Last Thursday, 16th June 2016, we were delighted to host our inaugural Chambers Diversity Awards: USA 2016, which took place at the Yale Club of New York, in association with Sidley Austin LLP, and sponsored by Baker Botts LLP, BakerHostetler LLP, Cravath Swaine & Moore LLP, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP and Greenberg Traurig, LLP.
After four years of the hugely successful Chambers Women in Law Awards, the Diversity Awards provided a unique opportunity to celebrate the achievements of lawyers from non-traditional backgrounds and shine a spotlight on the firms and individuals affecting positive change in the profession. With 14 seminars held, and over four years of extensive research on diversity in the USA, the awards represented both the culmination of our research and an exciting new chapter in our aim for global diversity and equal opportunities in the legal profession.
Winning a Chambers Diversity Award sets a remarkably high precedent, and marks an internationally-recognised achievement of excellence in furthering the advancement of diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. We firmly believe that, by raising awareness and empowering the people committed to bringing about change, together we can start a new chapter with equal opportunities for everyone.
The ceremony kicked off with an introduction from the Chambers Seminar Manager, Chris Kay, followed quickly by a word from our headline sponsor for the evening, Sidley Austin LLP.
Following on, it gave us great pleasure to introduce our keynote speaker for the evening, Shannon Minter, Esq., Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. In the wake of the tragic shooting at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Shannon delivered a timely reminder of the value of unity in the face of adversity. As a transgender man and a leading civil rights lawyer, who had been heavily involved in a number of landmark same-sex marriage equality cases, Shannon’s stirring speech provided the ideal opportunity for us to better understand the discrimination faced by the LGBT community on a daily basis, while also inspiring solidarity and renewed vigour on the march to equality.
After a lengthy applause, we were ready to begin the award presentation, kicking things off with the Future Leader – LGBT Equality awards, for private practice and in-house:
Future Leader – LGBT Equality (Private Practice)
Lisa L. Beane – Robins Kaplan LLP
Daniel J. Franklin – O’Melveny & Myers LLP
Adam A. Sofen – Sullivan & Cromwell LLP
Winner: Adam A. Sofen – Sullivan & Cromwell LLP
Future Leader – LGBT Equality (In-House)
Seth Blinder – MasterCard
Andrew Ward – KPMG LLP
Winner: Andrew Ward – KPMG LLP
In a closely fought contest, Adam Sofen took home the prize for his incredible endeavours to recruit LGBT law students, such as sponsoring small dinners for LGBT first-year law students. Similarly, Andrew Ward showcased absolutely commitment to the cause of young LGBT lawyers, while also supporting LGBT youth more broadly, particularly in his work to house LGBT youth with the Ali Forney Center.
LGBT Equality Lawyer of the Year (Private Practice)
Omar J. Alaniz – Baker Botts LLP
Randy Bullard – Greenberg Traurig, LLP
Dan Clivner – Sidley Austin LLP
Dennis Hranitzky – Dechert LLP
Lisa A. Linsky – McDermott Will & Emery LLP
William J. Weiss – Goodwin Procter LLP
Winner: Lisa A. Linsky – McDermott Will & Emery LLP
LGBT Equality Lawyer of the Year (In-House)
Michael Bishop – AT&T Intellectual Property Corporation
Gwen Marcus – Showtime Networks Inc.
James J. McNasby – Marsh, LLC
Winner: Michael Bishop – AT&T Intellectual Property Corporation
Our private practice winner, Lisa Linsky, took the prize for her involvement across a range of LGBT networking and affinity groups, combined with her groundbreaking efforts to investigate and disclose historical evidence of unconstitutional discrimination against LGBT Americans. Michael Bishop, our in-house winner, demonstrated equivalent commitment, convincing AT&T and many other corporations to join the amicus curiae brief filed with the Supreme Court in Obergefell, while also using his position within AT&T to help LGBT attorneys connect and engage in business development opportunities.
Most Inclusive Firm for LGBT Lawyers (Private Practice):
Greenberg Traurig, LLP
Hogan Lovells US LLP
Robins Kaplan LLP
Sullivan & Cromwell LLP
Winner: Robins Kaplan LLP
Robins Kaplan LLP, based in Minneapolis, has been leading the way on LGBT equality for a number of years now. Consistently scoring a 100% rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index since 2009, they also have an LGBT resource group dedicated to recruiting, promoting and connecting LGBT employees and peers. In addition to this, they have published a ‘Guidebook for Transgender Inclusion in the Workplace’, creating an original set of guidelines to empower all their personnel.
