International Women’s Day 2021

International Women’s Day gives us an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women, and in particular those working at our firm. The theme for 2021 is ‘Choose to Challenge,’ a reminder that we all can and should choose to call out gender bias and inequality to create an inclusive world.

Women are not a homogenous group; they are diverse by nature of their backgrounds, their life experiences, their abilities, perspectives and opinions, and International Women’s Day is about celebrating inclusion of women in its truest sense.

We have much to celebrate in our global firm – we have remarkable women doing notable work throughout the world. In January 2021, we became the first ‘Am Law 200’ firm to name a woman of color, Shauna Clark, as both our Global and US Chair. Recently, Shauna spoke with women leaders of the firm to get their views on the challenges that women face today, including discrimination and micro-aggression in the workplace and the perceptions of female leadership during a pandemic.

“Discrimination is much less overt now, it’s subconscious in many ways and I think that makes it more challenging to overcome,” said Alison Deitz, Managing Partner, Australia. “We, as female leaders, need to be very aware of that and ensure we can overcome it, whether by unconscious bias training or actively putting in place metrics for gender pay equity, to ensure that we’re not discriminating in any shape or form.”

“We’re getting to the point now where gender discrimination is more systemic, so it’s around the actual structures themselves and who is at the table making the decisions and the transparency around that, which is different to what was more bold and in your face in the past,” echoed Angela Tancock, Chief Strategy Officer, Canada.

The reality, then, is that women still are fighting not just for a place at the table – but to be listened to when they get a seat there.

“As a woman I get penalised for my tenacity and for being direct,” explained Natasha Moore, Head of Learning and Development, Europe, Middle East and Asia. “Women are often invited to the party, but we’re not invited to dance.”

One issue that remains is that women who are assertive are sometimes painted in a negative light, which can make them reluctant to display their full confidence or potential.

“In the context of the work place, many women wait until they are 100 percent ready to take up a challenge, whereas our male counterparts would not do that, and what I say to women is – you go the extra mile, not because you are a woman but because you will find very few people in that space, and that is your place to make your mark in, in whatever way you choose to,” said Marelise van der Westhuizen, CEO, South Africa.

“Women who are seen as go-getters can be judged more harshly and we don’t just see that in professional organisations, but in the wider world too,” added Farmida Bi, EMEA Chair. “Women politicians, for example, are held to a different standard. However, the thing I’ve found most interesting about the current pandemic is the discussion around whether female leaders in countries like New Zealand or South Korea have proved to be more successful because they are leading in a different, better way.”

“When I started, I didn’t have the courage to be my authentic self and I became very adept at shifting my personality to make those around me more comfortable, and it was just another weight that I carried, in addition to being black and a woman and young in a male-dominated environment,” Shauna said.

Combatting the issue requires raising issues of disrespect, implicit bias and micro-aggression when we see it, in order to seek to correct and improve it, Shauna said.

“The conversation needs to be about resilience and being human and correcting mistakes,” Shauna said.

“There are both the implicit bias issues that people have – I have them, we all have them – sometimes there are also biases that we hold ourselves to,” added Gina Shishima, Chief Strategy and Operations Partner, United States. “I also think it’s not the best thing to focus on; if I have to say it again, I’ll say it again. I think trying to be cognisant of it is key, but I try to focus on being effective.”

Read more about our diversity and inclusion efforts, including how we strive to achieve gender balance.

Kim Askew named a Leader in Diversity by the Dallas Business Journal

DLA Piper is pleased to announce that Kim Askew, a partner in the firm’s Employment practice, was named to the Dallas Business Journal’s inaugural Leaders in Diversity list honouring “organisations and individuals who have shown exceptional commitment to promoting practices that advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace.”

Askew has received numerous awards throughout her career as a result of her legal practice and her efforts to advance diversity and inclusion, including the inaugural Dallas Bar Association Distinguished Service Award, which was named after her and recognises a Dallas Bar Association member who is dedicated to good work and positive relations with lawyers, the judiciary and the community, and the ABA Spirit of Excellence Award, which recognises contributions to diversity in the legal profession. Askew serves as the local Diversity and Inclusion chair for DLA Piper’s Dallas office. She has moderated firmwide webinars focusing on racial equality, allyship and social justice, and she sits on the board of the National Women’s Law Center, a non-profit that advocates for women’s rights through litigation and policy initiatives.

