Law firms thrive or fail based on the quality of their work. And our work improves when we have diverse teams doing it. Diverse teams think deeper thoughts, generate more creative ideas, and provide broader perspective. Why? Because teams of lawyers with different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives do not just echo each other. They challenge and question each other. And that process creates great results. We create strong diverse teams by cultivating an inclusive culture that helps everyone here succeed.
We don’t just print this mission – we live it from the top down.
Diversity at Schiff Hardin starts at the top. The firm’s managing partner, Marci Eisenstein, is one of few women leading an AmLaw 200 law firm, and four of our seven Executive Committee members are women or diverse lawyers. Three of those lawyers also serve on the firm’s Diversity Committee.
Our recruiting and retention practices help us hire and retain a diverse group of lawyers. To us, law student recruits are a lot more than their resumes. We use structured interviews with diverse panels of lawyers to minimize implicit bias, we interview at many job fairs, and we host regular 1L writing workshops at Howard University Law School to help us recruit diverse law students.
Our recent recruiting results bear out our efforts. Our 2017 summer program was 47 percent diverse. And the 2015 summer associate class had the highest percentage of women summer associates in firm history – 75 percent.
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, the associate may still work in others.
We plan on the success of every associate and lateral we hire. But at the same time 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 all associates and monitor our progress toward creating long, successful, and rewarding careers for each of them. We also have a professional development team and a legal writing coach to work closely with our summer associates and associates to improve their writing skills.
Giving Honor Where Honor is Due
We value our attorneys’ efforts to promote diversity and inclusion. In 2013, the Diversity Committee created the firm’s “Catalyst Award,” a prize to call attention to individual attorneys’ diversity efforts and to recognize firm members’ contributions to the firm’s diversity and inclusion efforts.
Each year, Schiff Hardin contributes time and financial resources to more than 100 community organizations. Our involvement is wide-ranging. It includes providing pro bono counsel to immigrants, tutoring at-risk high school students, and serving meals at a homeless shelter. For example, Schiff sponsors a team for the annual Playworks Illinois Corporate Kickball Tournament. Playworks creates healthy and inclusive play environments for diverse groups of kids. Further, several Schiff attorneys work with Women of Tomorrow Mentor & Scholarship Program, an organization that helps at-risk young women. We also support many diverse bar and pipeline organizations, especially those that encourage minority and first-generation students to continue their education and consider becoming lawyers. For more information on our pro bono efforts, visit Citizenship.
Schiff’s Diversity Committee plays a critical role coordinating the firm’s diversity efforts. The Diversity Committee has a singular and straightforward mission:
To enhance the firm’s ability to recruit, hire, develop, retain, and promote a diverse professional workforce on the basis of demonstrated merit and performance by continuing the development of an inclusive culture that promotes the likelihood of success for all lawyers at the firm.
The Committee oversees Schiff’s Inclusion Networks, our name for affinity groups. All firm attorneys who are interested in a specific Inclusion Network are encouraged to join and help plan and participate in programming. Our Diversity subcommittees, each led by firm leaders, include the following:
Race, Ethnicity and National Origin
Schiff Hardin has a proud and long tradition of supporting attorneys of diverse races, ethnicities, and national origins. Lawyers of color head up practice groups, manage offices, and serve on the firm’s Executive Committee. More than 21 percent of the firm’s associates are diverse.
We also work hard to make our profession more diverse. In 1999, the firm created a permanent endowment at Loyola University Law School for annual scholarships that are awarded to top-performing diverse first-year law students. We also underwrite an annual fellowship for Latino law students through the Hispanic Lawyers Scholarship Fund of Illinois. Our writing coach held a workshop for 1L women lawyers of color through the Diverse Attorneys Pipeline Project. Schiff partners with Street Law, a nonprofit organization that teaches young people of color about the law. We have also partnered with Cristo Rey, a high school with predominantly Spanish-speaking students in an underserved Chicago neighborhood, to act as mentors, teach classes, and hold a career conference.
