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TCL > March 2000 Issue > Denver Area Law Firms Re-Commit to the Colorado Pledge to Diversity

March 2000       Vol. 29, No. 3       Page  21
Features

Denver Area Law Firms Re-Commit to the Colorado Pledge to Diversity

In 1993, twenty-three Denver law firms signed the Pledge to Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Colorado Law Firms to show their commitment to increasing the number of attorneys of color who are recruited, hired, trained, and invited to join the partnership ranks in Colorado law firms—large, medium, or small. In the last few years, lawyers from the signatory firms have begun to meet regularly to address ways to work as a group to achieve the goals embodied in the Pledge. In order to meet this challenge most effectively, members of the signatory firms believe that it is beneficial to have a re-commitment to the Pledge.

One purpose of the re-commitment is to allow for a revision of the Pledge to focus more on active ways of achieving diversity and to reflect the lessons learned since 1993. Other purposes of the re-commitment are to recognize the involvement of firms that did not originally sign the Pledge, but that have been active in promoting its stated objectives, and to open the doors to additional firms that are willing to commit to the Pledge. The revised Pledge requires not just a firm commitment to the goal of increased diversity, but also that each firm agree to devote the time of one or more of its lawyers to serve on committees formed by the Pledge law firm group to realize the Pledge objectives.

The Pledge law firm group has spent the last several months revising the Pledge, and the participating firms are prepared to commit to the revised Pledge in early April. Firms that did not sign the Pledge in 1993, but that are committed to the goals stated in the Pledge, are invited to participate. The full text of the revised Preamble and Pledge to Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Colorado Law Firms is set forth below. Any interested firm is encouraged to contact Diane Davies or Susani Dixon as soon as possible, but no later than March 15, 2000. Diane Davies, Faegre & Benson LLP, can be reached at (303) 820-0658 or ddavies@faegre.com; Susani Dixon, Holland & Hart, can be reached at (303) 295-8334 or sdixon@hollandhart.com.


PREAMBLE

January 2000

The Pledge to Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Colorado law firms was originally signed in April, 1993. Our purpose then was to set forth clear, realistic and attainable goals for the enhancement of racial and ethnic diversity in Colorado law firms. We agreed to join together in this undertaking because it was apparent to each of us that, despite individual efforts and good intentions, we had been unsuccessful in achieving the level of diversity that we wanted and should have attained.

We of the Colorado legal community take great pride in our profession. Ours is a profession of representing the rights of the privileged, the underprivileged, the many, and the few. We, as attorneys, should understand better than most the meaning of the words "Equal Opportunity." Yet we are acutely aware that, in Colorado, as elsewhere, equal opportunity in the legal field has not been fully available. We have made progress in the seven years since the Pledge was first signed, yet there are still far too few attorneys of color recruited, hired, trained, retained, and invited to join the partnership ranks in Colorado law firms—large, medium or small.

We believe that Colorado law firms must make positive and determined efforts to remedy this failure. We remain committed to recruiting, hiring, training, retaining, and inviting to partnership African-American/Black, Asian-Pacific American, Native American Indian, and Hispanic attorneys.

We have learned since the Pledge was first signed that the necessary changes will not be achieved by words alone. We now believe that in order to achieve the goals stated in the Pledge, it is necessary for us to not only commit philosophically to those goals, but to commit resources towards activities which we as a group believe will have a positive impact.

We are but a microcosm of the greater society within which we live. However, we propose to lead rather than follow, move forward rather than stand still. Although the specific goals set forth in this Pledge are directed toward attaining racial and ethnic diversity in Colorado law firms, each signatory believes that diversity, in its many facets, including without limitation, racial, ethnic, gender, religious, differently abled, and sexual orientation, enriches us all.

PLEDGE TO RACIAL AND ETHNIC DIVERSITY

IN COLORADO LAW FIRMS

EACH SIGNATORY PLEDGES:

I. To pursue full and equal participation of attorneys of color at all professional levels in its law firm by:

(1) Hiring and retaining attorneys of color;

(2) Providing attorneys of color equal access and opportunity for training, mentoring, guidance, evaluation, and opportunities to grow and succeed;

(3) Providing attorneys of color equal opportunity to participate fully in positions of firm leadership as well as administrative, professional, social and marketing activities;

(4) Inviting to partnership or shareholder status attorneys of color who meet the requisite criteria;

(5) Promoting greater sensitivity to the value of racial and ethnic diversity at all levels of the firm, including implementing racial diversity and sensitivity training wherever feasible;

(6) Adopting and enforcing a strong policy against discrimination at any level within the firm;

(7) Adopting and publicizing a commitment to racial and ethnic diversity within the firm;

(8) Establishing a position of leadership and/or a committee responsible for monitoring and advancing the firm's commitment to diversity;

(9) Including the firm's commitment to diversity as a subject for periodic discussion and review at firm meetings, including meetings of firm management; and

(10) Including contributions to the firm's commitment to diversity as part of any evaluation process for attorneys and firm administrative managers.

