June 18, 2021
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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 Baltimore partner and accomplished trial lawyer Ava Lias-Booker — 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 April 1, 2021.
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 Associate Leadership Program
2020 Mansfield Certification Plus; Racial Justice Task Force
McGuireWoods Wins Veterans Program of the Year Honor in Chambers Diversity Awards
June 18, 2021
McGuireWoods Named Finalist in Five Categories in Chambers Diversity Awards
April 28, 2021
Bethany Lukitsch Named Among Los Angeles Business Journal’s Women of Influence
April 29, 2021
Leaders came together July 20, 2020, for an online panel discussion on racial justice and how law firms and companies can work together to advance the cause during a time of social unrest.
McGuireWoods chairman Jonathan Harmon led the hourlong discussion with panelists Kodwo Ghartey-Tagoe, Duke Energy’s executive vice president and chief legal officer; Bradley Gayton, former Ford chief administrative officer and general counsel who became senior vice president and general counsel at Coca-Cola on Sept. 1, 2020; and PBI president and CEO Eve Runyon.
Harmon noted that the forum was timely, following nationwide protests triggered by the Memorial Day killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. “In light of that, we thought it was very important to convene this event because we believe that our community, our profession, our organizations and, frankly, our country need to hear from the wonderful voices we have assembled on this panel,” Harmon said.
Nearly 250 people registered for the program. Panelists shared ideas about immediate and long-term steps law firms and companies can take to address systemic racism and promote equality and social justice.
Ghartey-Tagoe, who grew up in Ghana and moved to North America to attend college, recalled personal experiences with racial bias. In most of his job interviews after law school, he said, “we spent 99 percent of the time talking about my name, a very foreign sounding name.”
“I remember writing to my father asking for permission to change my name because I thought the name I had was just not acceptable in the culture I had immigrated to,” he said. “So these are some very jarring experiences for me that have formed my own views — how I behave today, how I expect others to behave, how I raise my three daughters.”
But Ghartey-Tagoe said cultural differences can be overcome in law firms, companies and other professional settings when colleagues recognize and appreciate what they have in common. He encouraged those in mentor roles to seek out mentees from different backgrounds.
“You will find mentees who don’t look like you, don’t talk like you but want the same things you do,” he said. “And you just start that conversation, going down that path and very quickly you will find that there are things from your own background, your own experience that will be valuable to this person who you thought had nothing in common.”
Initiatives such as helping low-income clients regain their driving privileges can have significant benefits, the panelists said.
“Clinics like driver’s license restoration are so critically important because revoking driver’s licenses for things like unpaid fines — minor crimes that aren’t related to health and safety issues — take away people’s ability to get to work, maintain work,” said Gayton. “We have to focus our pro bono efforts in places where they can have the biggest impact on getting at these systemic issues.”
Gayton said education, criminal justice and voting rights are longstanding civil rights issues that must be addressed. He said the desire for immediate action in the wake of George Floyd’s death must be balanced with a thoughtful approach to solving structural problems.
“I’m concerned that, in an effort to get speed, some of the thinking for solutions is too shallow,” he said. “The risk in that is that we won’t . . . take advantage of this crisis to really get at building a strategy to try to solve the long-term systemic racism.”
“The challenges that we are facing are entrenched and they are pervasive,” Runyon said. “It’s not something we can address with immediate action and hope for immediate change.”
Law firms and corporate legal departments can maximize their impact by working with civil rights organizations in their communities to target pro bono efforts to specific areas of need, Runyon added.
“One of the things that’s on my wish list, that I hope law firms and legal departments do with their pro bono programs moving forward, is adopt the things that we are talking about — being intentional and being strategic and working collaboratively . . . with the civil rights organizations to think through how we can collectively make a difference,” she said.
Noted Ghartey-Tagoe: “It’s got to be a collaborative effort, and working together we can come up with better solutions than individual institutions trying to go at this alone.”
To watch the July 20 webcast, click here.
McGuireWoods and Bank of America teamed up for a groundbreaking Feb. 25, 2020, event to elevate the issue of diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. “Partnering for Progress in Diversity & Inclusion” 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.
McGuireWoods chairman Jonathan 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 deputy general counsel and managing director; Robert J. Grey Jr., president of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity; Mark W. Johnson, executive vice president, chief legal, governance officer and corporate secretary of Kimball International; and Wade J. Henderson, former president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
Here are four key takeaways shared by the panelists.
Littman said Bank of America does “a tremendous amount of data inspection” to measure its outside law firms’ progress on diversity and inclusion.
“It’s not enough to just show up, bill an hour and get your head counted,” she explained. “We look at the percentage of time being spent by diverse attorneys — females, people of color — on our matters and we break it out.
