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Diversity

Diverse People.  Diverse Practice.  One Firm.

At Willkie, we believe everyone benefits from a diverse workplace.  In keeping with such belief, we are firmly committed to creating and maintaining a diverse environment by recruiting and retaining people of all backgrounds and cultural experiences.  Our clients, many of whom conduct business on a global scale, expect a high level of service that is multidimensional and reflective of the diverse composition of today’s marketplace.  By building and maintaining a truly diverse team of attorneys, Willkie is able to deliver such service.

Committees

Most of Willkie’s efforts in the area of diversity are coordinated through our Diversity Committee.  The Committee has been in existence for over a decade and meets at least once a month to address issues related to the recruitment, retention, promotion and career development of our minority and openly-gay attorneys.  One of the initiatives undertaken by the Committee has been to work with a diversity consultant to foster diversity awareness and improve the partner-mentor program and assigning system.  The diversity consultant conducts periodic diversity training for all attorneys and staff managers in our New York and Washington offices, as well as a diversity awareness workshop at our annual New Associates Retreat.  The Committee also sponsors monthly luncheons, summer associate gatherings and other events that celebrate the firm’s diversity and foster relationships among our attorneys.

The Committee consists of associates, counsel and partners, including firm management, as we recognize that achieving and maintaining a rich and diverse culture requires the commitment of attorneys at all levels of the firm.  The Committee is headed by the firm’s Director of Diversity Initiatives, Kim A. Walker, who is also Special Counsel to the firm’s Intellectual Property Department.


Willkie’s Women’s Professional Development Committee (WPDC) was established to offer professional development programs and guidance to women attorneys as they navigate their way in the firm and the legal profession.  The committee provides opportunities for the cultivation of successful mentoring relationships for younger women attorneys with the firm’s more senior attorneys.  The committee also reviews the firm's policies on an ongoing basis and monitors important developments in the marketplace.  It recommends policies, practices and procedures that respond to our changing needs and enhance our work environment.  In addition to the WPDC, attorneys from our Washington office also participate on the Washington office-based Women’s Initiative Committee, which works closely with the New York committee. 

The WPDC sponsors bi-monthly lunches for all women attorneys in the New York office, often joined by the Washington women attorneys via video conference, inviting a diverse array of internal and external speakers to address timely and compelling topics. Capitalizing on our many well established relationships, the committee continuously works to create and pursue new networking opportunities for the firm's women attorneys.

Where recruiting is concerned, the committee is charged with implementing initiatives relating to an expanded Willkie presence on law school campuses.  In recent years, Willkie has participated in programs related to women's issues at Cornell, Harvard and NYU law schools.

The WPDC reports directly to the firm’s Executive Committee.  Co-chaired by Margot Schonholtz, a partner in the firm’s Business Reorganization and Restructuring Department, and Deirdre Norton Hykal, a partner in the firm’s Litigation Department, the committee is comprised of fourteen partners, one counsel and eight associates.

Goals of the WPDC include:

  • Identifying and promoting the accomplishments of our women attorneys both within and outside the firm

  • Attracting and retaining the most qualified women attorneys

  • Providing opportunities for women attorneys to network and socialize

  • Helping to ensure that our women attorneys are positioned to assume leadership roles in the firm

  • Developing a strong presence on the campuses of all leading law schools

The broad mission of the WPDC is implemented through various subcommittees that focus on issues of particular importance:

  • Communications Subcommittee – With a focus on raising the awareness of the committee within the firm and beyond, this subcommittee monitors and updates information on the firm's intranet and external website, distributes information of interest to women attorneys and monitors developments in the marketplace as they relate to our initiatives and the professional lives of women at the firm.

  • Educational Programming Subcommittee – The firm's Professional Development program, which offers valuable training sessions, is closely linked to this subcommittee in its efforts to develop new and innovative programs for WPDC-sponsored events. 

  • Mentoring Subcommittee – Our extensive mentoring programs include women’s “mentoring circles” in addition to the firm-wide advising and mentoring program in which partners are assigned to serve as career advisors to all of our new associates.  Our Professional Personnel, Diversity, and Women’s Professional Development Committees collaborate to enhance firm-wide counseling and advising opportunities for all Willkie associates.

  • Alternative Work Schedule Subcommittee – For our attorneys who work on a flexible or alternative schedule, this subcommittee is charged with creating opportunities for exchanging ideas and experiences related to successfully managing career and life issues.
Our women lawyers are continuously recognized among the very best in their respective fields of practice. Below are some of our most recent accolades:

Euromoney Legal Media Group’s Americas Women in Business Law Awards 2013
-- Partner Margot Schonholtz named "Best in Insolvency & Restructuring."
-- Partner Margery Neale shortlisted for "Best in Investment Funds."
-- Partner Adrienne Atkinson shortlisted for "Best in Private Equity."
-- Willkie shortlisted for "Best International Firm for Talent Management."

