Sidley Austin Brown & Wood LLP has created an ongoing and comprehensive effort to recruit, develop, advance, and retain women and people of color. This initiative, Strategies for Success: An Ongoing Commitment to Diversity, is embedded in a strong, inclusive culture in which all employees understand that the firm will flourish through a diversity of perspectives. The Committee on Retention and Promotion of Women and the Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity work with the Recruiting and Compensation Committees to design and support programs and policies that maintain a culture of inclusion, bring diverse talent into the firm, and develop and promote women and people of color to partnership and positions of authority within the firm.
Strong commitment, role modeling, and communication from senior leadership reinforce the importance of diversity to the firm’s success. While formal accountability mechanisms are rare in law firms, Sidley partners are required to, among other things, annually account for their personal efforts to improve the diversity of the firm. This accountability—along with a strong, inclusive culture, leadership, and innovative programs and policies—ensures that the firm’s diversity efforts are sustained.
These efforts have had an impact on diverse representation within the firm’s senior ranks. One-third of the firm’s women partners currently hold positions as firm-wide or office committee chairs or co-chairs. While 22 percent of the lawyers promoted to partnership in 2002 were women, 43 percent of those promoted in 2004 were women. The representation of attorneys of color within the partnership increased from 6 percent in 2002 to 8 percent in 2004. In 2004, almost 18 percent of the total partnership was composed of women.