Our attorneys also play prominent roles in bar associations, and our firm sponsors numerous events in every city where we maintain an office.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender
We have a national reputation as a leading law firm for LGBT workplace equality. Two recent awards stand out. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Corporate Equality Index gave us a perfect score and highest ranking based on our policies and benefits for LGBT employees for the eighth straight year. And we were ranked by Equality Illinois as a leading law firm for LGBT lawyers in Illinois.
We also perform significant work or offer meaningful support to the ACLU of Illinois; AIDS Legal Council of Chicago; Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund; Equality Illinois; and Human Rights Campaign, among others. Finally, Schiff Hardin reaches out to and supports LGBT law students. For example, Schiff Hardin sponsors Northwestern University’s OUTLaw organization, and our lawyers serve as mentors for students from several law schools.
Founded in 1998, the Women’s Networking Group (WNG) creates opportunities for women lawyers at the firm. The group hosts career advancement and mentoring programs, internal and external networking events, and a wide range of business development initiatives.
We create women rainmakers here. Twenty-five percent of the firm’s equity partners are women. WNG recognizes that business development is critical to lawyers’ success and that women may develop business differently from men, so our events cater to women’s networking styles.
Our informal mentoring experiences are numerous. One of the most popular ones is a WNG program called “Stories and Lessons Learned” and created by women associates. Each year WNG hosts a luncheon featuring a panel of senior women partners selected by the associates. A senior associate moderates, and the women partners speak openly about their personal successes and “a-ha moments,” as well as their individual choices and pathways to success at the firm. Nearly all of our women lawyers attend. These sessions have a proven record of enhancing associate/partner relationships and helping diverse young lawyers see different pathways to success here.
Networking Events: WNG programs include a broad range of networking and business growth events. They include the following:
- U.S. Open Tennis Tournament
- Women Everywhere Agency Day
- May Soiree Reception and Art Exhibit
- One of a Kind Show: Networking Reception and Shopping Experience
We know that many of our lawyers and staff balance demands outside the workplace with their work. For this reason, we offer flexible, part-time arrangements to lawyers, along with generous parental leave and adoption programs.
We also have several groups dedicated to helping our attorneys and their families. Most recently, the firm’s new moms and new dads created groups that include associates and partners and meet regularly to address topics relevant to parenting young children. The New Moms Group checks in with women who are transitioning in and out of maternity leave and discusses topics including advancement during this phase of life, nanny pay and taxes, flex time/part time schedules, business development opportunities, and pumping in the office and while traveling. The New Moms Group also maintains FAQs for Schiff’s new moms (or aspiring new moms!) to highlight firm resources, explains HR logistics for maternity leave, and addresses common issues and concerns for new moms. The New Dads Group provides similar support for new dads. In addition, the firm recently adopted an innovative Ramp Up/Down policy. The policy allows parents who will be their child’s primary caregiver to work 80% for full pay during the month before and after their parental leave.
We created a Veterans Subcommittee for two principal reasons. First, we want to pay particular attention to veterans in hiring. Veterans’ unique experiences enrich our firm and bring value. To that end, we hosted a recruiting reception for law students from Midwestern law schools who are veterans or veterans’ spouses, and we sponsor the Northwestern Law School’s Veterans Law Association. Second, we want to retain the veterans we hire. We know that active duty veterans and reservists may require specific accommodations to help fulfill their military commitments, including flex-time arrangements and hour reductions. We accommodate those commitments and consider veterans’ needs when we make decisions that could affect them.
Attorneys with Disabilities
We are strongly committed to ensuring that our lawyers with disabilities have every opportunity to have full and rich legal careers – and that they feel comfortable discussing their disability if they choose to discuss it. This subcommittee has overseen several projects, including creating accessible bathrooms for physically disabled visitors and staff and a guide for people with disabilities to navigate our office building in Chicago and using technology to accommodate people with hearing impairments. We are working hard to identify additional improvements in our offices nationwide to enhance accessibility.
We seek out additional opportunities to support people with disabilities in all of our offices.