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Just Like the City I Love, My Workplace is Inclusive to All

July 16, 2018


When I was a little girl growing up in Waterloo, Iowa, I would visit my dad’s law office on Sundays. He would work with music in the background and my job was to vacuum, dust and collect the trash for $4 an hour.   

It was during those visits I witnessed my dad’s dedication to the community and how much his clients trusted and depended on him. Before I really knew what it meant, I knew then I wanted to be just like my dad when I grew up; I wanted to be a lawyer.

Making the move

In 2002, I moved to Greater Des Moines (DSM) to attend Drake Law School. I always knew I wanted to live and work in DSM so I chose a law school where I could start making connections and getting involved in the community.

It still surprises me, but DSM is incredibly good at allowing everyone a seat at the table. You can work at an entry-level job or as the top executive at an insurance company — you’re both welcome and encouraged to find your passion, get involved and get to work. Since moving to DSM, I’ve been involved in several community initiatives and served on nonprofit boards including Employee and Family Resources and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Central Iowa.  

After law school, I chose a firm that mirrored my enthusiasm for community, getting involved and giving back: Davis, Brown, Koehn, Shors, & Roberts, P.C. (most commonly referred to as Davis Brown Law Firm or the Davis firm). Attorneys and staff are active in numerous organizations, programs and initiatives with the goal of making Iowa a better place to live and work.

The community is important to Davis Brown and so is diversity and inclusiveness. It is firm lore that in the late ‘70s, when the DSM legal community was only beginning to hire women lawyers and many firms hired only a single female lawyer, one of our named partners, A. Arthur Davis, believed in hiring the most talented person regardless of gender. It wasn’t just lip service; Davis Brown was the first major Iowa law firm to:

  • Hire a female attorney: Lucille Schwilck during World War II.
  • Elect a female president, Deborah M. Tharnish.
  • Employ openly LGBT lawyers.
  • Elect a lesbian president, Sharon K. Malheiro.

Across the U.S., statistics of the hiring of female attorneys are still low. At comparable law firms of our size, only about 19 percent of partners are women. At Davis Brown, it is 46 percent.

Carrying on the tradition

Today, I am the chair of the firm’s Professional Personnel Committee (PPC) — we’re in charge of attorney-related HR matters including hiring. Arthur’s creed still rings true; we have a diverse client base and we want to hire the best attorneys that reflect that diversity. We represent one-person start-ups and Fortune 500 Companies, nonprofit organizations and venture capitalists — a diverse team with different talents, experiences and backgrounds, can better address client needs.

When the PPC meets with potential hires, it’s hard not to rave about all the things DSM has to offer and at such an affordable price. You can live in the country, the suburbs or in an urban setting and still afford to have fun, eat out and get to work in less than an hour. I live three miles from the office and I am sitting at my desk in under 10 minutes.

Accessibility to events and activities are impressive. There’s something for all phases of life — often free or low cost and parking is readily available. Each year DSM adds another festival or event. There is always something to do. I love taking my family to the (free!) Des Moines Arts Festival in Downtown DSM. To see such high-quality art in our city is a great benefit and the musical acts and kid’s art activities make it fun for the whole family.

DSM also has a wonderful school system. My son attends a Des Moines public elementary school.  Private school tuition isn’t a necessity to receive a good education in Iowa.

Living in DSM is better than I could have imagined — every weekend feels like a staycation — a trip to the Downtown Farmers’ Market, the Des Moines Art Center, Gray’s Lake, Yoga in the Park, a walk around the Sculpture Park or checking out a local festival. There are affordable activities for all walks of life.

The business community is supportive, inclusive and active. If you have an idea or you’re interested in something specific — technology, education, social justice — there is a community of people waiting to hear your ideas and help you find ways to move your ideas forward.

If you’re thinking about moving to DSM, you won’t regret it.

Named as the #1 Metro with the Most Community Pride by Gallup, Greater Des Moines (DSM) is the fastest growing metro in the Midwest. Learn more about what it’s like to live here.

Tara Z. Hall

Tara is a litigation attorney at the Davis Brown Law Firm representing Iowa individuals and companies in construction, employment, collections and real estate disputes. In addition to representing her clients in court, Tara regularly provides risk management guidance by highlighting potential risks to help her clients avoid future litigation.