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April 1, 2024 Focus | DEI

Law firms focus on internal DEI efforts

Virginia McGarrity

While law firms provide guidance to clients regarding diversity, equity and inclusion, they also have their own internal DEI strategies.

McCarter & English Hartford Office Managing Partner Moy N. Ogilvie has been at her firm for 20 years and heads its DEI initiatives, policies and programs across all 12 offices, including two in Connecticut. McCarter & English’s DEI efforts mainly fall into two categories: talent and culture.

“It’s our goal to attract the broadest group of applicants at every level — from the attorneys, to our professional staff. It’s our goal to attract them, develop them, maintain them and then give them opportunities for growth,” Ogilvie said. “On the culture side, it’s our hope to continue to create a culture that is inclusive to the fullest extent possible.”

Making sure practice group leaders, committee members, office managers and other staff represent a diverse range of the country’s population is important, she said.

“There’s been a dramatic change in what we look like as a firm, but also, who the leaders in our firm are. Because diversity, equity, inclusion, it’s not just about having people in place, it’s about having people in place and giving them opportunities to lead,” Ogilvie said.

She said the legal industry has made strides when it comes to internal DEI practices over the last several years, but there’s still work to be done. McCarter itself has had a DEI program overseer position for about a decade, and other firms are following suit.

DEI stamp of approval

Diversity Lab, an organization that works with law firms and legal departments to create “more fair, equitable, and inclusive communities and workplaces,” has developed an annual certification process called the Mansfield Rule that ensures employees have a fair and equal opportunity to advance into leadership positions at their respective employer.

McCarter & English is participating in the current cohort of law firms working to earn Mansfield Rule certification. In October, Hartford law firm Robinson+Cole announced it had achieved a Mansfield Rule Certification Plus rating, meaning the company has gone above and beyond when it comes to its DEI efforts.

Specifically, the designation means Robinson+Cole has considered at least 30% women, lawyers of color, lawyers with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ lawyers — historically underrepresented attorneys — among its field of candidates for significant leadership roles and activities in the firm.

“We’ve been Mansfield-certified for a number of years,” said Robinson+ Cole Partner Virginia E. McGarrity, co-chair of the firm’s diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging committee. “There are multiple external measures or validations of Robinson+Cole’s diversity initiatives and programs.”

She said the law firm’s DEI initiatives are “a series of aspirational goals backed by concrete action items” laid out every three years as part of its diversity action plan, which is included in Robinson+ Cole’s overall strategic plan.

Part of those efforts include hosting town hall-style meetings with employees throughout the year that highlight the firm’s DEI initiatives and programs. The firm has also enhanced the transparency of its advancement and compensation policies as part of its DEI strategy.

“We want to work to ensure that all talent at the firm has a fair and equal opportunity to advance into leadership,” McGarrity said.

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