Diversity matters. We know this intuitively, and it has become increasingly apparent through research studies globally. Working with people who are different challenges our brain to overcome its entrenched way of thinking. Diverse teams focus more on facts, which leads to more accurate group thinking, and the debate and unfamiliarity that comes with diversity provides an important catalyst for innovation and creative thinking. Many of our clients realize this, and it is important for us to reflect our client orientation and that of our community.
While the case for greater diversity is compelling – inclusive decision making improves business performance – in the end the true benefits of a diverse workforce can be felt only when there is a genuine sense of organizational inclusion. From our inception, we have been an entrepreneurial-minded firm, so for us, different people with different points of view give our clients more diverse teams, more innovative ideas and ultimately, better decisions. Our goal as a firm has always been twofold – to provide the most sound and sophisticated legal counsel to our clients, and to be a firm that attracts, retains and promotes exceptional people. Diversity is critical to achieving both goals.
Because we value and celebrate diversity, you will never be asked to check your personality at the door. We each have our own unique characteristics, perspectives, passions and experiences. To help leverage these differences we create opportunities that allow for open dialogue around important issues to help us learn from each other. We recognize that the drive to diversify is an ongoing effort, and we are committed to promoting a truly diverse environment by providing ongoing training and education to reduce personal biases, by improving organization processes to eliminate biases in decision making and by addressing potential mindset barriers through change management efforts.
- We were one of the first law firms in Chicago to screen the much-celebrated film Brother Outsider, a moving documentary chronicling the life of Bayard Rustin, a tireless activist whose work has been widely forgotten by history, largely because he was silenced, arrested and imprisoned for being openly gay in the 1960s. To engage our invited clients and friends in a dialogue, filmmaker Bennett Singer and Bayard Rustin’s long-time partner Walter Naegle led a discussion and Q&A session immediately following the screening about the film, its lessons for battling discrimination and homophobia in the workplace and legal community.
- In 2017, to honor Black History Month, the entire firm was invited to a private screening of the Oscar-nominated movie Hidden Figures. The movie recounted the experiences of three African-American women who were mathematicians at NASA and were the brains behind the launch of astronaut John Glenn into space.
- We recently hosted Sam Mihara, one of the 120,000 Japanese Americans forced into a prison camp during World War II. Sam shared his powerful account of the conditions within the camp and life after release. He also shared his unique perspective on how this history is relevant today, leading to very thoughtful and engaging Q&A.
Taking Charge and Making Change
Far too often, law firms tout their diversity initiatives, but the work is relegated to a handful of people who are part of their diversity committee. To truly move the needle forward however, the commitment to a more diverse and inclusive environment has to come from the top. Our leadership recognizes this, and our managing partner co-chairs the Diversity & Inclusion Committee, communicating the significance of diversity and inclusion to our core values.
With the goal of true and sustained progress, where every individual has the same opportunities to advance and succeed as others, we continue to develop best practices and policies to foster individual growth, development and the diversity of our firm, including:
- Implementing a core competency system for associate development to mitigate unconscious bias and ensure equal opportunity for associates in assignments and business development opportunities
- Adopting the Mansfield Rule to ensure a succession plan for each leadership position that includes women and minorities
- While we were pioneers in allowing attorneys to balance commitments to work, family, and personal life by maintaining flexible and reduced work schedules, we have focused on creating an environment where all attorneys believe they can utilize the flexible hours and parental leave policies without any negative impact
- Including powerful white men on the firm’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee
- Encouraging attorneys and staff to support professional, civic and community organizations that advance the interests of minorities and women in the legal community and the community at large
- Providing billable credit for work on pro bono matters, including many that involve and affect minorities and women
- Providing the opportunity for minority attorneys to participate in the Chicago Committee's Mentorship Academy that utilizes a curriculum-based approach to provide structure and content to mentoring relationships
- Supporting and working with organizations such as the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, In Legal Color and other similar organizations to increase opportunities and diversity within the legal profession
- Participating in minority recruitment programs such as the Cook County Bar Association Minority Law Student Job Fair
- Providing scholarship support to minority students
Diversity & Inclusion Committee
Since its creation in 2002, our Diversity & Inclusion Committee has worked to expand and enhance the firm's diversity initiatives and to build upon the philosophy of inclusion long existing in the firm work environment. The Diversity & Inclusion Committee also launched two significant subgroups within the firm. The Women's Network and the Minority Initiative are designed to support and to enhance opportunities available to women and minorities, respectively, and to provide forums for them to network and develop, personally and professionally, both inside and outside of the firm.