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, 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.
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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.
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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 Partner Tanya Greene Honored Among Los Angeles ‘Women of Influence’
September 22, 2021
Gardner and Mallette Honored for Excellence by The National Black Lawyers
September 15, 2021
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.”
McGuireWoods managing partner J. Tracy Walker IV announced the recipient of the 2021 McGuireWoods scholarship at the University of Virginia School of Engineering & Applied Science — rising fourth-year student Oluwatoni “Toni” Ajala. Ajala majors in chemical engineering with a focus on biotechnology. She has developed an interest in cancer research and healthcare policy and has completed summer research internships at the National Cancer Institute’s Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities and at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. During the school year, she was a research assistant at the Lysiak Laboratory at the University of Virginia.
Ajala was inspired to attend law school by a chance encounter with an immigration lawyer in Houston. The lawyer supports himself working as a high school history teacher and does all of his immigration work pro bono. He assisted Ajala on her own path to citizenship, a dream she realized in April when she was naturalized. She aspires to pay the gift forward by helping undocumented children attain citizenship. In her scholarship essay, Ajala wrote: “Being undocumented is a burden that children often endure without talking to their friends, teachers, and sometimes even family.” She hopes to work at a legal clinic to assist immigrants in the DACA program and help them file for citizenship “because no person should stop believing in their dreams because of their status.”
On June 30, 2021, Ajala visited McGuireWoods’ Houston office and attended a happy hour with summer associates and firm lawyers, including Tracy and office managing partner Yasser Madriz. “It was a delight to finally meet Toni in person,” Walker said. “I was impressed with her poise and her confidence. With her incredible record of achievement at UVA, I have no doubt she will achieve great things as a lawyer.”
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 fourthyear 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.”
In 2021, a group of McGuireWoods real estate and zoning lawyers, land use planners and government relations consultants released part one of a paper documenting the history of zoning and segregation in Virginia and the legacy of systemic racism preserved by zoning.
According to the paper’s executive summary, many Virginia neighborhoods “are more racially segregated today than they were 50 years ago.” Elected officials and lawmakers used zoning through most of the 20th century as a governmental tool to segregate African Americans. “Zoning continues to reinforce patterns of segregation today despite the Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibiting racial discrimination in housing,” the authors noted. Housing segregation, in turn, affects education, job opportunities, family income, health and access to a quality life.
The McGuireWoods team — led by Tysons real estate and land use partner Jonathan Rak and McGuireWoods Consulting senior advisor James Dyke — also offered a call to action: Revise Virginia zoning and planning laws to increase housing opportunities for all people throughout the state’s localities. Appropriate reform, the team said, can occur without diminishing local governments’ power to plan and zone.
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.”
Firm leaders selected promising associates to attend McGuireWoods’ third Diverse Associates Leadership Program (DALP), held July 28-29,
2021. Launched in 2019, the annual training event is designed to equip top-performing lawyers from diverse backgrounds with the tools and leadership skills essential to advancing into the ranks of partnership.
The 2021 DALP meeting took place at the firm’s office in Washington, D.C., at Black Lives Matter Plaza.
The program opened with remarks from Baltimore partner Ava Lias-Booker, chair of the firm’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee. “DALP creates a critical mass of talented individuals and a national network of McGuireWoods attorneys,” Lias-Booker said.
Attendees then heard the first in a series of training modules, “The Coachable Associate/The Perfect Protégé,” presented by renowned consultant Werten Bellamy, who specializes in talent development for top-performing attorneys at some of the nation’s leading law firms and corporate in-house departments.
The McGuireWoods lawyers enjoyed lunch and networking hosted by Richmond partner Candace Blydenburgh, who chairs the firm’s African American Lawyers Network; Charlotte partner Rakesh Gopalan, chair of the Asian Pacific Lawyers Network; Charlotte partner Greg Kilpatrick, chair of the firm’s Securities & Capital Markets Department; and Baltimore partner Melissa Martinez, who sits on the firm’s Appellate Justice Initiative steering committee. Afterward, the partners participated on a panel that also included Century City partner Sabrina Beldner, who chairs the firm’s Labor & Employment Department, and London partner William Boddy, who chairs the firm’s LGBTQ+ Lawyers Network. Panel speakers shared personal experiences, leadership tips and their individual career journeys.
McGuireWoods chairman Jon Harmon offered words of encouragement as well, advising the associates to develop their craft and hone their leadership skills.
Second-day discussion focused on building brand and creating preference, again facilitated by Bellamy. The program also featured a lunch and talk with McGuireWoods managing partner J. Tracy Walker IV.
“You all are future leaders of our firm,” Walker said, explaining that McGuireWoods has a vested interest in their success. “You will be the ones making decisions . . . [and] we want to create programs that will help equip you and sustain you to grow into leadership roles. We look to your generation to ascend into those roles.”
McGuireWoods held the eighth session of its award-winning Women’s Leadership Development Forum from Oct. 15-16, 2020 — an invitation-only two-day formal training program under the umbrella of the firm’s Women Lawyers Network (WLN). Geared toward senior women associates, the initiative is designed to develop leadership skills that are helpful in the transition to partner and other senior roles inside and outside the firm.
This session, held via Zoom due to the pandemic, opened with remarks from Richmond partner Joy Fuhr, who leads the program as well as the WLN. She told participants about her own career path and lessons learned along the way, then introduced professional leadership coach Susan Dunlop, who led the training on both days.
Discussion across the two days focused on leadership styles, business development and developing a “go-to” lawyer presence. This year, the program included helpful strategies for success in navigating the challenges and changes to the practice of law that have been accelerated by COVID-19.
The program featured a virtual wine tasting by Hall Vineyards and an “ask anything” session in breakout rooms hosted by Fuhr; Century City partner and Labor & Employment Department chair Sabrina Beldner; Atlanta partner and Financial Services Litigation Department chair Cheryl Haas; Richmond’s Joanne Katsantonis, deputy managing partner for development; Baltimore partner and Diversity & Inclusion Committee chair Ava Lias-Booker; Richmond partner and Regulatory & Compliance Department chair Vishwa Link; Chicago partner and Antitrust, Trade & Commercial Litigation Department chair Amy Manning; Chicago partner and Public Finance Department chair Kay McNab; and Chicago Healthcare Department partner Amber Walsh.
“It takes a village,” Fuhr noted. “The 100 graduates of the program over the past six years have become outstanding leaders. The time and sage advice shared by our senior partners is an essential component to the program’s success.”
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.”