In her practice, Askew represents clients in significant employment matters involving claims of race, disability, gender and age discrimination and sexual harassment, as well as in litigation involving business torts, trade secrets, non-compete, and non-solicitation and employment agreements. She has successfully tried cases to jury and non-jury verdicts in state and federal courts across the US and has handled appeals before federal and Texas appellate courts.

Duane Morris Celebrates Black History Month

Following the killing of George Floyd, protest erupted throughout the United States and the world, demanding change and an end to police brutality. Sadly, Floyd’s murder was the only the latest in a series of unnecessary tragedies, captured on video, that revealed to the world why every parent with Black children, especially sons, has to have “The Talk.” Joseph K. West, partner and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer of Duane Morris, explained it in a widely covered Legal Intelligencer article as:

“It is that discussion wherein we inform our sons that even the most benign interactions could turn lethal in an instant, often at the hands of public servants charged with protecting and serving them. I usually give that talk to my teenage boys once per year. Unfortunately, I have had to deliver it four times in the last week, alone.”

In this unprecedented moment of reckoning and awakening, Duane Morris held a series of events and discussions on racial inequality and the systemic changes that are needed for a more just society in America.

In a firm wide event to honour Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, the acclaimed actor, director and producer Laurence Fishburne spoke about the much-heralded Juneteenth episode of his hit show, “`black•ish,” which he co-created, produces and co-stars in. Mr. West moderated the discussion, which featured highlights of culturally significant projects from Mr. Fishburne’s celebrated career, including #Free Rayshawn, Contagion, Slavery by Another Name, Akeelah and the Bee, Miss Evers’ Boys, Thurgood, Boyz n the Hood and School Daze.

Read Bloomberg Law’s coverage of the town hall.

The public protests in the summer of 2020 also forced the business world to examine its practices and find ways to address systemic racism and inequality in meaningful ways.

In the ABC News story “As Corporate America Faces Racial Reckoning, Here’s How Experts Say Change Can Be Made,” Mr. West said, “I’m cautiously optimistic that it is a tipping point… The lines have really been blurred between what you see playing out in the streets and what you see playing out in the corridors of power.”

Mr. West also noted that “Companies are concluding that they face heightened expectations from their customers and employees to respond to racial concerns in the moment,” in the Wall Street Journal article “Companies Make Big Pledges Toward Initiatives on Race.”

To continue the discussion in the legal industry, Mr. West created “Black Lawyers in America: A National Town Hall Series,” a webinar series co-sponsored by Duane Morris LLP, the American Bar Association, the Commercial Law Section of the National Bar Association, the Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association, the Association of Law Firm Diversity Professionals and the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity. With Mr. West as moderator, the sessions examined the struggle for change and racial equity in the legal profession from the past, present and future, with prominent speakers including Dennis Archer, Paulette Brown and Robert Grey, Jr., the three African American former presidents of the American Bar Association; Judy Perry Martinez, president, American Bar Association (2019-2020); John O. Gaidoo, assistant general counsel, Cummins Inc.; Michele Coleman Mayes, vice president, general counsel and secretary, The New York Public Library; Benjamin F. Wilson, chairman, Beveridge & Diamond, P.C.; Matthew A. Taylor, chairman and chief executive officer, Duane Morris LLP; Tiffany Harper, first deputy treasurer, chief of staff and general counsel, Office of the Treasurer, City of Chicago; Brandon Harrell, deputy general counsel, Los Angeles 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games Organising Committee; Karl Riley, clerk for the Hon. Johnnie B. Rawlinson, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit; Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington, D.C.; Stacey E. Plaskett, U.S. representative, U.S. Virgin Islands’ at-large Congressional District; and Wendell Edward Pierce, actor and activist.