II. To increase the number of offers of employment extended to law students and attorneys of color by taking the following steps whenever possible:

(1) Establish a viable mechanism to initiate, monitor, periodically evaluate, and improve recruitment programs for law students and attorneys of color;

(2) Increase the pool of applicants of color who will meet the hiring criteria by:

(i) identifying and recruiting students of color through law school placement administrators, faculty members, present or former summer clerks, organizations of law students, job fairs, local receptions for law students of color, and other organized law student activities;

(ii) Developing, through the Pledge group, and participating in, a clerk program for law students of color;

(iii) establishing and participating in a joint law-firm recruitment group to travel to law schools outside of Colorado in order to encourage law students of color to interview with Colorado legal employers, which may include on-campus interviews by member law firms as well as job fairs;

(iv) identifying and recruiting attorneys of color as lateral hires through referrals of law school placement administrators, faculty and/or other practicing attorneys and law firms, routinely listing available positions with local specialty bar associations, and consistently advising all recruitment sources of the importance of referring diverse candidates; and

(v) sharing the resumes of qualified applicants of color with other signatory law firms with the permission of the applicant; and

(3) Apply consistent overall hiring criteria to all applicants, which criteria should not be limited to academic performance, but should also consider each applicant's communication skills, leadership skills, integrity, resourcefulness, responsibility, client satisfaction potential, life experiences and other factors which demonstrate an ability to succeed in the legal profession;

(4) Include attorneys of color on committees that have responsibility for the recruitment, hiring, training, evaluation, retention, and advancement of attorneys; and

(5) Setting goals for hiring attorneys of color within the firm.

III. To increase retention and promotion rates for attorneys of color by taking the following steps:

(1) Assist each newly hired attorney (regardless of race or level) in learning the firm's culture, history, practices, and procedures;

(2) Ensure that attorneys of color are afforded, on a consistent basis, opportunities equivalent to those provided to all other attorneys in the quality and quantity of legal work assignments as necessary to develop skills and acquire experience for success and advancement;

(3) Ensure that attorneys of color have the same opportunity to (i) perform significant work assignments for important clients, (ii) receive interesting and challenging legal work, and (iii) receive training, guidance, mentoring, client contact, performance feedback, and other opportunities to grow and succeed;

(4) Ensure that the work environment is as hospitable and congenial for attorneys of color as it is for all other attorneys, and include attorneys of color in work-related social activities with other attorneys and clients;

(5) Include all new attorneys in programs that enhance their understanding of business concepts, client relations, client satisfaction, and their confidence in dealing with client matters;

(6) Adopt policies that prohibit law-firm sponsored functions in places that discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, gender, or sexual orientation;

(7) Ensure that attorneys of color have the same opportunities as all other attorneys to achieve partnership status by (i) using the same criteria for all attorneys for partnership evaluations and (ii) guiding the development of attorneys of color in the same manner as for all other partnership track attorneys; and

(8) Adopt mechanisms to monitor progress and compliance with these commitments, including, wherever feasible, internal surveys, questionnaires, interviews and other appropriate means for identifying problems and/or areas for improvement.

IV. To encourage the legal education of students of color in the Colorado law schools by contributing annually to one or more of the following:

(1) Programs which increase the opportunities for law students of color to serve as clerks in the Colorado trial and appellate courts;

(2) Any of the local bar associations' scholarship funds for law students of color; and/or

(3) Any other established scholarship funds or programs, including those provided at the local law schools which provide financial assistance to students of color attending Colorado law schools or establishing scholarship funds for students of color.

V. To evidence our support of this Pledge and to support activities which we believe will facilitate achievement of the goals stated herein:

(1) To contribute annually, an amount of money, determined by consensus of the undersigned firms, necessary to carry out the planning and implementation of projects agreed upon by the group.

(2) To commit the time of no less than one lawyer in the firm to actively serve on one or more committees which we intend to establish and maintain, to plan and implement projects in furtherance of the goals stated in this Pledge. It is anticipated that each firm will dedicate a minimum of 30 hours per year to service on such committees.

(3) To share information, at least annually, with other firms within the Pledge group, including the racial and ethnic demographics of each firm and specific steps taken by each firm to advance the commitments set forth in this Pledge.

(4) To periodically, but no less frequently than once every two years, review our progress toward achieving the goals stated in this Pledge and to reevaluate the projects and programs supported by the group to determine whether they have been, and will continue to be, effective in meeting Pledge goals.

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