We also differentiate between partners and junior lawyers . . . so that you can’t obscure the data by throwing your first-year class on to Bank of America cases.” Diversity and inclusion weigh heavily in the company’s rigorous evaluation process for outside law firms, Littman said. “We want to know what you achieved that year, what you plan to achieve and, most importantly, we ask you what we can do to work with you and help the effort.” Johnson, a former McGuireWoods litigator, said in-house legal departments have “a great deal of leverage” to drive change. “If we want to advance diversity and inclusion within this profession, we’re the ones who have to demand that from the people who are providing the services,” he said. “That’s why I really appreciate the process, the program that Bank of America has.”
While companies must hold their law firms accountable for achieving diversity benchmarks, panelists said incentives can be more effective than penalties. Grey described how a company created incentives for in-house counsel to make sure outside firms hit diversity targets and created incentives for the firms to achieve the goals. “We’ve got more to gain by putting each other in a ‘win win’ situation than otherwise,” Grey said. Littman noted that Bank of America launched a program in one of its business units to pair mentors with junior lawyers at law firms to develop a diverse talent pipeline for that unit’s matters. Law firms have an incentive to put forward mentees from diverse backgrounds to compete for that business. Bank of America will be invested in the futures of those young lawyers, she said.
Companies and law firms have a shared interest in diversity and inclusion and should work together to accelerate progress, panelists agreed. “The test is what are we doing — what am I doing to help you advance your goals, and what are you doing to help me make my goals a reality? And until we get on the same page about the collaborative effort that’s necessary to make this work, then we will always be passing ships in the night,” Grey said. Henderson said there is a “moral imperative” to advance diversity and inclusion and a business case predicated on having a broader set of inputs around major decisions that affect the company, “including your ability to extend outreach to markets that you don’t deal with currently, but would like to bring into your orbit. Diversity is a big part of that.”
A diverse workforce is only effective if women and lawyers of color have opportunities to succeed. Social isolation can be a barrier, panelists said. Littman said the benefits of diversity can’t be realized “if people have to check themselves at the door, or they are socially isolated.”
Johnson said Kimball’s executive leadership “has been very candid about the fact that we need to place more emphasis on this.” Acknowledging deficiencies is “the first step in making those changes,” he said.
In the aftermath of the inhumane killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and too many others, McGuireWoods began holding town hall panel discussions on race and inclusion that are broadcast live for the entire firm. At the June 22 and July 23, 2020, events, attorneys and other McGuireWoods professionals spoke candidly and movingly about their own experiences facing racial injustice and about how the firm can talk openly and honestly about equality. The firm plans to continue these discussions, which are a first step in a continuing dialogue to strengthen the firm’s culture of diversity and inclusion.
On the firm intranet, McGuireWoods created an online Racial Justice Resource Center that includes research papers, articles, books, videos and more addressing the racial equality challenges facing African Americans.
And in June 2020, chairman Jonathan Harmon wrote about these issues in The Wall Street Journal, relaying his family’s encounter with racism when he was a teenager and his father’s lesson that love always trumps hate — a lesson that resonates today when he has conversations with his four children about racial injustice.
As noted by Harmon in this video, McGuireWoods is focused on achieving long-lasting positive change in communities across the country. Members of the firm’s racial justice task force are strategizing and talking with local leaders on how to work together to make racial equality a reality.
There is much work to be done and the firm is committed to being part of the solution. That means having tough conversations and using our voices.
Fourteen associates were selected to attend McGuireWoods’ second annual Diverse Associates Leadership Program (DALP) held June 17-18, 2020 — a program developed and designed to take top-performing associates of color and LGBTQ associates and equip them with the tools and leadership skills deemed essential to their development and advancement into the partnership ranks of the firm.
For 2020, the firm hosted a hybrid program, allowing attendees to participate remotely if they preferred, or in person via video conference from McGuireWoods’ offices in Charlotte, Century City and Richmond.
The program opened the first day with remarks from Baltimore partner Ava Lias-Booker, chair of the firm’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee, reflecting upon the importance of the DALP program to the firm’s D&I strategic goals.
Attendees then heard presentations on “The Coachable Associate/The Perfect Protégé,” elevating levels of emotional intelligence, and the importance of building deep internal relationships, all facilitated by renowned 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 the firm’s former Diversity & Inclusion Committee chair, Richmond partner Jackie Stone, leading the group in the Richmond office, joined by Richmond partner Candace Blydenburgh, chair of the firm’s African American Lawyers Network, and Ava Lias-Booker; Century City partner Sabrina Beldner, who chairs the firm’s LGBTQ Lawyers Network, led the group in the firm’s LA office; and Charlotte partner Rakesh Gopalan, chair of the Asian Pacific Lawyers Network, led the Charlotte group. Each led a small group of associates and shared personal experiences, leadership tips and individual career journeys. The day’s events concluded with a virtual happy hour hosted by two DALP alumni: San Francisco associate Anthony Le and D.C. associate Wendy Wright.
