Equality Committee Multnomah Lawyer Articles

May 2009 Multnomah Lawyer article

Diversity at Davis Wright Tremaine

By Eric L. Dahlin, Davis Wright Tremaine and MBA Equality Committee member

Davis Wright Tremaine (DWT) began laying the foundation for its diversity program in 1999, formalizing a commitment to increasing its number of diverse attorneys and staff. In 2000, we formed PRISM, our firm-wide committee which provides leadership and focus for our diversity efforts. PRISM is chaired by Duane Bosworth, partner in our Portland office. Its membership is itself diverse and includes representatives from among DWT's nine offices.

PRISM adopted a firm-wide mission that includes a commitment to: hiring and retaining diverse lawyers and staff; creating a workplace that is welcoming to diversity; and giving voice to diverse contributions within the firm. PRISM works in five strategic areas:

Recruitment

We continue to grow our efforts to hire diverse attorneys and staff. For example:

  • We regularly participate in six regional and national minority job fairs, including the national Council on Legal Education Opportunity Career Fair in Detroit, Michigan and the Northwest and Oregon Minority Job Fairs.
  • At the law school level, we offer the John M. Davis Diversity Scholarship, which honors our founder and helps ensure diversity among future generations of lawyers. The scholarship fund has grown to nearly $230,000, including significant donations from our partners. In addition, we offer three national scholarships for diverse first-year law students.
  • The firm also regularly sponsors events for minority student organizations, such as the Northwest Regional Black Law Student Association Convention, held in Portland earlier this year.
  • When we seek to fill a lateral position, the individual practice group doing the hiring is formally asked about its efforts to identify and interview diverse candidates.

Retention

We provide formal mentoring and professional development programs for all diverse attorneys, and a peer-to-peer program for lateral hires.

Last year we began a program matching senior partners with senior diverse associates and counsel as they approach the partnership consideration process.

We eagerly support diverse lawyers' memberships and participation in diverse and ethnic bar associations and we have a dedicated budget to sponsor events held by those associations.

Cultural Competency

We provide opportunities for our attorneys and staff to enhance their ability and confidence in talking about issues of diversity, including a six-week program called "Understanding Racism" led by Duane Bosworth.

Individual offices sponsor popular diversity-oriented challenges, including entertaining and educational quizzes during Black History Month, with prizes awarded.

We meet periodically with diverse attorneys and staff and firm leadership to discuss issues of special concern or which provide special opportunities for enhancing our diversity.

Vendor Diversity

The firm has an ongoing commitment to purchase at least five percent of our goods and services from minority-owned business enterprises and at least five percent from woman-owned business enterprises.

Communication and Visibility

We regularly communicate the results of our efforts through tools such as our firm Managing Partner's Report on Diversity, a diversity section on our newly-launched Web site, and PRISM reports on our internal intranet.

The firm also benefits from the expertise of our own Corporate Diversity Counseling Practice Group, which advises Fortune 500 CEOs, general counsel and other senior executives on diversity matters.

New Manager of Diversity Initiatives Position

Last year DWT established a new position, manager of diversity initiatives, to develop and promote the firm's diversity programs and strategies. The manager reports to the firm's managing partner and works closely with PRISM, and with our clients, practice group heads, administrative departments, and our recruiting and mentoring committees. The manager, Karen Russell, a Harvard-trained corporate diversity and employment law attorney (and incidentally, daughter of Boston Celtic great Bill Russell) coordinates all efforts to develop diversity best practices and to educate all of us at all levels.

The "Call to Action"

DWT supports the nationwide Call to Action, an initiative of the national Minority Corporate Counsel Association which reaffirms participating major corporations' commitment to increasing diversity in the legal profession. Dave Baca, our Portland-based, firm-wide managing partner, attended the Call to Action's recent invitation-only summit, which convened corporate general counsels and law firm managing partners to create new strategies for enhancing diversity in the profession. "I returned from the summit even more convinced that we must continue our efforts," said Baca. "We are on the right road."

The DWT /Microsoft Mentoring Partnership

Microsoft and DWT have recently joined in a unique partnership to advance diversity in our profession. Together we developed a mentoring program in which diverse and woman attorneys from DWT interact with Microsoft lawyers and managers. Through personal meetings and group presentations on social, educational and professional matters, participants address issues of special concern for diverse attorneys. The program, which we believe is one of the first of its kind, is yielding immediate results. Our lawyers are learning a great deal about our clients at Microsoft and we have increased the number of diverse associates working on client matters.

The Future

Although much work still lies ahead, we are proud that DWT's leadership has long viewed enhanced diversity within our firm as the right thing to do. Along the way, we are also discovering its strategic importance to the firm's long-term success. We look forward to reporting in the future on new developments, new programs and best practices developed by dedicated and creative people in all walks of the firm.