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Grand Rapids Bar Association Unveils Action Plan for Managing Partners Diversity Collaborative
The Grand Rapids Bar Association, in conjunction with 12 of the region’s leading law firms, will unveil the action plan of the Managing Partners Diversity Collaborative to increase diversity in the legal community on Thursday, March 22.
By: Mary Ann Sabo
More than 10 months in the making, the action plan details how the GRBA, Warner Norcross, Varnum Law, Miller Johnson and nine other law firms will work to “achieve diversity and inclusion in the education, retention and promotion of Michigan’s attorneys.” The five-year plan, which will be released during a 5 p.m. signing ceremony at the University Club in downtown Grand Rapids, establishes committees that will address three critical issues facing the Bar Association and members firms:
• Increasing the number of attorneys of colors in West Michigan law firms within five years
• Improve the rates of retention and advancement of female attorneys and attorneys
• Expanding the pipeline of persons of color who enter law school and the profession
The signing ceremony, which will include comments by GRBA President Mark Smith, is open to the media.
“Much thoughtfulness and hard work went into developing this action plan, which will provide a five-year roadmap for the Bar Association and area law firms as we work to increase diversity,” Smith said. “Through many discussions, the managing partners of West Michigan’s leading law firms realize that together we can accomplish much more than we can individually.
“As a legal community, we recognize the importance of collaboration to bring about changes that will increase our diversity and ensure we are open and inclusive. This action plan is another significant step in that process.”
Smith explained that the Managing Partners Diversity Collaborative was formed in June 2011 after a series of productive discussions on ways that medium and large law firms can improve diversity and inclusion. The action plan establishes three committees focused on pipeline development, recruitment and retention, then lays out specific steps that each will take.
Some of the actions recommended include:
• Working with area high school guidance counselors and college pre-law advisors to position the collaborative firms and the GRBA as a resource
• Developing a mentorship program model for high school and college students to encourage students law as a career
• Recruiting attorneys and staff to participate in Schools of Hope tutoring programs, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and other programs
• Pooling resources to provide financial assistance to students of color through scholarship or support in taking LSAT prep courses
• Expanding opportunities for the Minority Clerkship Program, including development of judicial internships
• Facilitating introductions of lateral candidates to member firms of the collaborative and developing a mechanism to share information
• Developing a mentorship program for lateral associates of color to facilitate a connection to the community
• Ensuring that work environments and work-related social activities are hospitable and inclusive
• Developing a strategy to increase the number of female attorneys and attorneys of color in leadership positions
• Instituting an annual training program on diversity and inclusion, sponsored by GRBA and collaborative member firms
• Developing an annual conference that focuses on business development and leadership development for female attorneys and attorneys of color
• Developing social media strategies to provide information and resources
Signatories to the Managing Partners Diversity Collaborative are:
Tracey T. Larsen, Barnes & Thornburg
Ingrid A. Jensen, Clark Hill
James S. Brady, Dykema
Frank G. Dunten, Dickinson Wright
Michael D. Homier, Foster Swift
Richard A. Gaffin, Miller Canfield
Craig A. Mutch, Miller Johnson
Kevin T. Grzelak, Price Heneveld
Robert C. Shaver. Jr., Rhoades McKee
William J. Hondorp, Smith Haughey
Douglas A. Wagner, Warner Norcross
Lawrence J. Murphy, Varnum Law