NYSBA State Bar News nameplate

January/February 2014, Vol. 56, No. 1

Annual Meeting 2014 PREVIEW

Darryl Gibbs to receive Diversity Trailblazer Award

Darryl GibbsGibbs
By Brandon Vogel
For some law students, Darryl Gibbs is the role model he never had.

He has risen through the ranks of his profession and given back at every turn to law students of color.

For his leadership and ability to draw others to the cause, the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion will present its Diversity Trailblazer Award to Gibbs at the Celebrating Diversity Reception on January 27 during the Annual Meeting.

A choice for the better

Growing up, Gibbs wanted to be “one of the cool businessmen in suits.” The South Jamaica, Queens, native was the first in his family to go to college. 

He dropped out after his first year and ran with a tough crowd, until he decided to do something better with his life. While working with black and Latino teenagers and young boys in group homes for seven years, he earned his undergraduate degree from Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus, and entered law school. “I knew that I would have better opportunities with a law degree,” said Gibbs.

He graduated from St. John’s School of Law in 2000 and joined Proskauer Rose LLP. He went to work for Safe Horizon, Inc., a nonprofit, two years later and then began work at AXA in 2005, where he manages the Commercial Agreements Group as lead director and associate general counsel. 

Mentor-in-chief

About six years ago, Gibbs met Professor Leonard Baynes, the first director of the Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights at St. John’s School of Law and the 2010 recipient of the Diversity Trailblazer Award. They quickly connected and discussed ways to improve minority representation in the legal profession. 

The Brown Center hosts a two-year program for first-generation college students, historically underrepresented students or students from disadvantaged backgrounds. “I could have used a summer-long program like this prior to law school,” said Gibbs. “I thought it was a good organization.”

In 2009, AXA began to take interns from the program, as did Hughes, Hubbard & Reed LLP and Paul Hastings LLP. The interns at AXA told Gibbs that they really needed mentors, so he created a mentoring partnership with the Brown Center. “The lawyers are really excited to be mentors,” said Gibbs. 

Since the Brown Center partnership was created, eight interns have gone on to law school. 

“Darryl is a leader in the legal profession who serves as a role model for men and women of every race and background,” wrote Baynes in his nomination letter.

Gibbs is excited to receive the award. “This is what I love to do. It gives me a sense of the impact I have had,” said Gibbs. “The award gives me a chance to smile and smell the roses for a bit. There’s a lot of work to do yet, but I am enjoying it now.” 

Vogel is NYSBA’s Media Writer.