Milton Cheng joins 70 Global CEOs in Catalyst For Change initiative

Baker McKenzie Global Chair, Milton Cheng has reinforced the commitment of the leading global law firm to join Catalyst’s mission to elevate women in leadership roles.

Milton is one of 70+ CEOs involved in the Catalyst For Change initiative to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workforce. Catalyst’s 2020 report, Towards a More Equitable Future, found that Catalyst For Change companies are addressing challenges in the representation of marginalised groups by building a strong foundation at the manager level.

The Catalyst CEO Champions For Change are using their voices to advance women across the leadership pipeline. The 2020 report identifies ways global companies can collect data on ethnicity and race in their organisations, as well as highlighting the latest statistics for women’s representation in the global leadership pipeline. It also explores ways to measure the representation of women who identify with underrepresented ethnic and racial groups and provides a three-step plan to help organisations accelerate their journey toward equity:

  • Step 1: Get educated on intersectionality.
  • Step 2: Establish a system for collecting reliable data on race and ethnicity.
  • Step 3: Start the conversation about racism.

You can read the full report here.

Milton Cheng, Baker McKenzie Global Chair commented; “Twenty years after electing the first female Chair of any global law firm, we are proud to say that once again we are leading the way in the legal sector. To demonstrate our commitment to being inclusive, we have set global aspirational targets of 40% women, 40% men and 20% flexible (women, men or non-binary persons) by 2025. This target applies to Partners, senior business professionals, firm committee leadership and candidate pools for recruitment.”

“Women, and particularly women of colour, continue to face entrenched barriers to advancement in companies across the world, but it’s important that Catalyst CEO Champions For Change companies continue to demonstrate collective progress,” said Catalyst President & CEO Lorraine Hariton. “We know more work needs to be done, but the data show positive gains, and we’re proud to partner with these CEOs in this effort.”

This pledge follows Baker McKenzie’s earlier commitment with Catalyst in 2020. The Firm became one of 56 companies and organisations who have joined Catalyst’s Gender and Diversity KPI Alliance (GDKA) to support the adoption and use of a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) that will measure gender and diversity.

Duane Morris receive Women’s Impact Network for Success awards

The Duane Morris Women’s Impact Network for Success (WINS) has honoured three attorneys for their efforts to advance women in the legal profession. Manita Rawat, managing partner of the firm’s Silicon Valley office, and Chicago partner Lisa T. Scruggs received the Cheryl Bryson Leadership Award. Philadelphia partner Linda B. Hollinshead received the Margery Reed Professional Excellence Award. Rawat, Scruggs and Hollinshead received the awards at Duane Morris’ virtual annual firmwide meeting.

The Cheryl Bryson Leadership Award recognises significant contributions, including professional development, leadership and mentoring, made by a lawyer to women in the legal profession. The award is named in honour of the late Cheryl Blackwell Bryson, a Duane Morris partner in Chicago who died in January 2012 after a long battle with cancer. Bryson was a leader in many significant civic and community causes, and she was repeatedly honoured throughout her career as a major pioneer, both as a female lawyer and as a lawyer of colour.

Likewise, Margery Reed spent her entire professional career as an attorney at Duane Morris, including 24 years as a partner of the firm. As demonstrated by her numerous awards, including her admission as a fellow in the prestigious American College of Bankruptcy, Reed was repeatedly recognised as one of the best commercial bankruptcy lawyers in the country. A consummate partner, Reed was incomparably selfless in giving of her time and talents to assist her colleagues and mentor junior lawyers. She was a true professional in every sense, and her unwavering commitment to her clients and colleagues, the firm and the profession of law is the reason this award for professional excellence is given in her name.

Despite her extremely busy schedule, Manita Rawat was chosen for going out of her way to work with young female lawyers and serve as a mentor to them in terms of “work product, marketing and what it means to be a good firm citizen.” She is committed to having open and honest discussions with young attorneys related to practice and personal issues.

