Diversity and inclusion: Putting words to action


To learn more about diversity and inclusion, attend the session “The next step for diverse and inclusive workforces” at the upcoming International Corporate Citizenship Conference in Dallas, TX on April 28-30, 2019. There’s still time to register.

When companies attract and hire employees who have a diverse set of perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds, the company’s culture is enriched, as is the company’s ability to make lasting and meaningful connections within the communities where employees live and work.

Law firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP is deeply commit­ted to diversity and inclusion and has worked to ensure that these are not just concepts, but the reality of everyday operations. With more than 850 attorneys in the United States, United Kingdom, China, and Australia, the firm serves clients’ litigation, employment, corporate, real estate, and employee benefits needs.

Adopting its own version of the National Football League’s (NFL) Rooney Rule—a rule created in 2003 by then-Steelers owner Dan Rooney, stipulating that every NFL team interview at least one candidate of color for head coaching vacancies—Seyfarth Shaw interviews at least one diverse applicant for each routine candidate hire. After this method was successfully piloted in Sey­farth Shaw’s labor and employment group, the number of diverse associate hires nearly doubled—reaching 55 percent in 2016—while diverse associate hires across the firm climbed to 44 percent.

“Building on our own early adoption of a Rooney Rule concept, it has been exciting to accelerate our efforts in recruiting diverse talent through a strategic focus on sourcing, and driving to implement best-in-class practices for the hiring process,” said Laura Maechtlen, Seyfarth partner and co-chair of Seyfarth’s national diversity and inclusion action team. “We are part of an industry that is working together to advance diversity in the broader legal profession, and we have learned a lot though implementation of our Rooney model.”

Seyfarth Shaw is also one of 30 large law firms that has pledged to follow the Mansfield Rule initiative spear­headed by Diversity Lab, requiring women and minori­ties to comprise at least 30 percent of the candidates for leadership and governance roles, equity partner promotions, and lateral positions.

The team at Seyfarth Shaw recognizes that to successfully expand and retain its pipeline of diverse talent, the firm must also embrace an organizational strategy that is responsive to the expectations of all of its stakeholders. One of the facets of Seyfarth Shaw’s company culture that demonstrates the firm’s dedication to inclusion is its long and rich history of community involvement. Through its commitment to a portfolio of corporate citizenship activities, Seyfarth employees gain a stronger understanding of—and are therefore better equipped to support—the communities in which they operate and the diverse constituents they serve.

In 2007, the firm created a Pro Bono & Philanthropy Department, which positions attorneys to help address the unmet legal needs in their communities. In addition to the pro bono work Seyfarth Shaw attorneys take on— logging 219,563 hours between 2007 and 2016—the firm has a long history of charitable giving to address a variety of issues, many directly or indirectly supporting minority populations of all types. Some of the firm’s partners include: the LGBT Bar of Greater New York, Lambda Legal, Unsilence Project, Kids in Need of Defense, Fort Bend Women’s Center, Justice & Diversity Center of San Francisco, Girl Up, AIDS Foundation, UNCF, and Legal Outreach Inc.

“Seyfarth Shaw is committed to being an outstand­ing corporate citizen and an active contributor to our communities. Whether through our pro bono activities, the charitable grants made by our charitable foundation, or our other community service programs, the people of Seyfarth Shaw have embraced this commitment enthusiastically,” said Allegra R. Nethery, pro bono & philanthropy partner at Seyfarth Shaw. “We are incred­ibly proud of the work our people are doing and the abil­ity of the firm to support that work. We truly hope that, through our efforts, we are able to improve individual people’s lives and strengthen our communities as a whole.”

In pursuing this work, the firm offers employees the opportunity to better understand diverse perspectives and immerse themselves in the community. In whatever form it takes, employees across the firm are dedicated to making an impact.

“Community service, the twin sibling of pro bono work, is the selfless act of using one’s time, money, or skills to help people who may be less fortunate,” said Peter Miller, chair and managing partner at Seyfarth Shaw. “The commitment by our Seyfarth colleagues to help those in our communities deepens each year. Many do it without fanfare or even being asked. They just want to help.”

One example of Seyfarth Shaw’s commitment to making an impact in the communities where its employ­ees live and work, especially among individuals from diverse backgrounds and circumstances, can be seen in the multiple Seyfarth Shaw offices—including those in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco—that have partnered with Best Buddies, a nonprofit organiza­tion dedicated to creating “opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, and leadership development for people with intellectual and develop-mental disabilities.”

In addition to providing Seyfarth Shaw staff and Best Buddies participants the opportunity to forge friendships, the partnership between the firm and the nonprofit has resulted in several job placements. As 85 percent of adults with developmental disabilities do not have a paid job in the community, in partnering with Best Buddies, Seyfarth Shaw stands to help overturn a disheartening statistic while, at the same time, enrich-ening the firm’s culture.

“Building on the firm’s longstanding partnership with Best Buddies, we have seen firsthand how taking a lead role as an organization can have a major impact in the disability community,” said Loren Gesinsky, Seyfarth partner and chair of Seyfarth All Abilities, an affinity group open to all Seyfarth employees, not just those who have a disability. “We’re proud to bring that same energy and dedication to our other efforts to help increase our collective impact.”

Mining the learnings from and successes of its external partnerships in order to improve internal, cross-functional collaboration demonstrates Seyfarth Shaw’s willingness to consistently make strides in the quality and scope of its programs. Following the guideposts of compassion, action, and impact, Seyfarth Shaw has proven itself to be a community partner to diverse constituents, which has resulted in programs that are as responsive as they are impactful.

To learn more about diversity and inclusion, attend the session “The next step for diverse and inclusive workforces” at the upcoming International Corporate Citizenship Conference in Dallas, TX on April 28-30, 2019. There’s still time to register.