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McGuireWoods has a history of hiring, developing, promoting and retaining lawyers of color, women and LGBTQ lawyers, and veterans. Continually establishing new initiatives and enhancing existing efforts, we focus on meaningful support for our diverse lawyers in their careers. The firm's lawyer networks are an example of how we support our attorneys in building communities within the firm.
Two very active groups are charged with focusing on diversity and inclusion: the Diversity & Inclusion Committee and the Diversity Action Council.
Established in 2006, the Diversity & Inclusion Committee — chaired by Atlanta partner Ken Neighbors — focuses on identifying, attracting, and retaining diverse talent. The D&I Committee also helps incorporate inclusiveness in our professional development, supports retention through lawyer networks, strengthens our marketing and business development opportunities, mentors diverse lawyers, and ensures the firm is well represented at elite events and conferences.
Our Diversity Action Council, led by Managing Partner J. Tracy Walker IV, is the second leadership committee dedicated to advancing the firm’s strategic D&I goals. Formed in 2013, the DAC holds firm leadership accountable for promotion and development of our diverse attorneys by ensuring all firm resources are effectively deployed to further their careers. Every month, DAC members get together for a rigorous assessment of each department’s progress in advancing the firm’s diversity goals.
Such engagement and accountability, buttressed by tailored programs and training, has resulted in steady progress.
Reflects gender and LGBTQ+ diversity firmwide and race and ethnic diversity for U.S. offices. Data as of Oct. 1, 2022.
A key focus of the firm’s strategic plan, diversity and inclusion are essential to how we do business, informing how we RECRUIT, RETAIN, and PROMOTE lawyers to serve our clients. Our efforts are also supported by partnerships with clients and community members committed to advancing diversity in the legal profession. Working together, we can build a synergistic whole greater than the sum of its parts. That’s diversity in action.
|EXPANDED SUMMER PROGRAM||
Extending into more markets to reach diverse talent.
Adopted for associate recruiting before the Mansfield Rule was announced, with diversity increasing to 65%.
Supporting Leadership Council on Legal Diversity programs including 1L Scholars, Fellows, Pathfinder, and Success in Law School Mentoring.
|PIPELINE TO PRACTICE||
P2P Foundation sponsorship includes working with leading clients to mentor diverse law students and new lawyers.
Strengthening our community by connecting our client service teams with diverse lawyers with specific experience.
The Women's Leadership Development Forum helps our senior associates develop the networking and client service skills needed to advance to partnership.
Working with firm clients who share our passion for advancing the careers of diverse attorneys through industry-focused programs.
Diverse partners serving in key leadership positions as chairs, managing partners, and executive committee members.
Bringing together firm leadership and 120 diverse lawyers for two days of networking programs designed to advance their careers.
Providing financial and leadership support for participation in women and minority bar associations.
Connecting racially/ethnically diverse associates with experienced partners for career guidance, networking, and mentorship.
2006 Diversity & Inclusion Committee
2013 Diversity Action Council
2014 Associates Engaging Leaders Program; D&I Excellence Award
2015 Rooney Rule Introduced for Recruiting; Women’s Leadership Development Forum
2017 Women in Private Equity & Finance Initiative; Diverse Mentoring Program; Diverse Supplier Program
2018 Diversity Dashboard/ Scorecard; Diverse Associates Leadership Program
2020 Mansfield Certification Plus; Racial Justice Task Force
McGuireWoods Named National Veterans Legal Services Program’s Pro Bono Partner of the Year
September 26, 2022
McGuireWoods’ Demetra Liggins to Receive Women, Influence & Power in Law Award
September 2, 2022
Anne Curtis Saunders Named Rising Star by Virginia Women in Public Finance
August 11, 2022
The firm announced the recipient of the 2022 McGuireWoods scholarship at the University of Virginia School of Engineering & Applied Science: rising fourth-year student Justin Ngo. Ngo visited McGuireWoods’ Richmond office on June 1, 2022, and met with some of the firm’s lawyers, including managing partner J. Tracy Walker IV and partner George Keith Martin. Ngo’s family immigrated to the United States after the Vietnam War to start a new life. He is passionate about fairness and promoting diversity and believes his upbringing has shaped his independence and resilience.
While pursuing his computer science/engineering degree at UVA, Ngo has taken undergraduate courses in commercial law, media law, election cybersecurity and computer science ethics, which piqued an interest in intellectual property law. Ngo created a website in April 2022 to synthesize personal research on gene editor CRISPR and the legal implications of novel genetic technologies on intellectual disability. For the project, he interviewed genetic engineering and legal scholars and shared recordings on the website. He also designed a social media app to share verified news, petitions and fundraisers, and he is vice president of Alternative Spring Break, for which he organizes more than 300 students to participate in service trips and fundraising.