Rawat is the managing partner of the firm’s Silicon Valley office and a member of the firm’s Intellectual Property Practice Group. She counsels clients on a variety of issues related to intellectual property, working primarily with software, mechanical and aerospace technologies. Rawat also has significant experience with patent office post grant proceedings (including inter-parts review and re-examination). She also has substantial experience in supporting intellectual property issues related to corporate deals, such as mergers and acquisitions and investment funding. Rawat also assists clients in patent licensing and transactional matters, including structuring, negotiating and drafting agreements. She has significant experience with providing technical support on patent litigation matters at various stages of a case as well. In 2020, Rawat was honoured with a Women of Influence Award from Silicon Valley Business Journal. She is a member of the firm’s governing Partners Board and serves on the firm’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Lisa T. Scruggs was chosen for her dedication to mentoring young female attorneys. “In a profession that can often be dominated by competitiveness and egos, she goes out of her way to provide kind leadership.”

A core member of the Education Industry group at Duane Morris, Scruggs provides litigation and counselling services for education and school reform organisations, including individual charter and private schools, early childhood centres, charter school networks, charter and education management organisations, school districts and other education non-profit and for-profit organisations and service providers. She has handled a wide range of litigation, regulatory and policy matters for clients relating to new school development, teacher evaluation, credentialing and certification reforms, public/private education ventures, virtual education/remote learning, school finance and parent and student civil rights. Scruggs has been recognised by Crain’s Chicago Business on its listing of Notable Minorities in Law (2019) and as an Illinois Super Lawyer (Business Litigation and Education Law) for eight years running. She was awarded the firm’s Pro Bono Leadership Award for her work handling a legal challenge to the school funding system in Illinois and is a Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow, joining a cohort of leaders who are “reimagining America’s public schools.”

Although employment issues surrounding COVID-19 have left Linda B. Hollinshead incredibly busy, she is still taking the time to support her colleagues during these unexpected times. She was chosen for the “advice, resources and humour she has contributed to fellow parents these past few months while coping with the new normal.”

Hollinshead practices in the area of employment law. She provides training and counselling to employers throughout the country on a variety of subjects, including monitoring employee attendance, FMLA compliance, medical and religious accommodations, leaves of absence policies, harassment and discrimination prevention, responding to harassment and discrimination claims, FLSA and wage and hour compliance, including employee misclassification, diversity and inclusion, termination of employees, hiring practices, performance appraisals and performance management. Hollinshead also advises public accommodations as well as recipients of federal financial assistance on program accessibility and other compliance obligations. She advises clients in numerous industries, including colleges and universities, manufacturing and retail companies, hospitals and other healthcare organisations, technology companies, financial services organisations, energy companies and not-for-profit entities. Hollinshead is also a member of the firm’s Cannabis Industry Group. She also assists employers by drafting employees policies and handbooks, confidentiality and restrictive covenant agreements, employment agreements, termination and severance agreements as well as independent contractor agreements. Hollinshead is a member of the firm’s COVID-19 Strategy Team.

Kirkland Sponsors GLAAD Spirit Day

Kirkland is proud to sponsor GLAAD’s annual Spirit Day for the eighth year in a row. GLAAD is the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organisation. Spirit Day, which takes place this year on October 15, 2020, is the largest and most visible anti-bullying campaign in the world that aims to accelerate the acceptance of LGBTQ youth. Spirit Day inspires millions of people around the world to wear purple or “go purple” online in a unified stance against bullying and to show their support for LGBTQ youth.

Kirkland has been a proud official international sponsor of Spirit Day since 2013. Each year, the Firm demonstrates its support on Spirit Day by encouraging Kirkland employees worldwide to wear purple, celebrate diversity and inclusion, and continue important conversations within the Firm, the legal profession and the community. Kirkland also contributes to GLAAD’s Spirit Day Fund, which supports GLAAD’s year-round efforts to combat bullying, protect LGBTQ youth and garner participation in Sprit Day each October.

“GLAAD Spirit Day promotes some of the most important values in our society today — equality, inclusion and opportunity for all,” said Diversity & Inclusion Committee co-chair Ranesh Ramanathan. “Our attorneys and staff are proud to once again demonstrate our support for LGBTQ youth through participation in this important initiative.”