Second-day discussion focused on building brand and creating preference, again facilitated by Bellamy. Attendees also listened to an inspiring message from McGuireWoods chairman Jonathan Harmon, who encouraged them to develop their craft, hone their leadership skills and be inclusive when making decisions. He urged the associates to be ready to step up to the next level in their careers when the opportunity presents itself.
Attendees also enjoyed a lunch and talk with McGuireWoods managing partner J. Tracy Walker IV, who shared experiences from his own career path and emphasized the need for lawyers to be excellent at their craft and develop habits to sustain a lifelong career.
McGuireWoods managing partner J. Tracy Walker IV recently announced the recipient of the 2020 McGuireWoods scholarship at the University of Virginia School of Engineering & Applied Science — rising fourth-year student Cynthia Okoye. A mechanical engineering major, Okoye is a highly accomplished student with an interest in patent law. She visited the Richmond office to meet Walker, chairman Jonathan Harmon and other firm lawyers.
Richmond partner Jackie Stone, a former chair of the firm’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee and a hiring partner for more than 20 years, met with Okoye during her visit. “Cynthia is bright and personable, and I have no doubt she will be very successful as she pursues her interest in patent law. It is so important that the firm offer this scholarship to recognize promising engineering students of color who are interested in pursuing careers in law or business. I am pleased Cynthia was selected as this year’s scholarship recipient.” The
McGuireWoods scholarship is part of law school pipeline project launched by the firm in 2019. Last year’s scholarship recipient was Noah Rushin. In addition to awarding a scholarship each year to a rising fourth-year student, 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, 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.”
Walker envisions increasing the number of scholarships in future years and potentially replicating the program at other schools.
McGuireWoods partners helped organize and spoke at the First African Landing Commemorative Weekend, which took place in Hampton, Va. The Commemoration of the First African Landing ceremony was held on Aug. 24, 2019, at the site where enslaved African men and women were forcibly brought to English North America more than 400 years ago in August 1619.
“This was the first time Virginia has paid homage to the first Africans that arrived in this country,” said George Martin, managing partner of McGuireWoods’ Richmond office. “They had always been a footnote, but here they got the level of recognition they deserved for the impact they had on America.”
The event was hosted by American Evolution, an organization “designed to inspire engagement in the themes of democracy, diversity and opportunity” by exploring significant events that took place in Virginia in 1619. McGuireWoods sponsored the three-day event.
Martin and Frank Atkinson, McGuireWoods partner and McGuireWoods Consulting senior advisor in Richmond, served on American Evolution’s Executive Committee for the Commemoration. This committee was tasked with planning the historic weekend, which was four years in the making. Martin also served on the 400 Years of African-American History Commission, which was created by federal legislation to plan, develop and carry out programs and activities across the United States commemorating the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in the English colonies.
“The whole team should be very proud of the fact that we are telling a much more complete, accurate and rich story than has been told before,” said Atkinson, “and in the process are helping to bring unity out of diversity, which makes it all worth the work.”
The commemoration featured speakers that included Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia, and author and CNN political commentator Van Jones.
Richmond partner Jackie Stone, co-chair of American Evolution’s First Africans to English North America Committee, read an original poem — “1619 Jamestown (but not only) An Answer to the New York Times” — written for the occasion by renowned American poet and activist Nikki Giovanni.
IIn his remarks, Jones said, “I’m a ninth generation American, and I’m the first person in my family who was born with all of my rights recognized by this government.” His parents were born under segregation, he said. “I was moved because that’s true for me as well; I went to a segregated school until middle school,” said Martin. “The resounding theme of the event was that we need to tell the truth about our history. We need to acknowledge rather than sugarcoat. Almost every speaker acknowledged that slavery was the original sin of this country. Even today, we’re still struggling with the effects of that history, trying to right a wrong. This event also gave us the chance to do just that, while honoring the immeasurable contributions that African Americans have made in building this country.”
McGuireWoods held its third annual Diverse Professionals Networking Reception on Oct. 23, 2019, at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights (NCCHR). Nearly 40 attendees participated in this evening dedicated to networking and culture.
McGuireWoods and McGuireWoods Consulting professionals, clients, potential clients and friends of the firm enjoyed cocktails and hors d’oeuvres while networking and took self-guided tours of the museum’s impressive and often interactive exhibits.
Atlanta partner and Tax & Employee Benefits Department chair Gerald Thomas has organized this event from the beginning, with the intent to promote networking among racially, ethnically diverse professionals — lawyers, real estate developers and other business people. The venue was chosen deliberately, as “an engaging cultural attraction that connects the American civil rights movement to today’s struggle for global human rights.” McGuireWoods’ Oct. 23, 2019, event was attended by one of the named contributors to Atlanta’s campaign to retain the Martin Luther King Jr. collection, which now resides at the NCCHR.
