Differences make life richer and more rewarding. Diversity in our workplace enhances our personal and professional lives and increases our ability to serve our clients.
The firm’s Diversity Committee, formed in 1993, reflects our commitment to this issue. It strives to attract and retain more diverse lawyers, creating a firm that better resembles the communities we serve. These are the same values reflected in the American Corporate Counsel Association's Diversity in the Workplace Statement of Principle, a diversity initiative adopted by a growing number of our clients.
The origins of our diversity initiatives go back over 50 years. In 1968, for example, we began a recruiting relationship with Lansing area schools. We have hired co-op students each year from high schools with sizable minority student bodies, including Sexton, Eastern and Waverly.
As early as 1976, Foster Swift took its first steps to attract and hire minority attorneys by partnering with the University of Michigan Law School. As efforts and opportunities to hire and attract minorities increased, it became clear that the firm needed to devote additional resources to its diversity goals. Under the leadership of former Michigan Supreme Court Justice, Lawrence B. Lindemer, then practicing with Foster Swift and now of counsel with the firm, an ad hoc committee was formed in 1993 to study retention of minorities and women at Foster Swift.
With the encouragement of our Executive Committee, we are continually seeking new ways to accomplish the goals of retaining minorities and women. All Foster Swift attorneys and staff attend diversity training. This training has created an open dialogue and has promoted a positive, inclusive working environment.
MANAGING PARTNERS DIVERSITY COLLABORATIVE
Foster Swift, along with 11 other Grand Rapids law firms and the Grand Rapids Bar Association, have made a commitment to promote diversity and inclusion in the West Michigan legal community.
In June 2011, managing partners from all 12 member law firms signed the Managing Partners Diversity Collaborative Agreement pledging to address the issues of diversity and inclusion. On March 22, 2012, a Five-Year Action Plan was signed by all member firms to address three initial challenges:
- Increasing the number of attorneys of color
- Improving the retention of both female attorneys and attorneys of color
- Expanding the pipeline of persons of color entering law school and the profession
In an effort to continue and strengthen our commitment to diversity, Foster Swift has also involved itself with the following initiatives:
- Support of the Davis-Dunnings Bar Association (formerly Lansing Black Lawyers' Association)
- Sponsorship of the 2010 Diversity Roundtable: Retention of Diverse Attorneys, held at Grand Valley State University. The five Foster Swift attorneys who attended were energized by this collaborative exploration of the importance of flexibility and diversity in the recruitment and retention of women attorneys and attorneys of color.
- Corporate involvement in Lansing's newest women's professional organization, Athena WIN.
- Underwriting the Lansing Black Lawyers' Association 2010 Annual Otis M. Smith Scholarship. At this event, we were pleased to salute our Health Care extern from Thomas M. Cooley Law School, Darlene Jolibois, upon her receipt of the Stuart Dunnings, Jr., Scholarship.
Foster Swift's policies have changed throughout its history to reflect the changing work environment and progressive gender and racial politics. In 1983, Foster Swift made reduced hours arrangements available to accommodate the work-life balance for several women attorneys. These efforts to accommodate work-life balance have led to the success of many women attorneys who became shareholders in the firm after (or while in the midst of) a reduced hours arrangement.
Yet our firm is still evolving. We continue to seek out a diverse workforce and are committed to strengthening our representation of gay, lesbian, and trans-gender (LGBT) attorneys. In addition, we remain focused on attracting attorneys of color in light of the declining numbers of male students of color entering law school. At Foster Swift we believe that a diverse and comprehensive staff enables us to better serve our communities.
We are updating our diversity training and other efforts to meet our existing diversity goals and we will continue to set new goals as the needs of our firm and our communities change.
We have learned that we cannot achieve diversity without outside perspective. So, we welcome your comments and feedback.