For example, the firm drafted the agreement that made the Chrysler Group LLC’s Dodge brand a sponsor of hip-hop mogul Jay-Z’s Made in America music festival and helped Chrysler broker a deal with rapper Eminem to make its 2011 Super Bowl ad. It was deeply involved in helping Chrysler and creative agency Wieden+Kennedy create the car company’s Super Bowl commercial in 2012 featuring Clint Eastwood announcing the return from financial ruin of Detroit’s No. 3 automaker.
"Say you’re the creative director of that ad," said chairman Ronald Urbach. "You’re asking: How do we get the music rights? How do we do a deal with Clint Eastwood? What are the talent and union issues? How do we do the online work that supports that? How do we tie it in with retail? All of those things we have expertise in."
Davis & Gilbert represented International Business Machines Corp. in three challenges last year to pricing and performance claims made by competitor Oracle Corp. in print ads for its computer servers. All three of IBM’s challenges were successful before the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau, the industry’s main self-regulatory body.
Remaining the Goliath of advertising industry law firms is just fine for Urbach, even if it means never being able to say he oversees a firm with offices in Bangkok, Buenos Aires or Paris.
"Our business model is really kind of starkly different than the global firms," Urbach said. "We’re outward facing, focusing on clients. The result of it is we have a strong sense of who we are and where we’re going."