Most Pioneering Firm for Female Lawyers (Private Practice)
Barran Liebman LLP
Debevoise & Plimpton LLP
Hogan Lovells US LLP
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP
Sidley Austin LLP
Winston & Strawn LLP
Winner: Sidley Austin LLP
The most pioneering firm for female lawyers, Sidley Austin LLP, continued their wide-ranging gender diversity initiatives, while also kicking of new programs to create a more inclusive workplace for women, such as ‘Working Parents’ Career Coaching’ and a ‘Women Partners’ Business Development Fund’. In addition, they have highlighted unconscious bias as one of the key areas in which they could improve, launching partner workshops to raise awareness and combat the effects, with 75% of partners having attended thus far.
Next up was the first of our individual ‘outstanding contribution’ awards, which was followed by a short speech from our winner:
Outstanding Contribution to Furthering the Advancement of Diversity in the Legal Profession (In-House)
Stacey Friedman – JPMorgan Chase & Co
Robert Kamerschen – Aaron’s, Inc.
Karen Roberts – Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Winner: Karen Roberts – Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
As the Executive Vice President and General Counsel for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Karen Roberts oversees the legal department, which is responsible for handling all legal matters affecting the company in its domestic and international markets. Karen is also a champion for increasing diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. She currently serves as board member for the Leadership Counsel for Legal Diversity and is a member of ABA President Paulette Brown’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion 360. Under Karen’s leadership, Walmart co-founded the “Engage Excellence” program, aimed at advancing and promoting minority attorneys at majority-owned law firms. She helped launch “Walmart Ready,” an outside counsel on-boarding program, which prepares women and diverse attorneys to handle Walmart legal matters. Karen has also demonstrated leadership in helping create diverse student pipeline programs such as the University of Arkansas Law School’s SPPARK program and Street Law, Inc.’s, corporate pipeline program with a local Northwest Arkansas high school. Karen’s support has helped empower the Walmart Legal Department’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Most Innovative Program for Employee Health and Well-being (Private Practice)
Atkinson Andelson Loya Ruud & Romo
Salazar Jackson LLP
Winner: Salazar Jackson LLP
Salazar Jackson LLP, our winners in this category, have taken a holistic approach to revolutionise the workplace and ensure maximum productivity, while also taking care of employee health and well-being. A zen garden, quiet room and outdoor oasis are just a few of the innovations that have been installed, complimented by frequent guest speakers who educate on effective ways to take care of your mental health.
Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year (Private Practice)
Lauren E. Aguiar – Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP & Affiliates
Ava Benach – Benach Collopy, LLP
Lisa W. Borden – Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC
Harold C. Hirshman – Dentons US LLP
Wendy B. Reilly – Debevoise & Plimpton LLP
Amy Warr – Alexander Dubose Jefferson & Townsend LLP
Winner: Wendy B. Reilly – Debevoise & Plimpton LLP
Corporate Social Responsibility Lawyer of the Year (In-House)
Alex Dimitrief – General Electric Company
Susan Levy – Northern Trust
Chelley E. Talbert – NBC Universal
Mark Vockell – Dell
Winner: Susan Levy – Northern Trust
The winner of the the Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year Award, Wendy B. Reilly, has spent 12 years fighting for minority sheet workers, a case which was originally filed in 1971. The most important and long-running pro bono case of Debevoise’s history, Wendy has been a key player in bringing it to a timely and just conclusion. Another leader in the community, Susan Levy serves as the Chair for The Chicago Bar Foundation’s ‘Investing in Justice Campaign’,the largest campaign in the country tackling the justice gap and trying to ensure equal access to legal advocacy for all.
Future Leader – Minority Lawyers (Private Practice)
Katrina Baker – Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP
Judy Man Ni Mok – Morrison & Foerster LLP
Sharita M. Whitaker – Smith, Anderson, Blount, Dorsett, Mitchell & Jernigan, LLP
Winner: Sharita M. Whitaker – Smith, Anderson, Blount, Dorsett, Mitchell & Jernigan, LLP
Future Leader – Minority Lawyers (In-House)
Travis Torrence – Jiffy Lube International Inc/Shell Oil Company
Danielle Ducre Rawls – Ditech Financial LLC
Winner: Travis Torrence – Jiffy Lube International Inc/Shell Oil Company
Our two winners of the’Future Leader – Minority Lawyer’ awards have shown incredible dedication from the very beginning of their careers to advancing diversity and inclusion. Sharita Whitaker has progressed from serving on the Smith Anderson Diversity Committee and organising diverse networking events, such as an in-house lawyer mixer, to mentoring diverse law students and becoming Committee Chair for the North Carolina Bar Association’s Minorities in the Profession Committee. Similarly, Travis Torrence is a designated Equal Access Champion for the Houston Bar Association, serves on the Board of Directors of AIDS Foundation Houston and served as Co-chair of the HBA’s Minority Opportunities in the Legal Profession Committee.
