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Wednesday, Feb 28, 2024

Improve DE&I Without Sacrificing Success

Hanson Bridgett is a multidisciplinary law firm with 190 attorneys throughout the state of California. Hanson has a broad-based platform of practice areas, representing a wide range of clients from multinational Fortune 500 corporations to individuals across a variety of industries. Being a conscious corporate citizen has always been central to our firm identity and, as socially responsible members of our communities, we are proud to be a certified B Corp.

Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is uniquely reflected throughout our workforce consisting of 46 percent women, 29 percent people of color, and 5 percent self-identified LGBTQ+ individuals. These numbers represent conscious and intentional action and we believe this is a differentiator for our firm in the marketplace.

Since 2019, Hanson Bridgett has been lauded as an industry-leader garnering nearly 20 awards celebrating our diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

We both proudly joined Hanson Bridgett from prior firms and in our new leadership roles we are working hard to advance these efforts.

The legal landscape is a competitive environment that can be challenging to not only thrive in, but also, sustain, especially for female and minority attorneys. Hanson is a trailblazer in the legal industry as illustrated by our consistent award recognitions from the California Minority Counsel Program and Leadership Council on Legal Diversity.

Since our founding in 1958, our firm has worked to implement a variety of initiatives to support diversity and inclusion efforts. In 1991, we formed a Diversity and Associate Mentoring Committee which later evolved into the Diversity & Inclusion Network. In 2002, the firm started its 1L Interview Workshop to give diverse and first-generation law students interview guidance and practice opportunities—the first program of its type by any firm in California.

In 2010, the firm launched the Women’s Impact Network to provide mentoring and support to our female workforce as they advance in their careers, which includes summer associates.

In 2020, we formed the Real Action Calling for Equality Task Force, an action-oriented committee that has been re-examining the firm’s initiatives to invest in and serve racial justice and equity, both internally and externally.  

In 2021, we assumed our roles as the firm’s first female Managing Partner and first Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer (CDEIO), which marks the firm’s most diverse leadership and management team in our history.

It takes time to move the needle. It is great to be recognized for where we are today, but we know there is more to do.

As a California law firm, we believe it is crucial that we look like our broader communities and operate with a high level of tolerance and acceptance of each person.  

We intentionally formalized our CDEIO role in 2021, so we have resources dedicated to implementing initiatives that address everyday issues that have perpetuated workplaces for far too long – and in the legal landscape, we are late in tackling them.

For us, moving forward includes increasing mentorship methods and opportunities, examining policies that may allow for unconscious bias and changing them, offering cultural education and anti-racism training, promoting volunteer opportunities to all staff and attorneys, partnering with clients to do meaningful work in the private sector, and working with law schools to expand the diversity pipeline.  

Last year, we joined Diversity Lab’s Mansfield 4.0 initiative, which is an accountability tool to increase the representation of historically underrepresented lawyers in leadership. We are rigorously working toward this certification with an eye towards the most important population of stakeholders: law students.

Each generation of law students has become more confident asking pointed questions, like “What are you doing in this area?” “Can you explain your diversity numbers?” “What is it like to be a diverse attorney at this firm?” and “What kind of changes has the firm already implemented in this area, and what will you do next?” Law students are more willing to hold firms accountable to action: “How are you using your immense resources and privilege to meet your oath as a lawyer to serve the interests of justice?”

We challenge our peers in the marketplace to be ready to speak to these questions. Not enough has changed since we both attended law school; we remember having conversations about diversity then too. The next generation understands these issues, it is an inherent priority to their decision-making process, and they will be the ones pushing law firms to make lasting changes.
Our ‘trailblazer’ initiatives in the diversity, equity and inclusion space are our call to action.  Start somewhere and start now.

Kristina Lawson is managing partner; and Jennifer Martinez is chief diversity, equity & inclusion officer at Hanson Bridgett LLP. Learn more at HansonBridgett.com.

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