Diversity & Inclusion

Jon Harmon quote
Ken Neighbors quote

OUR INCLUSIVE COMMUNITY

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.

Lawyer Networks

LEADING THE WAY

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.

Diversity statistics

* Reflects U.S. office data as of April 1, 2024.


D&I ADVANCES

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 PROGRAMExtending into more markets to reach diverse talent.
ROONEY RULEAdopted for associate recruiting before the Mansfield Rule was announced, with diversity increasing to 65%.
LCLD FOUNDERSupporting Leadership Council on Legal Diversity programs including 1L Scholars, Fellows, Pathfinder, and Success in Law School Mentoring.
PIPELINE TO PRACTICEP2P Foundation sponsorship includes working with leading clients to mentor diverse law students and new lawyers.
DIVERSITY DIRECTORYStrengthening our community by connecting our client service teams with diverse lawyers with specific experience.
WOMEN’S LEADERSHIPThe Women’s Leadership Development Forum helps our senior associates develop the networking and client service skills needed to advance to partnership.
CLIENT PARTNERINGWorking with firm clients who share our passion for advancing the careers of diverse attorneys through industry-focused programs.
ROLE MODELSDiverse partners serving in key leadership positions as chairs, managing partners, and executive committee members.
DIVERSITY RETREATBringing together firm leadership and 120 diverse lawyers for two days of networking programs designed to advance their careers.
BAR ASSOCIATIONSProviding financial and leadership support for participation in women and minority bar associations.
ASSOCIATE MENTORINGConnecting racially/ethnically diverse associates with experienced partners for career guidance, networking, and mentorship.

MILESTONES

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

2022

Professional Staff D&I Council

D&I FEATURES

WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP
Development Forum

With the goal of enhancing women senior associates’ leadership skills, McGuireWoods held its 12th Women’s Leadership Development Forum (WLDF) May 2-3, 2024, at the firm’s Washington, D.C., office.

WLDF Participants 2024

The associate-participants included Nicole M. Allaband, Jessica Barrera, Emily G. Blair, Laura J. Cooley, Megan Italiano, Emily Erb Kelley, Laura Grace Mezher, Alice O’Donovan, Sarah Y. OhAnne Curtis Saunders, Samantha E. Aparicio Wallace, Kelly A. Warlich, Brooke A. Weedon and Madison K. B. Wyche.

Women Lawyers Network co-chairs Ali Baiardo and Elaine Sanderlin Ryan opened the two-day forum with a breakfast presentation, sharing stories and lessons from their individual career journeys. Afterward, a dozen McGuireWoods women partners joined the group for an “Ask Anything” dinner, to provide perspectives on life as a partner at the firm.

After breakfast on the second day with firm managing partner J. Tracy Walker IV, participants enjoyed a lunchtime panel featuring insights from WLDF alums — partners Elissa N. BaurAnna C. HorevayMelissa O. Martinez and Ashley B. Matthews.

DIVERSE ASSOCIATES
Leadership Program

Continuing its commitment to attorney development, 17 associates attended McGuireWoods’ 2023 Diverse Associates Leadership Program (DALP), held Oct. 19-20, 2023, at the Salamander Washington, D.C. DALP equips top-performing associates of color and LGBTQ+ associates with the tools and leadership skills essential to practice development and advancement into the partnership ranks of the firm.

DALP 2024

The associate-participants included Erin A. BallMelek J. DunnDerek A. FarrugiaJohn J. Feliciano-AcostaPaul C. Harris Jr.Tevin L. HopkinsBriana M. JacksonSun LeeAndrew C. PapaAlicia M. PennJoshua D. PowersJason A. RichardsonEmily Song;  and Joseph L. Wilson II.

The two-day program opened with welcoming remarks from Baltimore partner Ava Lias-Booker, program sponsor and former chair of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee. The program was 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. His presentation, “The Coachable Associate/The Perfect Protégé,” focused on essential tools for success, elevating levels of emotional intelligence and the importance of building deep internal relationships.

