David Millstone’s mother did not approve of his decision to practice at Squire Sanders & Dempsey in his first job out of law school.
“She was very upset with me believing that I had sold out by going to a corporate law firm,” Millstone, 74, recalled, adding that it wasn’t the choice he had planned to make either.
While at West Virginia University Law School in his hometown of Morgantown, W.Va., he did an internship with the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund in Charleston as a law student civil rights research clerk, working on a case that awarded disabled miners and widows $11 million from the United Mine Workers Disability and Trust Fund.
It was only through the strong arm of his dean that Millstone interviewed with the corporate firm. When he was called back for a second interview, he brought his wife, Dvora, who fell in love with Cleveland. Meanwhile, Millstone posed a question to his interviewer, Jim Davis, then the managing partner of the firm.
“Last summer I worked at a regional legal aid firm where we worked to create change that benefits people and society. How could working at Squire Sanders let me work to make changes that will improve people’s lives?” he asked Davis.
The answer, from Davis: “You can make more of a difference working from the inside than by throwing brickbats.”
It wasn’t long before Millstone had his first chance. A Fortune 100 company was facing a class-action lawsuit based on environmental practices. Millstone was put on the case assisting a senior partner.
“I felt that they should prevail on a legal basis,” said Millstone, referring to the company. “I also felt they were courting liability if they didn’t clean up the way they operated.”
When the meeting with the general counsel of that company took place, Millstone was taken to the meeting by the senior partner and permitted to present his findings. The result was a recommendation from the general counsel to change the way the company operated its facilities, which they subsequently did
Within two years of his start, he was responsible for developing procedures to provide due process for students facing expulsion and other discipline in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.
Skipping ahead decades, his final case with the firm, a case involving the Mount Vernon School District, also sticks out. John Freshwater was teaching Biblical creationism as science in public schools, and a protracted legal battle ended with his firing.
“That was a very significant case,” Millstone said. “There is a real problem in our public schools where teaching religion is taking over the teaching of science. I believe strongly in separation of church and state, and that is what we accomplished.”
Millstone also helped the Kingdom of Bahrain by drafting reforms to its labor law in 2004.
“When you have educated people and they don’t have an opportunity to work and earn good money, they turn to terrorism,” he said. “In some ways, this was my fight against terrorism.”
As a member of the Anti-Defamation League’s national and regional boards, Millstone has actively fought discrimination. When Jews in Beachwood were experiencing friction, Millstone worked with Terry Pollack through the ADL to present anti-bias programming bringing together students in the Orthodox and wider Jewish community.
He also helped created a course with Bettysue Feuer and Neal Shapero called College 101 to prepare high school students to confront anti-Semitism, anti-Israel and the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which targets Israel. As the international affairs chair of the national ADL, he met with leaders during the U.N. General Assembly in New York to advocate for Israel and for concerns affecting Jews around the world.
Born in Morgantown, Millstone was raised by his mother, Hilda Cooper Millstone, after his father died when he was 3 years old. He became bar mitzvah at Morgantown’s Tree of Life Congregation, which he described as Reformadox. He met his wife of over 52 years, Dvora, through the local BBYO chapter and they were married at the Tree of Life..
He has been active with the Jewish Federation of Cleveland and with Sarasota’s federation.
Looking back, “I wanted to make a difference,” he said. “I wanted to do things where I felt I could bring about positive change.”