submitted by Aida Neimarlija, UCLI Executive Director
Diversity and inclusion are buzzwords in the legal industry as firms across the country work to enhance their ability to attract and retain diverse legal teams. While the conversation around these topics has increased, some firms continue to find it difficult to implement strategies to improve firm diversity. Some, however, are already ahead in their effort to move the needle and, as such, deserve a recognition.
We take this opportunity to highlight Dorsey & Whitney, one of the firms in our community that has taken specific actions in support of its commitment to being an inclusive organization that values diverse backgrounds, perspectives and contributions.
This summer, the firm announced a new Diversity Hours Policy for attorneys. Under the new policy, Dorsey will allow 50 hours each year of diversity-related work, activities and training to count toward billable hours requirements. Qualifying activities include attending internal and external diversity educational sessions, presenting on diversity and inclusion topics, serving on diversity and inclusion committees, and other diversityrelated activities.
“Dorsey is committed to creating an enduring, more united and more profitable firm by investing and maintaining a culture in which all individuals can thrive and realize their full potential,” said Bill Stoeri, Dorsey’s Managing Partner. “We are proud to demonstrate this commitment with separate diversity hours to help us achieve this goal.”
“Dorsey is committed to creating an enduring, more united and more profitable firm by investing and maintaining a culture in which all individuals can thrive and realize their full potential.” — Bill Stoeri, Managing Partner at Dorsey and Whitney
After rolling out its Diversity Hours Policy, the firm also undertook firm-wide implicit bias training this fall. The training aimed to help all Dorsey attorneys and staff understand what implicit bias is, how it affects people, and how it is identified. It also challenged attendees to question their initial assumptions about others and be aware how commonplace words and actions could be interpreted by others.
Recently, Dorsey also implemented a new, more generous Paid Parental Leave for lawyers. The leave is now 15 weeks (with additional time permitted for lawyers who give birth). Lawyers who take at least 12 continuous weeks of Paid Parental Leave will have their billable hours expectation reduced by 50% during the four weeks before and after that period of leave.
As a result of its efforts, Dorsey has received multiple recognitions for being an employer that is supportive of diversity and inclusion. Some of those recognitions include being named a Best Law Firm for Women by Working Mother magazine, a Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality, and receiving Mansfield Rule Certification Plus and the Gold Standard Certification from the Women in Law Empowerment Forum.
The firm says its efforts stem from its belief that an inclusive and diverse work environment makes Dorsey a better place to work, and that its clients benefits from increased efficiency, improved teamwork, and higher morale of the firm’s diverse client teams.
In addition to firm-wide internal efforts, Dorsey has been a supporter of local diversity efforts, including the Utah Center for Legal Inclusion (UCLI) since its founding. Several Dorsey attorneys have served on UCLI board and committees, and Dorsey has hosted numerous UCLI events. The firm is also active in supporting UCLI’s affinity groups, including the Women Lawyers of Utah, LGBT & Allied Lawyers of Utah, and the Utah Minority Bar Association, as well as other diversity groups outside of the legal industry such as the Women Tech Council and the Women’s Energy Network.
“It’s important to me to work at a firm that aligns with my personal beliefs that everyone should be given an opportunity to succeed and to contribute to the legal profession,” said Kristen Olsen, an associate in Dorsey’s Salt Lake City office. “I’m pleased that Dorsey has supported my efforts to promote equity and inclusion initiatives, such as UCLI, in the broader legal profession.”