Equality Committee Multnomah Lawyer Articles

September 2007 Multnomah Lawyer Article

A Commitment to Diversity

By Parna Mehrbani, Lane Powell

The MBA Equality Committee is committed to providing articles in the Multnomah Lawyer highlighting the activities and programs developed and/or sponsored by MBA members and their firms, companies or organizations that promote and provide better understanding of the diversity in our legal profession and in our community. If you would like to recognize an individual, group or firm for their commitment to equality, please contact Kathy Maloney, liaison to the MBA Equality Committee. The following is the fourth article in this series, and recognizes the activities and programs of the firm of Lane Powell in its ongoing efforts to support a diverse law profession and community.

The MBA Equality Committee has asked me to write an article about Lane Powell's commitment to furthering diversity within the firm and promoting diversity in the communities in which we practice.

For many years, Lane Powell has had policies to further diversity within the firm and in the profession. In early 2003, the firm re-invigorated its Diversity Committee, which designs and implements programs and strategies that promote an inclusive work environment and encourage the success of all employees by focusing on promoting diversity in our communities and in the legal profession.

Internally, the firm works to recruit and retain attorneys by supporting existing diversity programs and assisting in initiating programs within the firm and local bar associations.

Our George V. Powell Diversity Scholarship is awarded to a summer associate in the firm's Seattle or Portland office. The recipient receives a $6,000 scholarship toward tuition and expenses during their third year of law school.

For over 15 years, our Seattle office has hired a summer associate through the Puget Sound Area Minority Clerkship Program, which is designed to provide summer associate opportunities for minority first-year students from the U of W and Seattle University School of Law. Our Portland office has participated in a similar program, the First Year Honors Program, through the OSB.

Lane Powell is actively involved in the Northwest Minority Job Fair, which provides a forum for minority law students and attorneys to interview with a variety of legal employers. Over 40 employers conduct interviews, including private firms, nonprofits and government agencies.

Lane Powell also conducts interviews at the Oregon Minority Job Fair, organized by the Minority Law Student Association of Lewis & Clark Law School. The job fair targets second- and third-year ethnic minority law students from the three Oregon law schools, providing a forum for students to interview for summer associate and associate positions.

Since the fall of 2006, Lane Powell has hired 27 attorneys, including three attorneys of color, one attorney from an ethnic minority and 11 women.

To retain diverse lawyers and ensure their success, the Diversity Committee has designed and implemented the firm's mentor program, which it continually oversees. Our mentor program pairs associates with shareholders who provide insight into the firm and the profession.

Outside the firm, Lane Powell and its attorneys are actively involved in numerous legal associations and professional and nonprofit organizations that promote the advancement of women and ethnic minorities in the legal profession and diversity in our communities. We frequently attend and sponsor events organized by these groups.

Lane Powell attends and contributes to numerous fundraising events that directly benefit diverse members of the community and the profession, including the annual Ebony and Ivory Scholarship Benefit event, the "Bowlio" fundraiser for the OSB Affirmative Action Program's (AAP) Opportunities for Law in Oregon (OLIO) program, the Urban League, the Loren Miller Annual Luncheon and Basic Rights Oregon events.

For the past several years, a Lane Powell lawyer has served on the AAP Committee. The AAP strives to increase the diversity of the Oregon bench and bar to reflect the variety of the people of Oregon by educating attorneys about the rich, unique cultural heritage of the clients they serve and by removing barriers to justice. Participation in the AAP has given us the opportunity to join lawyers around Oregon in supporting the diversity of Oregon's legal community. Last fall, various firms came together to raise awareness and support the renewal of the AAP by the House of Delegates. Our Director of Marketing Communications also participated in a group discussion with local firms regarding how to best show support for the AAP.

Lane Powell, like many law firms in Oregon, is working to overcome barriers to the practice of law for all minorities. All of the described activities and events are joint efforts of many law firms, schools, nonprofits, individual lawyers and others. Together we are striving not only to diversify the legal profession and our communities, but to gain a better understanding of each other and the profession.