“I was delighted to meet Justin and to learn more about his interests and about what he is doing in school,” Walker said. “He is an impressive young man. I am confident that he is going to find great success in law school and in all his future endeavors.”
The McGuireWoods scholarship is part of a law school pipeline project the firm launched in 2019. In addition to awarding a scholarship each year to a rising fourth-year student interested in law school, the firm has partnered with the School of Engineering to develop and sponsor the school’s Future Leaders Speaker Series, where students can learn about careers outside of engineering.
Walker, who graduated from UVA with a degree in mechanical engineering, has explained the firm’s focus on engineering students: “Engineering school graduates are particularly well-positioned to do well in law school and to go on to successful careers as lawyers. Engineering schools, like business schools, focus on team-based problem solving, a particularly important skill set for lawyers. It is a demanding curriculum. Students who thrive in that environment have developed strong analytical skills and are poised to do well in law school and beyond.”
McGuireWoods real estate and zoning lawyers, land use planners and government relations consultants released Part 2 of an in-depth study of zoning laws and housing segregation in Virginia, outlining specific policy reforms to eliminate discriminatory housing policies that perpetuate racial disparities.
The report, “Zoning and Segregation in Virginia: Part 2 — Expanding Housing Choices for the Future of Virginia,” builds on McGuireWoods’ previous study documenting how zoning was used as a tool to create segregated housing patterns that endure long after the Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited racial discrimination.
The recommendations in Part 2 focus on changes to Virginia’s planning and zoning laws at the local and state levels to increase housing choices, remove barriers to diverse neighborhoods and increase access to attainable housing.
The McGuireWoods team — led by Tysons real estate and land use partner Jonathan Rak and McGuireWoods Consulting senior advisor James Dyke — details the consequences of residential segregation and the positive outcomes the commonwealth can realize by ridding society of such segregation.
“The purpose of this report is to address the lack of racial integration in Virginia’s neighborhoods and to offer a collection of proposed solutions to this issue at the state and local levels,” Dyke said. “Our intent is not to assess blame or point fingers for past injustices, but rather to recommend specific steps that can be taken to eliminate the vestiges of discriminatory housing and zoning policies.”
The authors said zoning policies will play a major role in closing the significant wealth gap between Black and white Americans and called for “direct and intentional action” by state and local governments and the private sector.
McGuireWoods held the ninth session of its award-winning Women’s Leadership Development Forum (WLDF) — an invitation-only two-day formal training program under the umbrella of the firm’s Women Lawyers Network — Feb. 10-11, 2022, in Washington, D.C. Geared toward senior women associates, the program develops leadership skills that help with the transition to partner and other senior roles inside and outside the firm.
The topics covered in the program included how to use behavioral styles to increase success, leadership communication, confidence and leadership presence; optimizing productivity and setting boundaries; and business development. The program also featured an “ask anything” panel, with women leaders answering questions posed by the associates.
Leaders participating in the two-day WLDF program included deputy managing partner Joanne Katsantonis of Richmond and partners Diane Flannery, chair of the Products, Environmental & Mass Tort Litigation Department, and Vishwa Link, chair of the Regulatory & Compliance Department; Diversity & Inclusion Committee chair and Baltimore partner Ava Lias-Booker and partners Heather Arbogast, Elena Marcuss, Melissa Martinez and Jennifer Stearman; Chicago partner and Public Finance Department chair Kay McNab; Century City partner and Labor & Employment Department chair Sabrina A. Beldner; and Washington, D.C., partner Brandi Howard and McGuireWoods Consulting senior vice president Mona Mohib.
Sixteen associates were selected to attend McGuireWoods’ 2022 Diverse Associates Leadership Program (DALP), held July 26-27 in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office on Black Lives Matter Plaza. Launched in 2019, DALP was designed to equip top-performing associates of color and LGBTQ+ associates with the tools and leadership skills deemed essential to their development and advancement into the partnership ranks of the firm.
The program opened with welcoming remarks from Baltimore partner Ava Lias-Booker, chair of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee. Attendees then heard presentations facilitated by consultant Werten Bellamy, who specializes in talent development for top-performing attorneys at some of the nation’s leading law firms and in-house corporate teams.