Thomas said attendees were impressed that McGuireWoods holds this kind of event. Not only did it demonstrate the firm’s commitment to diversity, but it was a great networking experience, with an intentional, interesting venue and an easy environment that encouraged connections.
The firm held the seventh session of its award-winning Women’s Leadership Development Forum from Nov. 14-15, 2019, an invitation-only two-day formal training program under the umbrella of the Women Lawyers Network (WLN). Geared toward senior women associates, the initiative is designed to provide the next-level tools lawyers need to eventually transition to partner.
This session took place in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office. Attendees heard opening remarks from McGuireWoods managing partner J. Tracy Walker IV and D.C. office managing partner Todd Mullins, followed by a presentation by Richmond partner Joy Fuhr, who leads the program as well as the WLN. Fuhr shared her journey from professional tennis player to law student to partnership and firm leader. She offered advice on transitioning from being an excellent individual performer to leading and managing teams. Attendees learned that part of the transition will require evaluation of those personal and professional tasks they need to keep doing themselves, and those that can be performed effectively by others with leadership and supervision. After the presentation, attendees began the formal training program, led by professional leadership coach Susan Dunlap.
One of the most popular parts of the program is the “ask anything” dinner and roundtable discussion, valued as a networking opportunity and candid exchange of information on leadership and business development. Department chairs Vishwa Link and Amy Manning, who led two of the roundtable discussions, applauded the caliber of talent represented in this class. Link said, “I hope with us being open and honest, it helps them to understand that you can be a real person, great lawyer and get elevated at our law firm.”
“I got so much out of the WLF program,” said participant Olga Bograd. “I have already incorporated some of the tips from the program into my everyday interactions, and my supervising partners have noted the positive effects.” Equally as important were her interactions with the other participants. “I met exceptional women attorneys across all practice areas of the firm, and made great connections I hope will last for years to come,” Bograd said. “I especially enjoyed our dinner and conversation with the firm’s female partners, where we discussed how they navigated the partnership path and learned from their experiences. I came away from this program inspired and excited about McGuireWoods and my own path at this great firm.”
The success of the leadership program landed McGuireWoods on Chambers and Partners’ 2019 Diversity & Inclusion Awards USA shortlist for Most Pioneering Firm for Female Lawyers. Eighty-seven associates have completed the program since its inception in 2015.
On the program’s future, Fuhr noted, “While we are pleased with the program’s success, every year we solicit feedback and ideas to make sure it stays relevant and worthwhile for the participants and the firm. We want to improve the program to make it better every year. ”
Sponsored by McGuireWoods’ LGBTQ Lawyers Network, lawyers and staff from the firm’s Charlotte office hosted a booth and legal clinic at the 2019 Charlotte Pride Festival & Parade to help attendees prepare healthcare power of attorney and living will forms. The team provided valuable assistance to about 30 festival attendees.
About 200,000 people attended the 2019 Charlotte Pride Festival & Parade, the culmination of a weeklong series of events highlighting the social, cultural, ethnic, artistic and political diversity of the metro Charlotte area’s LGBTQ community.
Charlotte attorney Brandon Cole led the effort and volunteers included partner Patricia Hosmer; associates Kevin Denny and Arthur Moore; and discovery counsel Kimberly Williams and Laura Campoli. Century City partner Sabrina Beldner, chair of McGuireWoods’ LGBTQ Lawyers Network, offered invaluable support.
On Nov. 14, 2019, McGuireWoods’ San Francisco and Charlotte offices held separate Women Lawyers Network (WLN) events for firm lawyers, clients and prospective clients.
In downtown San Francisco, the WLN and guests met at The Vault, a restaurant inside the Bank of America building. San Francisco partners Carolee Hoover and Ali Baiardo took the lead on the event, attended by 30 lawyers and guests who enjoyed wine from local women-owned wineries and participated in a drawing for inspirational books by female authors.
That same day, the Charlotte WLN hosted an event at Six One Five, inside the Regions Bank building in uptown. The group enjoyed a festive pop-up shop featuring three local women-owned boutiques. A percentage of the receipts from the pop-up shop sales were donated to Safe Alliance.
Charlotte partner Andrea Chomakos oversaw the event, which drew about 50 lawyers and guests.
The Women Lawyers Network hosted a networking event Sept. 12, 2019, at Mason Fine Art in Atlanta, featuring wine, conversation and a gallery tour focusing on local female artists. About 40 guests attended.
“For me, the highlight was the combination of getting to meet and connect with other professional women, while enjoying a glass of wine and learning more about contemporary art,” said Atlanta associate Laughlin Allen, who organized the event. “There was a great crowd right up until the end — I think people really enjoyed themselves and the event.”