Washington Law Firms Capture Sager Awards
Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld and Arnold & Porter honored for commitment to diversity
L to R: James Sandman, Arnold & Porter;Thomas Sager, Dupont Corp.; Randall L. Sarosdy, Akin Gump
The Minority Corporate Counsel Association traveled to Washington, D.C., in June to hold the third in this year's series of four MCCA/ American Lawyer Media Diversity 2000 Dinner celebrations to present The Sager Award for diversity in the legal profession. The MCCA honored two Washington, D.C., law firms for implementing policies and practices to improve their efforts to hire a more diverse staff of lawyers and to retain and promote them once they are employed.
After nomination forms were distributed to and returned from Washington, D.C.'s vast landscape of law firms, Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld and Arnold & Porter were selected to receive The Sager Award. The Sager Award is named after DuPont Corp's Associate General Counsel Thomas Sager, who has demonstrated vision, leadership and commitment to the idea that diverse groups of people can combine their best attributes to solve problems and accomplish goals with dramatic results for the legal profession. The MCCA presents the award as a way to enlighten law firms and corporate law departments that the addition of minority and women attorneys can have a positive impact on their bottom line. Information about all law firms that win the Sager Award is included on the MCCA website and in a brochure that MCCA distributes to the general counsel of Fortune 500 companies. By spreading the word about the positive effects that a diverse workforce has had on the success of Sager Award-winning firms, it is hoped that more law firms will increase the retention and promotion of minority associates and partners. As Linda Madrid, managing director and general counsel of Carr-America said while presenting the awards, "It is up to each of us, not only to know that achieving diversity is the right goal, but also to act on this knowledge and thus reshape our profession for the future in ways we can all be proud."
Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld
Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld has made seeking minority candidates a major priority when looking to fill open attorney positions. As a result, the number of minority attorneys at its Washington, D.C., office has steadily increased during the last few years. In 1995, the office employed 15 minority attorneys. Today, that number has grown to 34 minority attorneys, including 10 who have reached the level of partner.
Akin Gump has achieved this success by aggressively seeking out minority attorneys by working with key individuals in minority communities. The firm also actively participates in annual recruitment events such as the Washington Area Minority Summer Associate Program, the Minority Road Show, Black Law Students Association (BLSA) job Fairs and several mock interview programs.
Once minority candidates are hired, the commitment to diversity success continues. Each practice group strives to find creative ways to promote the professional development and progress of minority attorneys while maintaining the firm's high standards. Akin Gump has implemented a mentoring program to ensure that new associates are properly integrated into the office community. And the firm takes the additional step of conducting ongoing dialog with minority associates to identify any possible barriers to their success.
Arnold & Porter
Arnold & Porter has made a strong commitment to making diversity practices a sustained part of its office culture. In 1996, the firm created a Diversity Committee which established and administered an extensive diversity training program that is mandatory for all employees. The result has been very encouraging. This year, 12 of the 41 associates recruited by the firm are minorities, and 38 percent of the participants in the firm's summer associates program are minorities. In addition, Arnold & Porter has six minorities who have reached the level of partner.
The firm's laudable efforts at maintaining a diverse workforce are also tied to the Minority Subcommittee of its Hiring Committee, which oversees minority recruitment efforts and community outreach. To find minority candidates, the firm participates in annual minority recruitment fairs, including the Hispanic Career Fair Conference at American University, the Harvard BLSA and APALSA Conferences and the Minority Road Show. Minority associate candidates are also found through the firm's work with student associations and college placement offices. Arnold & Porter also hosts an annual reception for minority law students at Georgetown University Law Center and has active participation in career development activities such as mock interview programs. However, perhaps its biggest show of commitment to increasing the ranks of minority attorneys can be measured by its pledge to provide two scholarships for minority students at 12 law schools.
Minority attorneys already in the fold at Arnold & Porter have formed a committee that meets regularly to monitor hiring, retention and recruitment issues at the firm. The firm supports the committee's work, and improvements such as the establishment of informal mentoring relationships have been the result.
These two law firms are shining examples of how the legal profession can effectively sustain the improved hiring, retention and promotion of minority attorneys. Many of the actions they have taken can be adopted by other law firms across the country, but they will only work if the firm's leadership is committed to making diversity work. These firms are proof that law firms with a diverse workforce can produce high quality work in our fast changing world. Hopefully, in the next century, more firms will embrace diversity as these firms have.
From the November 1999 issue of Diversity & The Bar®