Law firms thrive or fail based on the quality of their work.  Schiff Hardin has thrived for 150 years because it knows – and has known for a long time – that diverse teams are more successful than homogeneous teams.  The best ideas come when lawyers with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives share ideas with each other. 

For that reason, we are methodical in our approach to diversity and inclusion.  Our commitment begins with our work to recruit, retain, and advance people of diverse backgrounds.  Then our Diversity Committee and its four subcommittees concentrate on making the firm an inclusive environment and supporting community groups and pipeline initiatives that encourage people of diverse backgrounds to enter the legal profession.

Our efforts have been rewarded with top rankings from the legal industry’s most respected organizations.  We’re grateful for that recognition but eager to keep working and improving. 

  • Recognition

    Leading publications and national rankings organizations applaud our diversity efforts.  We are especially proud of the following recent awards: 

    • Human Rights Campaign. For the fifth year running, we received a 100 percent score on the 2015 Corporate Equality Index, as determined by our LGBT workplace policies and benefits.
    • Working Mother Magazine and Flex-Time Lawyers.  Schiff Hardin has been named one of the 50 Best Law Firms for Women nationwide every year since 2012.
    • Vault. The 2016 Best Law Firms survey ranked us #2 in the nation for diversity for women, #7 for diversity for minorities, and #9 for overall diversity.
    • Equality Illinois. For the past five years, we have been honored as a leading law firm for LGBT workplace inclusion and equality.
    • Women in Law Empowerment Forum (WILEF). We received the Gold Standard Firm certification recognizing women in the highest leadership positions in 2015 for the third year in a row. Schiff Hardin was one of only eight firms in the nation to earn a perfect score. 
  • Recruiting and Professional Development

    Our recruiting and retention practices are designed to help us hire and retain a diverse group of lawyers.  We overhauled our recruiting process a few years ago because we see law student recruits as more than just resumes.

    We added two new parts to our interview process. The first is an interview with a diverse panel of Schiff Hardin partners. Schiff Hardin partners ask carefully structured, pre-planned behavioral questions to gather extensive information about students’ professional, academic, extracurricular, and other individual life experiences. The format is designed to eliminate bias, and panel members have been professionally trained to interview effectively. The atmosphere is welcoming and lets students highlight their unique backgrounds, experiences, and talents.

    The second new part is a brief writing exercise. We hand candidates a case and ask them to answer a question posed by someone who is affected by it. This part of our interview helps us see who is ready and eager to interact with real clients early in their career. We seek organized thoughts, clear writing, and an appropriate tone. We review the writing exercises without knowing any information about the candidate, which ensures that our process is gender- and diversity-neutral.

    We are finding many diverse law students who are excited about the Firm – and we are actively recruiting them.

    Over the past few years, we have also redoubled our efforts to increase the pool of diverse candidates that we interview. We interview at the Cook County Minority Job Fair, Southeastern Minority Job Fair, Bay Area Diversity Job Fair, Lavender Law and on campus at over twenty law schools nationwide, including Howard University, a predominantly minority law school in Washington, D.C.  Several of our lawyers also participated in formal and informal mentoring programs, including the University of Chicago’s Women’s Mentoring Program, Northwestern University’s OUTlaw organization, and the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago.

    Our recent recruiting results bear out our efforts. The 2015 summer associate class has the highest percentage of women summer associates in firm history.  And our 2014 summer program had the highest percentage of racially diverse summer associates ever.

    Our inclusive environment also helps us retain talent

    Seven years ago, Schiff Hardin appointed Lisa Brown, a litigation partner, to be the Firm’s first Professional Development Partner. Lisa works with all of our associates to ensure that they receive the professional opportunities and training they need. Her work with associates – both diverse and non-diverse – helps them navigate the law firm environment and effectively manage their work. The Firm also hired Julie Schrager as its legal writing coach. Julie works closely with our summer associates and associates to improve their writing skills. She holds small- and large-group workshops but spends most of her time working one-on-one with individual lawyers.

    While we plan on the success of every associate and lateral we hire, we know that attorneys have different needs and goals at different stages of their careers and that no two career paths are the same. For these reasons, we mentor diverse and non-diverse attorneys and monitor our progress toward creating long, successful, and rewarding careers for each of them.  

    We also have a compensation and advancement structure that is adapted to associates’ individual needs.  There are three tiers of associates.  Each practice group has specifically identified and communicated the core competencies that are required for advancement.  And to further ensure that our associates gain the experiences and skills they need to advance, we hold annual “practice mastery” conferences for each firm associate.

    Our hiring approach has one additional unique feature:  we allow new associates to spend up to a year working in their choice of practice areas before selecting a primary area. Further, once an associate has chosen a primary practice area, he or she may still work in others. These policies help us both recruit and retain and advance minority and women attorneys.

image description

Judge Patricia Brown Holmes

Change is happening here. I’ve seen it. While partners once chose people they knew to staff their teams, now I see them look for the best person for the job. They are thinking hard about inclusion. Lawyers here make an effort to get to know each other as people and to give everyone a fair shot.
image description

Joanne B. Faycurry

I left my prior law firm of nearly 24 years and joined Schiff Hardin in part because of the firm’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Now I see that commitment firsthand. The firm devotes substantial resources to attracting, developing, and promoting its women attorneys.
image description

Clay A. Tillack

Schiff Hardin’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is exemplified by the photograph on my desk. It’s of my husband and me taken on the day we celebrated our marriage. Many of my colleagues joined us at the event. Even more have wished us well. The firm’s support for LGBT equality is personal for me.