Expanding the table for meaningful inclusion means more than not excluding anyone. It means using positioning and experience to expand opportunities for all by strengthening leadership through a commitment to better cultivate and deploy a wider arsenal of talent. These efforts often generate even greater revenues. Taken together, this forms the prerequisite and the promise of an effective ally in the office environment.
Increasingly, law firms that are best positioned for the future will be those committed to recruiting, engaging and empowering, as well as a wide range of prospects. The traumatic events of 2020 may have helped focus the mind on this reality; However, some of us have actively participated in this thoughtful effort long before.
Set expectations for all hands
Allies do not occur in a vacuum and their goals are beyond the purview of one or two individuals. It takes a team approach. An organization must carefully focus on recruitment and integration, sponsorship and promotion, social justice activities, and civic investment. Those who work from this playbook want to stand out from the competition and advance.
Implementing these principles can be challenging as they require relentless honesty, introspection, and pursuit that can easily fall by the wayside if the standard lens has traditionally focused on the basic practice of law and customer care. Even with the best of intentions, complacency can be pleasant, especially in a pressured, risk-free industry.
Question, adapt and adapt practice practice
As we put more energy into expanding the Philadelphia office of Greenberg Traurig, we have thought hard about which practices we should strengthen and introduce in this market. We also examined wider talent pools, newer networks, and innovative approaches to building our team. Today, the makeup of our lawyers and business people is changing at all levels to better reflect the region in which we operate. It is a development and perspective that corresponds to our company. More than half of our employees in the United States are women and 64% of our lawyers and business people are women or minority groups as of December 31, 2020. It didn’t happen by accident or overnight; it came from years of strategic alignment and design. This was our path even before the Diversity Lab launched its Mansfield Rule Certification Program, which measures whether law firms are at least 30% women, lawyers of color, LGBTQ + lawyers, and lawyers with disabilities for leadership and governance roles, equity partners Have positively considered promotions, formal customer pitch opportunities, and senior cross positions.
Our Mansfield Rule certification serves as an internal and external validation of our efforts as well as a magnet for talent and opportunity. It is typical that our legal teams reflect the diversity that clients expect and that our diverse attorneys are invited to client forums that offer specialized opportunities to connect with clients and potential clients and secure new work.
The trip offered and continues to provide an opportunity to forge deeper partnerships and expand access to legal careers for underrepresented practitioners – from aspirants of diverse ethnic backgrounds to lawyers and first-generation college graduates to LGBTQ +. These professionals are an integral part of our office and law firm, from attorneys who lead teams of colleagues, client meetings, and pro bono affairs to business people who are essential to our business. Of course, we didn’t sacrifice quality by bringing them on board and pouring their talents and insights into our business, as 2020 was the seventh year in a row that the company posted record sales.
Let engagement resonate internally and externally
While these steps were underway before either of us knew the names George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, or Walter Wallace Jr., these tragic and emotionally charged incidents created a new background and necessity for all civic leaders, the implications and costs of “Business as” is common to reassess. “The public fear and outrage engendered by this and many other painful incidents in 2020 challenged us to ponder how we could influence the greater Philadelphia area as corporate citizens and legal leaders It has also led us to redesign our concept of inclusion and its application beyond our walls, and we have encouraged our team to bring all of their selves and lived experiences to the table to create comprehensive answers. We wanted to better understand the challenges of inequality, brought to light by the unrest and upheaval in Philadelphia. elsewhere. Allies are not just an internal matter; it is also a public expression for those we serve and whom we represent, directly as professionals and indirectly as neighbors.
That is why we have made targeted investments in training the next generation of lawyers; in helping grassroots organizations struggle for economic and social equality within and after the criminal justice system; and engage in activities that address basic issues of dignity on the ground – from safe shelter to nutritious meals. These social action efforts go beyond writing philanthropic checks to include greater hands-on involvement. It was just as important for our team to see how we implement our values as it was for our customers, who sometimes joined us to develop additional ways to make a difference.
For us these are not just initiatives. These are principles that enable stronger connections within our team, resulting in a broader understanding of one another, our customers, and our community. People who used to be reluctant to express themselves not only found their voice in these activities, but also an open ear and the opportunity to question, form and shape the vision of this office and company. Our company-wide “Courageous Conversations”, which address aspects of social justice, race, class, gender and orientation through digestible and relatable dialogues between colleagues, external experts and sometimes customers, trigger an informative exchange between peers. These conversations convey different perspectives from colleagues and their daily life, contribute to meaningful team building and enrich our culture. There is power in being seen and heard – an asset that in our society has been reserved for a few for too long. Our experience proves the value of opening these portals further.
Resisting the temptations of the status quo and stagnation means consciously introducing and living these values on a daily basis – in everyone in our company. Unless the drive comes from a place of priority and measurability, conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion will not become allies.
Visionary law firms have to work day in and day out to nurture allies – for the benefit of our company and, above all, for the benefit of our employees.
Curtis B. Great, a senior environmental attorney, is the managing partner of Greenberg Traurig’s Philadelphia office. Alex Scarola, a seasoned public finance and infrastructure attorney, acts as the office’s managing partner. and Nikki Lewis Simon, a litigating shareholder, also acts as chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer for the company.