Nixon Peabody is a ChIPs 2022 Honor Roll law firm, and only one of two firms recognized by ChIPs for “Excellence in Inclusion for All.” ChIPS invited me to speak about our inclusion journey and share insights as we work towards greater DEI progress in the legal industry.
This interview originally appeared in the ChIPs Honor Roll Report.
Nixon Peabody has been honored by ChIPs and Diversity Lab for Excellence in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for All. What have you done to reach your firm’s inclusion goals and receive this honor?
DEI principles are woven into the business and mission of Nixon Peabody. We have six resource groups focused on recruitment and advancement of underrepresented attorneys, offering community, mentorship, and professional development. Each group’s leaders serve on our DEI Committee, along with our managing partner and DEI partner, ensuring direct communication with firm leadership. Additionally, we have implemented a workflow app designed to ensure diverse associates have access to career-building work opportunities. We ask that at least 30% of associates considered for staffing on any matter be from an underrepresented group. The app helps us build talented, effective, and representative teams.
Where have you made the greatest progress? Of what are you most proud?
For the last five years, at least 50% of our new partners have been attorneys from underrepresented groups in the legal profession (women, racially/ethnically diverse people, LGBTQ+ attorneys, and people with disabilities). Additionally, women, attorneys of color, and LGBTQ+ people comprise at least 30% of our leadership positions and committee slots. Nixon Peabody recently implemented the DEI Strategic Services group, a new service designed to help clients address the full array of immediate and systemic challenges they face in advancing DEI within their own organizations. We work to strengthen these organizations’ reputations with their talent, customers, and the broader marketplace.
What has been the hardest area for you — culture, pipeline, recruitment, training, something else?
Like many firms operating in this historically competitive market for legal talent, we have faced challenges with retention. In response, we have taken significant steps to ensure that our attorneys can envision a successful future at Nixon Peabody and take advantage of the rich opportunities we provide. We’ve introduced policies and initiatives focused on retention and advancement, including sponsorship programs and transparency on credit sharing and the path to partnership. We also offer billable hour credit for time spent 12 ChIPs Honor Roll 2022 advancing our DEI goals, as well as bonuses for attorneys who demonstrate outstanding commitment in this area.
Was there a turning point when you said, “We have to do something different to start moving the numbers on DEI”? If so, what was the turning point?
There was no specific turning point — DEI has always been a core value for us. We’re always looking for opportunities to challenge ourselves, pushing beyond what’s familiar and testing innovative programs to advance our DEI goals. Our creative approach stands out in a profession that has struggled to make significant progress on DEI. In 2020, Nixon Peabody became one of four law firms to pioneer Diversity Lab’s Move the Needle Fund. Participating firms are working with general counsel and community leaders to create a first-of-itskind experimental “laboratory,” investing more than $4 million to test research and data-driven ways to effect positive change.
How do we move from the myth of “we’re all the same” to a better appreciation of each other’s identities and value?
Our goal at Nixon Peabody is to become a truly inclusive organization, where our people can bring their authentic selves to work every day, and our firm can reflect the clients and communities we serve. We recognize that each individual is unique and their diverse perspectives contribute to the collective strength of our organization’s culture and the services we provide to clients. We tailor our DEI programs and initiatives for the individuals involved, and we regularly seek input and feedback from our talent to ensure that these initiatives are creating an inclusive workplace.
What’s your long-term inclusion and equity vision? What do you hope to see five or ten years from now?
In 2020, Nixon Peabody set an ambitious goal for advancing DEI at our firm by 2025. We intend to increase the representation of women, racially and ethnically diverse, and LGBTQ+ attorneys in our equity partnership, surpassing national averages to become one of the most diverse Am Law 200 partnerships. By 2025, Nixon Peabody’s equity partnership will consist of 30% women attorneys, 12% racially/ethnically diverse attorneys, and 6% LGBTQ+ attorneys. Currently, these figures are 17% women, 7% racially/ethnically diverse, and 3% LGBTQ+. Ten years from now, I hope we are finally close to realizing the promise of a highly equitable, inclusive industry.