Minority Lawyer of the Year (Private Practice)
Fernando A. Bohorquez Jr. – Baker & Hostetler LLP
Michael A. Brown – Miles & Stockbridge PC
Dale W. Lum – Sidley Austin LLP
Obrea O. Poindexter – Morrison & Foerster LLP
Ellisen Shelton Turner – Irell & Manella LLP
Timothy A. Wilkins – Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer US LLP
Winner: Timothy A. Wilkins – Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer US LLP
A worthy winner, Timothy Wilkins is the first African-American partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and has pioneered mentoring programs for minority lawyers, while also ensuring they receive adequate support for their business development. A true innovator, Tim introduced a program titled ‘Engage Your Hustle’, highlighting ways for minority lawyers to build their personal brand and advance their careers despite not having immediate access to the traditional ‘old boys’ networks.
To present our next award, we had the pleasure of welcoming to the stage S. Jeanine Conley. The winner of last years’ ‘Outstanding Contribution to Furthering the Advancement of Minority Lawyers’ award, Jeanine spoke candidly on the experience of being a minority lawyer in the USA. Another moving speech, Jeanine encouraged greater oppenness in the profession, the acceptance of difference, and the recognition of the incredible minority lawyers who have changed the face of the profession on society, on who’s shoulders she stands. Jeanine then went on the announce our deserving winner, Don H. Liu.
Minority Lawyer of the Year (In-House)
Jennifer Jaskolka – Xcel Energy, Inc.
Don H. Liu – Xerox Corporation
John Mbiti – Credit Suisse
Phyllis Golden Morey – Ingersoll Rand, Inc.
Julia A. Simon – Mary Kay, Inc.
Winner: Don H. Liu – Xerox Corporation
A legend of advancing diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, it is difficult to sum up Don Liu’s achievements for minority lawyers. From his personal mentoring to his involvement in myriad diversity organisations, such as the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Minority Corporate Counsel Association and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, Don has given freely of his time and resources for over 30 years. His commitment to not just recruiting diverse lawyers, but advancing their careers and turning them into leaders, makes him a deserving winner of the ‘Minority Lawyer of the Year’ award.
Most Inclusive Firm for Minority Lawyers (Private Practice)
Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo
Hogan Lovells US LLP
Latham & Watkins LLP
Proskauer Rose LLP
Rivero Mestre LLP
Sullivan & Cromwell LLP
Winner: Hogan Lovells US LLP
With a clear three year plan to improve the diversity of the firm, Hogan Lovells US LLP took the prize for ‘Most Inclusive Firm for Minority Lawyers’. Along with unconscious bias training for all partners and a great variety of affinity groups, the firm actively engages with minority law students, hosting mock interview workshops, training boot camps and sponsoring a variety of minority-focused future leader events. Beyond this, they frequently collaborate with clients to widen the diversity pipeline and ensure all associates are aware of how they can get involved in diversity initiatives.
Outstanding Firm for Furthering Diversity and Inclusion (Private Practice)
Crowell & Moring LLP
Greenberg Traurig, LLP
Hogan Lovells US LLP
Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, PC
Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP
Winner: Greenberg Traurig, LLP
Greenberg Traurig, LLP have built their reputation on putting power in the hands of diverse lawyers, putting them in real positions of authority and leadership and allowing them to thrive. Whether through their Women’s Business Forum, unconscious bias training program or ‘Out in Law’, their innovative LGBT network that cultivates global business opportunities for their LGBT lawyers, Greenberg have displayed outstanding commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.
Our next award is presented by our sponsor for this category, Baker Botts LLP’s Financial Restructuring Partner and nationwide leader for LGBT equality, Omar J. Alaniz.
Outstanding Company for Furthering Diversity and Inclusion (In-House)
JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A.
Mass Mutual Life Insurance Company
Toyota Motor, North America Inc.
Winner: Mass Mutual Life Insurance Company
Mass Mutual truly is an outstanding company for furthering diversity and inclusion. Spurred on by their Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Mark Roellig, the company has outlined a four step diversity initiative based on creating an inclusive environment, building the brand, developing the pipeline for recruitment and ensuring diverse talent is given the equal access to career advancement resources and promoted accordingly. Whether through affinity groups, event sponsoring or partnering with other organisations, such as Just the Beginning, A Pipeline Organisation, the company has reaped the benefits of it’s progressive approach, with a 70% increase of lawyers from diverse or non-traditional backgrounds joining the legal team in the last 10 years.
Pro Bono Program of the Year (Private Practice)
Debevoise & Plimpton LLP
Dentons US LLP
O’Melveny & Myers LLP
Ropes & Gray LLP
Sullivan & Cromwell LLP
Winner: Ropes & Gray LLP
Corporate Social Responsibility Program of the Year (In-House)
Southern California Edison Law Dept.