Attendees broke for lunch with Richmond partner Candace Blydenburgh, who chairs the firm’s African American Lawyers Network; London partner and LGBTQ+ Lawyers Network chair William Boddy; downtown Los Angeles partner Gregory Evans, who chairs the Hispanic/Latinx Lawyers Network; Charlotte partner Rakesh Gopalan, who chairs the Asian Pacific Lawyers Network; Charlotte Securities & Capital Markets Department chair Greg Kilpatrick; Houston partner Demetra Liggins; and Baltimore partner and D&I Committee member Melissa Martinez. The participating partners later took part in a panel discussion, sharing insights and experiences they gathered along their career journeys.
McGuireWoods Chairman Jon Harmon also joined the group to share key principles for success, which include pursuing individual passions. He encouraged the associates not to let others box them in or tie them to preconceived impressions and discussed the importance of being an inclusive person.
Second-day programming opened with remarks from McGuireWoods managing partner J. Tracy Walker IV, who discussed leadership — what it is and how associates should think about their leadership framework as they move forward in their careers.
Feedback from the participating associates was positive and plans are underway for DALP 2023.
In 2021, McGuireWoods launched an initiative to help Black private equity and finance professionals develop business opportunities and drive progress toward a more diverse and inclusive community.
The Black Professionals in Private Equity & Finance (BPE) initiative brings together professionals from across the financial services sector to network, share ideas and promote change in the industry. BPE features panel discussions and roundtables with leaders in the financial services sector and an online series highlighting trailblazers and rising stars.
“Access to capital is a persistent challenge for Blackowned businesses and McGuireWoods wants to be part of the solution,” Kilpatrick said. “We believe that increasing diversity in private equity and finance will result in more capital flowing to Black and other minority-owned businesses.”
“McGuireWoods’ deal work and innovations distinguish the firm as a leader in private equity and finance,” Thomas added. “This initiative will build on that success by providing a platform for Black private equity and finance professionals to expand their relationships and opportunities.”
On Sept. 14, 2021, Diversity Lab announced that McGuireWoods successfully completed the Mansfield Rule 4.0 Certification Program and once again achieved Mansfield Certification Plus status.
The Mansfield Rule program is designed to increase diversity in law firm lateral hiring, partner promotions, marketing and firm governance. McGuireWoods was one of 118 law firms that successfully completed Diversity Lab’s Mansfield Rule 4.0 Certification Program, which ran from July 2020 to July 2021. The firm also achieved Mansfield Certification Plus status for the previous year and signed on to participate with more than 160 other firms in the Mansfield 5.0 Certification Program, running July 2021 through July 2022.
The Mansfield Rule has become the standard by which law firms track and measure that they have affirmatively considered at least 30 percent women, lawyers of color, lawyers with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ lawyers for top leadership roles, senior-level lateral hiring, promotions into the equity partnership and participation in client pitch meetings.
Certification Plus status indicates that, in addition to meeting baseline certification requirements, the firm successfully met or surpassed the 30 percent representation threshold in a notable number of its current leadership roles.
“We are thrilled to celebrate these firms that have worked so tirelessly to implement the Mansfield Rule principles and create inclusive workplaces where every lawyer has the ability to thrive and the opportunity to lead,” said Natalia Marulanda, Mansfield Rule director at Diversity Lab, in a statement. “Despite the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, the Mansfield Rule certified firms have not deviated from their goal of ensuring that law firm leadership reflects the rich diversity of the profession. We are enormously proud to work with such a committed group of firms.”
Three prominent civil rights champions joined McGuireWoods chairman Jonathan Harmon for a wide-ranging conversation on racial and social justice issues to mark the first anniversary of the firm’s acclaimed Leaders in Color discussion series. The July 15, 2021, event was held in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office at Black Lives Matter Plaza before an audience of 60 people and hundreds more who watched on a live webcast.
The panelists were Wade Henderson, noted civil rights lawyer and interim president of the Leadership Conference and Civil and Human Rights; Dr. Ronald Crutcher, then-president of the University of Richmond and author of “I Had No Idea You Were Black: Navigating Race on the Road to Leadership”; and Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, an activist who was confined for two months in a maximum-security Mississippi prison for participating in the historic Freedom Rides.
The panelists shared personal experiences that shaped their views on racial justice and discussed voting rights, education and other challenges confronting the country in its pursuit of equality. They also offered advice for younger members of the audience, including McGuireWoods summer associates, on how to be effective and inclusive leaders.
Mulholland said she first encountered the cruelty of racial injustice as a child while visiting family in segregated Georgia, where she saw the conditions in a dilapidated school for Black students.
