Our recruiting efforts aim to enhance the diversity of the pool of candidates the firm considers and hires. We actively recruit diverse summer associates and associates through targeted initiatives. We participate in career fairs, panels, and other events focused on women and diverse students, including the D.C. Road Show, a program that encourages African-American law students to pursue large law firm practice. In addition, we partner with diverse student groups at many top law schools to host receptions for 1L students.
Williams & Connolly is also helping to broaden the pipeline of diverse students who attend law school by participating in the Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (“SEO”) Law Fellowship program, a program that places students of color with law firms for a paid internship the summer before those students begin law school. We are also proud to partner with the Georgetown Law Center for its Early Outreach Initiative. This program targets outreach and support for high school students from underserved communities to encourage them to consider a legal career. As part of this program, the firm provides mentoring to dozens of these high school students. We also support students from diverse backgrounds through Dear Future Colleague, The Playing Field Project, and the Foundation for Advancement of Diversity in IP Law.
Mentoring & Professional Development
We work hard to ensure that all of our attorneys have the guidance and opportunities necessary for their professional development. To accomplish this, Williams & Connolly continues to focus on our diverse associate sponsorship program, which allows partner sponsors to guide each diverse associate individually. A key part of our initial strategy is to focus on pairing associates and partners who have an existing, organic relationship or have them work together to start building such a bond. While leveraging these relationships, we have partner sponsors provide guidance in implementing a career development plan with each associate. There is regular follow up on the associate’s progress with the plan throughout the year. We also have a system to solicit regular feedback from associates in order to provide greater accountability and monitor effectiveness.
Feedback also is critical to an associate’s success and a focus of our D&I efforts. Our partners and associates received training on how to give and implement feedback more effectively. With an eye toward ensuring that diverse and women attorneys receive equal opportunities for informal feedback, Williams & Connolly was one of the first firms to use technology to promote and track feedback. We created a performance feedback application that, at regular intervals, offers associates the opportunity to meet with and get informal feedback from any partners they select. The application allows us to monitor who is seeking feedback from whom and whether it was completed.
The firm also provides opportunities for diverse and women attorneys to network and take advantage of career development events outside of the firm. For example, the firm sponsors attorneys participating in numerous organizations and conferences including Charting Your Own Course; the National Bar Association; the Hispanic National Bar Association; Corporate Counsel Women of Color; the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association; the National LGBTQ+ Bar Association; and Women, Influence & Power in Law. Williams & Connolly partner Jessamyn Berniker serves on the Board of Directors of the Center for WorkLife Law at UC Hastings College of Law.
The firm also uses its membership in the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (“LCLD”), to promote diverse attorney career development. Each year, associates and young partners participate in the LCLD’s Pathfinders and Fellows programs, providing them with training on career development strategies, leadership skills, and networking opportunities.
Diversity Speaker Series
The Williams & Connolly Diversity & Inclusion Committee also sponsors an ongoing speaker series that brings distinguished speakers to our firm to discuss diversity-related issues. Past speakers include Paul Smith, who argued the landmark case Lawrence v. Texas; Georgetown Law Professor Paul Butler, a Williams & Connolly alumnus whose academic work focuses on criminal law and race relations; Michael Tigar, a Williams & Connolly alumnus and leading human rights advocate; Madeline Albright, former Secretary of State; Angie Kim, a Williams & Connolly alumna and best-selling author; Karyn Temple, a Williams & Connolly alumna and Global General Counsel for the Motion Picture Association; and Barry Kowalski, a leading federal civil rights attorney. The firm also has hosted in-house counsel for discussions on diversity and inclusion topics. In addition, we have hosted annual diversity events at the Newseum and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and sponsored a panel on the murder of Emmett Till at the March on Washington Film Festival.
The firm recognizes that it can be challenging to balance a career with parenthood and family caregiving responsibilities. To help address those unique challenges, Williams & Connolly has created a Families Committee. The Committee provides programming, support, and community for all of the firm’s parents and caregivers. Past events have included firm playdates at local venues, programming for firm families, and panel discussions on topics of interest for firm employees with caregiving responsibilities.
Williams & Connolly also offers flexible schedules to accommodate the needs of our attorneys, including family commitments, and several of our attorneys currently work at a 50% or 80% schedule. When an attorney works part-time, they are paid based on a percentage of the same rate (e.g., 50% or 80% of the full-time rate). The firm has also partnered with Bright Horizon’s Backup Care Advantage Program, which provides backup child and elder care, with in-home and local care center options available. Following the birth or adoption of a child, we offer all caregivers 18 weeks of paid leave. The time our attorneys spend while on parental leave is fully credited for purposes of seniority and partnership consideration, and it does not affect attorney salary.