France’s Best Lawyers/Les Echos 2013
Paris partner Marie-Hélène Raffin recognized in Les Echos as Best Lawyers’ 2013 selection for "Paris Tax Lawyer of the Year."

Turnarounds & Workouts – Outstanding Young Restructuring Lawyers 2013
Partner Rachel Strickland was once again one of 12 attorneys nationwide to be profiled on T&W’s "Outstanding Young Restructuring Lawyers" special report.

Chambers USA – Women in Law Awards 2013
Partner Mei Lin Kwan-Gett recognized as "Up & Coming Litigation Lawyer of the Year."

New York Magazine – The New York Area’s Lawyers of the Year 2011
Partner Margery Neale named "Mutual Funds Law Lawyer of the Year."

France’s Best Lawyers 2011
Paris partner Alexandra Bigot named “2011 France Insolvency and Reorganization Lawyer of the Year.”

If you have any questions relating to our Women’s Professional Development programs, please contact:

Margot Schonholtz (Partner and Co-chair, WPDC) -

Deirdre Norton Hykal (Partner and Co-chair, WPDC) - dhykal@willkie.com


Recruiting

In the area of recruitment, Willkie has made a concerted effort to reach out to law school organizations that focus on the interests of students of diverse backgrounds.  For example, we invite members of these organizations to our offices in New York and Washington to discuss ways we can work in tandem with students to build upon our diversity initiative.  We have co-sponsored events, including interview and resume-writing workshops, with several of these organizations.  We also conduct on-campus interviews at schools with diverse student populations, and participate in various diversity job fairs, including the Northeast BLSA Job Fair and Vault Legal Diversity Job Fair.  For lateral hires, we engage recruiting firms that share our commitment to diversity.

Each Spring, we welcome diverse students from area law schools to our Rainbow Room event.  This event consists of panel discussions featuring current and alumni members of the Willkie family, who offer the students insight into the practice of law at a large law firm.  The panel discussions are followed by lively receptions, during which students meet Willkie partners, counsel and associates from various practice areas.  In the Washington office, we work with diverse student organizations from DC-area law schools to produce panel discussions where Willkie attorneys address students' questions about the various aspects of practicing law in a large firm in Washington, DC.   Like the Rainbow Room event in New York, these panel discussions are followed by informal receptions where students can meet and interact with Willkie attorneys from the different practice groups in the Washington office.

Support of Organizations

Willkie’s commitment and efforts have included participation in various diversity conferences, including:

  • American Bar Association National Conference for the Minority Lawyer
  • Minority Corporate Counsel Association Creating Pathways to Diversity Conference
  • The New York City Bar Associate Roundtable Discussion Series
  • DC Women’s Bar Association Conference on Best Practices for Women Lawyers     
    and Their Firms
  • The New York City Bar Annual Diversity Conference
We also participate in countless law school conferences sponsored by diverse student organizations.

In addition, we lend our support to numerous organizations that serve a diverse population, including:
  • National Lesbian and Gay Law Foundation
  • Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP Greater DC Community Foundation
  • DC Minority Attorney Networking Series
  • Empire State Pride Agenda
  • Hispanic National Bar Association
  • Asian American Bar Association of New York
  • Asian Pacific American Bar Association Educational Fund of the Greater Washington, DC Area, Inc.
  • American Civil Liberties Union 
  • Women Empowered Against Violence
  • Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
  • Legal Access Network for South Asians, Inc.
We are also a signatory to The Association of the Bar of the City of New York Statement of Diversity Principles.

Willkie attorneys reinforce the firm’s diversity commitment in their legal work, representing victims of domestic violence and civil rights violations, assisting clients seeking asylum, and acting as counsel to Open Arms Housing, an organization that houses chronically ill homeless women.  Our attorneys support legal organizations such as Women Empowered Against Violence, by hosting its pro bono attorney training program and staffing a monthly pro se clinic, and Legal Access Network for South Asians, Inc. ("LANSA"), formed by a small group of attorneys, including Willkie alumni, as a response to the general lack of organized legal resources within New York’s South Asian community.  We have also solidified several community partnerships through which staff and attorneys volunteer their time, resources and leadership abilities to organizations such as DC SCORES, an after-school program for minority children in DC public schools combining soccer, creative writing, and community service; Adlai Stevenson High School (located in the Bronx, New York), providing mentoring, annual scholarships and summer internships to minority students; the Higher Achievement Program, helping motivated students from DC’s inner city communities achieve academic excellence; Prep for Prep, exposing youth to the practice of law and providing summer internships; Hands On DC; Jobs for Homeless People; and the DC AIDS Walk.  Please see the section entitled “Pro Bono” for additional information regarding our involvement in the community.

We at Willkie are always open to new ideas on how we can do better.   If you have any questions regarding diversity at Willkie, or wish to offer suggestions to assist us in our efforts, please feel free to email us at .