Participants broke for lunch and an opportunity to get to know partners and firm leaders in attendance, including New York partner and Government Investigations & White Collar Department chair Noreen Kelly; Richmond partner Joanne Katsantonis, deputy managing partner for industry teams; Houston partner Demetra Liggins; Charlotte partner Rick Viola, deputy managing partner for the firm’s corporate practice; New York partner and Real Estate & Land Use Department chair Dennis Mensi; D.C. office managing partner Lizzie Hogan; Charlotte partner and Debt Finance Department chair Kevin McGinnis; Tysons office managing partner Jack White; and downtown Los Angeles office managing partner Tanya Greene.

Afterward, partners shared insights gathered along their career journeys and answered DALP participants’ questions. Atlanta partner and Diversity & Inclusion Committee chair Ken Neighbors moderated the partner panel comprised of fellow D&I committee members: Richmond partner Candace Blydenburgh, who chairs the African American Lawyers Network; Baltimore partner Melissa Martinez, chair of the Asian Pacific Lawyers Network; London partner and LGBTQ+ Lawyers Network chair William Boddy; Century City partner and Middle Eastern/North African Lawyers Network chair Lisa Atty; D.C. partner and Veteran Lawyers Network chair Michael Podberesky; and Pittsburgh partner Alex Madrid.

Firm Chairman Jon Harmon participated in a Q&A with the associates. Second-day programming opened with remarks from managing partner J. Tracy Walker IV, who led an interactive presentation on the principles of leadership. Afterward, consultant Andi Groomes continued a discussion on emotional intelligence.

FIRM ACHIEVES MANSFIELD
Certification Plus Status

In 2023, McGuireWoods once again achieved Mansfield Certification Plus status after completing a 12-month certification program, from July 2022 to June 2023, thereby fulfilling a commitment to increase firmwide inclusivity and diversity in leadership.

The Mansfield Rule has become the standard by which law firms track and measure whether they have affirmatively considered at least 30% women, lawyers from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, lawyers with disabilities and LGBTQ+ attorneys for top leadership roles, senior-level lateral hiring, promotions into the equity partnership and participation in client pitch meetings. To increase transparency and broaden the slate of talent considered for opportunities, these firms’ advancement processes and leadership role descriptions are now written, clear and accessible to all qualified lawyers.

According to an Oct. 10, 2023, announcement from Diversity Lab, more than 240 law firms in the United States and Canada became Mansfield certified for 2022-2023. Nearly one-half of these firms, including McGuireWoods, qualified for “Mansfield Certification Plus,” meaning they voluntarily measure the outcomes of their inclusive processes and have achieved positive results.

Participating in the Mansfield program strongly aligns with McGuireWoods’ strategy regarding diversity and inclusion to focus on leadership, not just numbers. The firm’s Diverse Associates Leadership Program and Women’s Leadership Development Forum were designed to equip top-performing associates of color, women and LGBTQ+ associates with the leadership skills essential to their development and advancement into the partnership ranks of the firm.

Several years ago, the firm adopted the Rooney Rule when recruiting associates to ensure that women and attorneys of color were candidates for all open positions managed by the Attorney Recruitment & Professional Development Team. McGuireWoods’ implementation of the Rooney Rule pre-dated the announcement of the Mansfield Rule. The early adoption of the Rooney Rule helped the firm increase the diversity of its associate population, including increased numbers of women, lawyers of color, and lawyers from the LGBTQ+ community.

ZONING AND
Segregation in Virginia

In 2022, 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.

For details, read “Zoning and Segregation in Virginia: Part 2 — Expanding Housing Choices for the Future of Virginia.”

FIRM PRESENTS UVA
Scholarship

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 counsel 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.”

BLACK PROFESSIONALS IN
Private Equity & Finance

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.

McGuireWoods partners Greg Kilpatrick, chair of the Securities & Capital Markets Department, and Gerald V. Thomas II, chair of the Tax & Employee Benefits Department, lead the initiative.

“Access to capital is a persistent challenge for Black-owned 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.”

Greg Kilpatrick and Gerald V. Thomas II

POWER OF
Partnerships

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.

Ava Lias-Booker, Robert Muckenfuss, and Tanya Greene

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.”