A mammoth effort from the pro bono program at Ropes & Gray LLP saw their lawyers devote over 114,000 hours to provide free legal services. From teaming up with the National Center for Lesbian Rights to tackle marriage equality legislation, to helping a a class of inmates at New York City jails on Rikers Island defend themselves from excessive force, the firm truly did its duty to the community. Comparably, Dell have introduced a number of exciting, original corporate social responsibility programs to affect change in the global community. From essay writing competitions bringing awareness to youth violence to ‘The GenAustin Road Trip to Dell’, in which middle school-age girls meet women working in technology at Dell, their commitment to diversity in the community is second to none.
Future Leader – Gender Diversity (Private Practice)
Melissa M. Crespo – Morrison & Foerster LLP
Rosario C. Doriott Domínguez – Baker & Hostetler LLP
Eva Spahn – Greenberg Traurig, LLP
Winner: Rosario C. Doriott Domínguez – Baker & Hostetler LLP
Future Leader – Gender Diversity (In-House)
Yaneris M. Rosa – Honeywell International, Inc.
Jennifer M. Lorentz – Emerson
Winner: Yaneris M. Rosa – Honeywell International, Inc.
Our private practice winner, Rosario Doriott Domínguez, has shown outstanding commitment to advancing gender diversity, both within her own firm and externally. As Co-chair of the Inclusiveness and Diversity Committee, Rosario has bridged the gap between different levels of staff and made sure that all women’s voices are heard. Beyond that, she has taken an intersectional approach, ensuring that minority women lawyers and LGBT lawyers are given the support they need to progress their careers. Yaneris Rosa, the in-house winner, has been similarly tireless in her efforts. Her key contributions have included assessing manager tools and training to focus on advancing diversity, establishing quarterly diversity bulletins and mentoring aspiring lawyers through from high school to the workplace.
Gender Diversity Lawyer of the Year (Private Practice)
Allison H. Altersohn – King & Spalding LLP
Sheryl L. Axelrod – The Axelrod Firm
Laurin B. Kleiman – Sidley Austin LLP
Andrea S. Kramer – McDermott Will & Emery LLP
Robyn R. Polashuk – Covington & Burling LLP
My Chi To – Debevoise & Plimpton LLP
Winner: Laurin B. Kleiman – Sidley Austin LLP
Gender Diversity Lawyer of the Year (In-House)
Carrie J. Hightman – NiSource, Inc.
Violeta Longino – Accor Hotels
Diane Weiss – PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP
Winner: Violeta Longino – Accor Hotels
Our ‘Gender Diversity Lawyer of the Year’ awards, for both private practice and in-house, saw some fantastic nominees on the shortlist. Standing out was Laurin B. Kleiman of Sidley Austin LLP, whose continued devotion to gender diversity has seen her sit as firm-wide Co-chair of Sidley’s Committee on Retention and Promotion of Women for 13 years. In conjunction with this, Laurin has pioneered programs and policies to fully support those at the firm with families, ensure the professional development of all women lawyers and provide the opportunities and resources for legal re-entry. Our in-house lawyer, Violeta Longino, has also shown outstanding commitment to gender diversity throughout her career. She has been instrumental in the growth in number and influence of the Women at Accor Hotels Generation network, while also taking a leading role in organising and sponsoring cross-industry and community events, to further empower women lawyers.
Outstanding Contribution to Furthering the Advancement of Diversity in the Legal Profession (Private Practice)
Hilarie Bass – Greenberg Traurig, LLP
Sheila Boston – Kaye Scholer LLP
Dennis Hopkins – Perkins Coie LLP
Kenzo Kawanabe – Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP
Winner: Sheila Boston – Kaye Scholer LLP
Finishing the evening off with a ceiling-shattering speech, delivered with the same passion that she puts into her work to advance diversity and inclusion, Sheila Boston was our ‘Outstanding Contribution to Furthering the Advancement of Diversity in the Legal Profession (Private Practice)’ winner. The first ever African-American woman in New York City to rise from summer associate to partner at the same firm, Sheila was recently expressly invited to contribute to President Obama’s ‘My Brothers Keeper’ initiative, breaking down barriers for disadvantaged youth, in particular young men of colour. Beyond her various roles on boards of organisations seeking to affect positive change in the legal profession, which are too numerous to list, Sheila devotes much of her time delivering speeches to aspiring or junior lawyers and actively mentoring others. Her pro bono work has also been focused on diversity and inclusion, acting as a key member of the team that successfully handled cases petitioning for transgender name changes. Sheila Boston is a true diversity champion.
It was an honour to organise and host such a special event. The energy for positive change that was created in the room was a truly incredible feeling. We look forward to welcoming you all next year.