“I knew this was not fair,” she said. “This was not treating people the way we wanted to be treated like they taught us in Sunday school.” She decided then that if she had an opportunity to advance racial equality in the South, she would “seize the moment.”
She was arrested along with other Freedom Riders in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1961 and jailed in Parchman Penitentiary. She appeared at the Leaders in Color event wearing a T-shirt displaying an image of her police mugshot and the words, “This Is My Government Issued ID.”
Henderson discussed the challenge of protecting voting rights at a time when numerous states are adopting election reforms that would limit early and mail-in voting, among other changes.
“Voting is the language of democracy,” he said. “If you can be prevented from voting, you can be prevented from having a voice in our democracy.”
What has changed since the voting rights struggles of 1960s, Henderson said, is the support of the business community. “The business community is supporting voting rights for the country because it recognizes that democracy is an issue,” Henderson said. “I think this conversation takes place against the backdrop of dramatic changes taking place in our country.”
Crutcher, a national leader in higher education and distinguished classical musician, said “active listening” can help break down racial and cultural barriers and ease polarization. It is a practice he developed as a young cellist in a chamber orchestra and carried with him to academia.
“When you sit down with someone who has a different perspective than you to have a conversation, the goal is not necessarily to change their mind or vice versa,” he said. “The goal is to listen actively so you can have a better understanding, a deeper understanding of why that person holds their views.”
McGuireWoods launched the Leaders in Color series in July 2020, weeks after the murder of George Floyd led to protests and a renewed conversation about racial and social justice in America. Harmon asked the panelists what advice they would give to aspiring leaders who want to take up the cause they have championed so effectively.
“To students who want to bring about change: act together, stay nonviolent and don’t give up,” Mulholland said. “Just keep on keeping on.”
In 2020, Bank of America honored McGuireWoods with its Law Firm Diversity & Inclusion Award in recognition of the firm’s collaboration and leadership advancing diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.
In selecting McGuireWoods for the award, Bank of America evaluated the firm’s internal culture for recruiting, retaining, mentoring and promoting lawyers of color, women and LGBTQ+ lawyers, and veterans. It also considered the firm’s external efforts to advance diversity and inclusion, including significant initiatives in which McGuireWoods and Bank of America worked together.
“We value our partnership with Bank of America and the opportunity to collaborate on innovative initiatives to advance diversity and inclusion,” said McGuireWoods chairman Jonathan Harmon. “D&I are priorities for Bank of America and McGuireWoods and we are honored to receive this recognition.”
In February 2020, McGuireWoods and Bank of America organized a program called “Partnering for Progress in Diversity & Inclusion,” which drew more than 200 attorneys from law firms, corporations and government to the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C. Introduced by Bank of America global general counsel David Leitch, Harmon led a wide-ranging discussion with distinguished lawyers on the challenges and opportunities facing companies and law firms and their shared need to make meaningful progress building and nurturing diverse and inclusive teams.
Joining Harmon were panelists Amy B. Littman, Bank of America’s head of global compliance and operational risk; Robert J. Grey Jr., president of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity; Wade Henderson, noted civil rights lawyer and interim president of the Leadership Conference and Civil and Human Rights; and Mark W. Johnson, chief legal, governance officer of Kimball International. Each shared stories of peers and mentors who paved the way for their advancement, explained how in-house and outside counsel can work together on diversity and inclusion, and discussed how to accelerate progress.
In August 2020, McGuireWoods and Bank of America co-hosted a two-part CLE webcast that included Harmon’s one-on-one discussion with Professor Ibram X. Kendi, the bestselling author of “How to Be an Antiracist,” and a panel moderated by partner Robert Muckenfuss, chair of the firm’s Complex Commercial Litigation Department.
Joining Kendi on the panel were McGuireWoods partners Ava Lias-Booker, chair of the firm’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee, and Tanya Greene, as well as Bank of America deputy general counsel Jack Sena and associate general counsel and senior vice president Justin Goggins. They discussed the role lawyers play identifying racist policies and finding a path toward racial equity; how individuals can dismantle policies that promote inequality and be agents of change; recruiting and retaining diverse lawyers; and the importance of pro bono service and civic engagement. The webcast drew more than 1,100 attendees, including McGuireWoods and Bank of America lawyers.
“We are grateful to David Leitch and his team at Bank of America for their leadership and support in this important effort,” said Muckenfuss, who helps manage McGuireWoods’ relationship with Bank of America. “We look forward to continuing our work with Bank of America to promote diversity and inclusion in our workplaces and communities.”