BJ Trach is a Litigation & Trial partner in the Boston office of Latham & Watkins and is Vice Chair of Latham’s Diversity Leadership Committee. In this Q&A, he talks about what diversity and inclusion means at Latham, why diversity matters, and what Latham is doing to build a more diverse and inclusive legal profession.
What does diversity and inclusion mean at Latham & Watkins?
At Latham & Watkins, we believe that a diverse pool of talent brings different perspectives that are essential to problem solving for our clients. Accordingly, we take a very broad view of diversity and inclusion that encompasses race, ethnicity, gender, LGBTQ, religious diversity, cultural diversity, socioeconomic diversity, and any other characteristic or life experience that brings a diversity of perspective. We believe that our diversity makes us who we are.
The firm has a decentralized management model, which includes an extensive committee structure. Associates are not only given the opportunity to sit on committees but to also make real decisions about firm operations. The Associates Committee, for example, is comprised of equal numbers of partners and associates, and makes recommendations about associate progression, promotion to partnership, and bonuses. Latham values both consensus and transparency, and the firm has long recognized that diverse perspectives ensure thoughtful management and broad-based support for policies and programs.
Why does diversity matter to Latham & Watkins?
Lawyers solve problems—at the most basic level, that’s what we do every day. Latham has offices in the world’s major business and financial centers, and we work with clients in nearly every industry. Our clients are incredibly diverse, and they want their legal teams to be equally diverse.
Saying that we “think outside the box” has become a cliché, but nevertheless we believe that the diversity of our teams helps guarantee that we confront our clients’ challenges with a great amount of flexibility and deftness. Our firm culture promotes and values inclusiveness at every level, so we bring that same spirit to staffing our matters. The unique experiences and backgrounds of our lawyers and staff enable us to offer clients the most innovative, creative solutions to their most complicated legal challenges.
Related to our ability to provide the premier client service our firm is known for, it’s essential that we recruit, retain, develop and promote the very best legal talent in the world. We believe that this talent comes from all walks of life and does not conform to a single mold.
What is Latham doing to recognize and recruit diverse talent?
We have several innovative programs in place to identify and recruit diverse law students, among them:
- 1L Fellowship Program: a unique summer employment opportunity for students who have just finished their first year of law school in the US to spend half their summer with us and half their summer in-house in the legal department of one of our clients. Applications are available beginning December 1, 2016, with a deadline of January 11, 2017.
- Diversity Leadership Academy: a three-day, firm-sponsored, training and development program for first-year law students and Latham associates, through which we seek to build community and develop and empower future leaders of the legal profession. Applications are available beginning December 1, 2016, with a deadline of January 11, 2017.
- 2L Diversity Scholars Program: scholarships are awarded to select law students, in addition to training, mentoring, and networking opportunities, with the acceptance of an offer of 2L summer employment.
What is Latham doing to retain and promote attorneys already at the firm?
We pride ourselves on designing programs that have meaningful impacts on our lawyers’ professional development and quality of life. Many of these programs are devoted to increasing and supporting diversity among our attorney ranks.
What follows is a small sampling of the firm’s efforts in this regard:
- Diversity Leadership Academy: as mentioned above, a multi-day, in-person training and development program for Latham associates and first-year law students, focused on developing leadership skills and building community.
- Women’s Leadership Academy: multiday, in-person academies for senior associates and partners, which aim to provide concrete tools for professional success and advancement.
- Global Affinity Groups: firmwide platforms for diverse lawyers to share experiences, advice, and interests.
- Multicultural Promotion and Attainment Coalition (MPAC): an associate-driven, grassroots initiative in our offices that strives to strengthen our culture of inclusion through educational and social activities.
- Global Mentoring Program: every new associate is matched with a senior associate or partner, who provides career guidance, helps the mentee navigate the firm, and serves as a confidential advisor.
How do you view the future of diversity and inclusion in the legal profession?
There is much to be done—it’s true. The legal profession has not necessarily kept pace with the increased diversity of society at large, or even with the diversity present in parts of the corporate world. But what’s exciting to me as a diverse attorney has been the chance to witness so many changes in the last 15 years. We have more pathways, more mentors, more opportunities than previous generations, certainly, and there is wonderful momentum to make even more significant progress in the years ahead.
Increasing the diversity of the profession is a responsibility shared by firms both big and small. We’re starting to see wide-range acceptance of policies and programs that allow lawyers to find a path to success that’s tailored to them as individuals. We’re also seeing the creation and implementation of new pipelines that encourage those who have been traditionally underrepresented in the legal field to look to the law as a viable career, and to ensure that attorneys from every background find a welcoming and supportive place in which to thrive.