Diversity and Inclusion

Our most valuable asset is our people.  At Willkie, we believe everyone benefits from a diverse and inclusive workplace, and we are committed to maintaining such an environment by recruiting, retaining and promoting people of all backgrounds and cultural experiences.

The confluence of people of different races, cultures, religions, beliefs and sexual orientations makes for a stronger team that is more adept at creative problem-solving on behalf of our clients.

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Diverse Professionals

We are committed to continuing and further developing strategies to enhance diversity and inclusion on a long-term basis at every level, from our leadership ranks to the recruitment of new Willkie attorneys. Our commitment is evidenced by the firm’s diverse makeup today. For example:

  • Our U.S. partnership class in 2019 is 45% women and 36% diverse.
  • In 2018, the firm’s lateral hires were approximately 35% women and 42% diverse.
  • Our associate class in 2018 was approximately 62% women and 33% diverse.

The Diversity and Inclusion Committee works to ensure targeted outreach to diverse law students in furtherance of the firm’s goal to increase its pipeline of talented diverse attorneys. As a direct result of such initiatives, Willkie’s summer 2019 class is approximately 46% diverse.

Mentorship

In addition to the formal mentoring programs Willkie offers to all associates, the firm offers a cross-office mentoring program through which diverse associates are paired with partners. As a separate initiative, members of the Executive Committee have committed to having one-on-one lunches with diverse associates. We regularly reach out to ensure that every associate who wishes to attend such a lunch has an opportunity to do so.

Affinity Groups

The Diversity and Inclusion Committee collaborates with five affinity groups throughout our U.S. offices. Each group is associate-driven and supported by a partner liaison.

  • Asian and Pacific Islander Affinity Group
  • Black Affinity Group
  • Hispanic and Latino Affinity Group
  • LGBTQ Affinity Group
  • South Asian and Middle Eastern Affinity Group

In 2018, our affinity groups marched with Immigration Equality in NYC Pride, participated in AidsWalk and World AIDS Day, and sponsored an installment of the Diversity Speaker Series, in addition to hosting a variety of social events.

Awards and Recognition

  • In 2019, Crain’s New York Business named two Willkie attorneys to its “Notable Women in Law” list, including the firm’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, whom Crain’s credits with working tirelessly to promote the retention and advancement of diverse and female attorneys. The recognition honors exceptional female attorneys in the New York City area for their achievements in law, professional leadership, and civic and philanthropic work.
  • In 2018, the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD) honored Willkie and one of its chairmen with a Compass Award, an award given to member organizations and their leaders with a strong track record of participating in LCLD programs designed to attract, inspire and nurture the diverse talent in their firms.
  • In its 2018 Diversity Snapshot, Law360 ranked Willkie among the top ten best firms for minority attorneys in the 300 – 599 attorneys category.
  • In 2016, Willkie was named by The American Lawyer to its “A-List,” its annual ranking of “Big Law’s elite.” Selection was based on, among other criteria, superior performance in Am Law’s diversity survey.
  • In the 2015 American Lawyer Diversity Scorecard, the firm was highlighted as the “top gainer” with the biggest year-to-year increase in the Diversity Scorecard rankings, with a jump of 40 places. In 2016, Willkie again jumped in these rankings, placing in the top 25 earning the Top Law Firm for Diversity distinction. We earned the distinction again in 2017.
  • In 2014 and 2015, the firm was shortlisted for “Best International Firm for Diversity” by the Euromoney Legal Media Group’s “Americas Women in Business Law” Awards (and several of our female partners were shortlisted for awards in their respective fields).

Committees and Initiatives

The firm has several active committees focused on attorney recruitment, retention and advancement, including committees dedicated to women and to diverse attorneys. Through a range of initiatives, these committees strive to:

  • Expand mentoring programs
  • Improve communication between partners and associates
  • Recognize the contributions and accomplishments of our attorneys
  • Offer insights from our clients on best practices for associates
  • Create opportunities to connect in informal settings

Committees

Our Diversity and Inclusion Committee has existed for almost 30 years and remains an important focus of firm leadership. Chaired by Kim Walker, our Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer and IP counsel, the Committee meets bi-monthly and oversees programming, mentoring and training focused on diversity and inclusion initiatives and issues.

The committee is comprised of partners (including a member of the Executive Committee), counsel and associates, and is supported by our Chief Legal Personnel Officer, Chief Planning and Culture Officer, Associate Director of Professional Development and Legal Personnel and Recruiting Managers.

Our Women’s Professional Development Committee (WPDC) was established more than a decade ago to offer professional development programs and guidance to ensure Willkie provides a rewarding and empowering experience to women at the firm.

Learn more about Women’s Initiatives at Willkie here.

Partnerships

We embrace opportunities to partner with our clients on diversity initiatives. Recent collaborations include:

  • Partnering with an energy company to host a panel on diversity, as well as a networking event for diverse law students, in our Washington, D.C. office.
  • Joining three female executives from a firm client to present a panel in our New York office on the business case for diversity and inclusion.
  • Partnering with a firm client to mentor foster youth aging out of care.
  • Partnering with four clients to host a Build-a-Bike event in our New York office, followed by the presentation of new bicycles to 50 underserved children.

Willkie also works closely with more than 20 law school affinity groups by hosting receptions, panel discussions, and resume and interview workshops. In addition, we participate in programs with Prep for Prep, the Inner-City Scholarship Fund (ICSF) and a mentoring program with the Eagle Academy for Young Men.

LCLD
Willkie is a member of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (“LCLD”), an organization of general counsel and law firm managing partners dedicated to creating a diverse legal profession.

  • Since 2017, the firm has participated in LCLD’s Pathfinder Program and landmark Fellows Program, wherein a number of our high-performing, diverse attorneys benefit from conferences, peer-group projects, soft skills training (i.e., personal branding, public speaking, building relationship capital, leadership training) and networking (including with general counsel and managing partners).
  • Several Willkie attorneys, including one of our chairmen, have volunteered as LCLD 1L Mentors during the school year. We continue to participate as mentors, and help to expand the opportunities for diverse first-year law students through LCLD’s 1L Scholars program.

Diversity Speaker Series

For many years, the Diversity and Inclusion Committee has hosted its highly successful Diversity Speaker Series to raise awareness and inspire constructive discussion on critical issues. Recent events and guests include:

  • An interactive workshop on implicit bias and stereotype
  • A presentation on discrimination and inequities facing low-income LGBTQ+ youth and adults
  • A screening of the film I’m Not Racist…Am I? plus a discussion with writer/director/producer Andre Robert Lee about his documentary, which addresses race and privilege as viewed through the eyes of teenagers
  • James Forman, Jr., son of the famed civil rights leader and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Locking Up Our Own—Crime and Punishment in Black America
  • Sam Mihara, an award-winning speaker on the mass imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II

Supported Organizations

Willkie and its attorneys support and participate in numerous legal bar associations and organizations committed to diversity and inclusion, among them:

  • American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
  • Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY)
  • Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF)
  • City Bar Justice Center
  • Eagle Academy Foundation (includes annual graduation scholarships and summer internships)
  • Empire State Pride Agenda Foundation
  • Her Justice 
  • Hispanic Lawyers Society of New York
  • Hispanic National Bar Association 
  • Human Rights First 
  • Immigration Equality
  • Inner-City Scholarship Fund (ICSF)
  • Lambda Legal
  • Legal Aid Society
  • LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York (LeGal)
  • National LGBT Bar Association
  • New York State Mentoring Program 
  • Prep for Prep
  • Sanctuary for Families 
  • Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs
  • Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP Greater DC Community Foundation
  • Women in Need