Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Mansfield 4.0 Certified

Cozen O’Connor is committed to employing a diverse complement of attorneys and staff, and to fostering greater inclusion in the legal profession. We understand the organizational effectiveness that comes from welcoming and valuing difference within the firm, and we know that assembling a team with a rich diversity of perspectives and experience is necessary to providing the highest quality legal service. As a firm, our goals are to recruit professionals with diverse backgrounds and talents, maximize the unique potential of each employee, and build a more inclusive profession.

To pursue this important mission, Cozen O’Connor has adopted a multilayered approach. Our efforts are led by a chief diversity, equity & inclusion officer. This is a management-level position and can only be held by a member of the firm’s partnership. David Shimkin is chair of the firm's Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee, which was first established in the late 1990s and includes attorneys from various practice areas and offices, as well as staff from the recruiting, marketing, and professional development departments.

The firm operates resource groups tailored to promote the success and inclusion of five self-identifying constituencies: Asian Attorney Resource Group, Black Attorney Resource Group, LGBTQ Attorney Resource Group, Hispanic/Latino Attorney Resource Group, and Disabled and/or Veteran Attorney Resource Group. Cozen O’Connor takes equally seriously its commitment to the advancement of women in the legal profession, and the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) team works in close partnership with the firm’s independent, award-winning Women’s Initiative.

Cozen O’Connor focuses its DE&I activities in three key areas:

Recruitment & Hiring

Cozen O’Connor is — and always has been — an equal opportunity employer. We do not discriminate based upon race, color, gender, gender identity, national origin or ancestry, religion, age, disability, citizenship, marital status, military or veteran status, sexual orientation, or any other prohibited basis. This policy extends to all aspects of the employment relationship, including hiring and advancement.

Cozen O’Connor is a signatory to both the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Statement of Goals of Philadelphia Law Firms to Increase Minority Hiring and the Statement of Goals for the Advancement of Women in the Profession. The firm is a founding member of the Philadelphia Diversity Law Group, whose mission is to design programs that support the recruitment and retention of diverse lawyers.

The firm seeks to recruit law students with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. We do this, in part, by participating in pipeline programs like the Philadelphia Diversity Law Group Fellows Program, the Houston Bar Association’s Minority Opportunities in the Legal Profession, and the San Diego County Bar Association’s Diversity Fellowship Program. Initiatives like these work to identify excellent first-year law students from diverse backgrounds, offer summer employment opportunities at prestigious law firms, and provide educational seminars about the business and practice of law. Cozen O’Connor often participates in the interview and selection of new fellows, accepts summer associates, and has hired fellows as full-time associates after graduation.

More recently, Cozen O’Connor launched its own 1-L Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Fellowship. It is open to first-year law students who belong to a group that has historically been underrepresented in the legal profession and have demonstrated a commitment to building diversity and inclusion. Through that program, diverse students can summer at Cozen O’Connor and build connections for future employment.

Our recruitment professionals and hiring partners are also focused on reaching out to law schools with diverse student populations. Cozen O’Connor members travel to minority student job fairs across the country, such as the Philadelphia Area Diversity Job Fair, Northwest Diversity Job Fair, and Lavender Law Career Fair, among others. They participate in panel discussions on inclusive recruiting and engage in other on-campus programs with the goal of increasing our firm’s profile among diverse student populations.

Retention & Promotion

We understand that recruitment and hiring is only half of the picture. In order to build a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive law firm, real attention must also be paid to helping diverse attorneys and staff stay and succeed. Cozen O’Connor has instituted a number of practices and programs intended to dismantle the explicit and implicit barriers to diverse attorney advancement and to promote career-long professional development.

Importantly, Cozen O’Connor looks for opportunities to appoint diverse attorneys to leadership positions within the firm. We know that having diverse members in decision-making roles is a critical way to ensure that those constituencies are heard and represented. In addition, we believe it is vital for young lawyers to see diverse attorneys as members of the board of directors, Management Committee or Hiring Committee, and as chairs of practice groups or office managing partners because it helps them envision a real pathway toward success.

In terms of direct programming, Cozen O’Connor hosts a biennial multi-day DE&I Retreat. Self-identified diverse attorneys from offices across the country are invited to gather along with firm managers and key clients. Research shows that the professional success of diverse attorneys is highly dependent on their connecting with available resources, having a strong community, and finding mentors. These retreats enable diverse attorneys to develop sustaining peer networks, receive training on topics from client pitches to the promotion process, and allow them to provide direct feedback to firm management about Cozen O’Connor’s diversity efforts. By engaging in this dialogue, diverse attorneys can share their wisdom and raise their profile.

All firm attorneys receive mentorship and training, but the firm has developed a tailored mentoring program whereby diverse associates or members may be paired with members of the DE&I Committee or other attorneys who are specifically committed to their success and retention.

Cozen O’Connor hosts speaker series, trainings, and panel discussions throughout the year that focus on raising awareness about DE&I issues, including, for instance, discussions of how unconscious and implicit bias influence retention, promotion, and compensation decisions at law firms and analyses of DE&I best practices in other peer firms and corporate America.

Finally, Cozen O’Connor tries to foster an internal culture that recognizes DE&I as being a mission for all of us and not simply an issue for self-identified diverse employees. In our language and in our practices, the firm reinforces the fact that we all benefit from building a more just, diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce.

Community Engagement

Both as a firm and as individuals, we are deeply engaged with the communities where we work and live.

The firm operates a multimillion dollar grantmaking entity called the Cozen O’Connor Charitable Foundation. Formally incorporated in the early 2000s, the mission of the foundation is to promote charitable giving in seven distinct areas, one of which is DE&I. The firm gives substantial annual donations to support organizations working on racial justice, gender equality, LGBTQ rights, and veterans’ services. Examples of grantees include the Urban Affairs Coalition, Hispanic Federation of New York, Women’s Way, and Human Rights Coalition.

It is important to note that our foundation guidelines require that requests for money come from a Cozen O’Connor lawyer who is “closely” involved with the organization, meaning they serve as a board member, event chair, or longtime adviser. As such, foundation donations reflect not only a firmwide monetary commitment but also a time commitment by individual attorneys as well.

Indeed, on an individual basis Cozen O’Connor attorneys are active in a range of bar associations and bar programs that are specifically focused on promoting diverse attorneys, including as leaders in the Gate City Bar Association in Atlanta, the Hispanic Bar Association in Houston, the Hispanic National Bar Association, the National LGBT Bar Association, and diversity officer of the American Bar Association’s Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section.

Cozen O’Connor attorneys also provide pro bono services that promote DE&I, under the direction of our full-time director of Pro Bono Engagement. 

Cozen O’Connor actively seeks out opportunities to participate in pro bono litigation to protect and advance the civil rights of vulnerable groups, including minorities, immigrants, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQ community. For example, the firm was co-counsel with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in a critical voting rights case in Terrebonne Parish, La. The plaintiffs, four individual black voters, filed suit in 2014 to challenge the at-large method for judicial elections, a deliberately discriminatory system used to dilute the votes of black voters, which had persisted in the parish for nearly 50 years. The district court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in 2017 and an affirmative remedy will be implemented.  We are also co-counsel with the Pennsylvania ACLU on behalf of intervenors, defending the Boyertown School District’s policy of permitting students to use the facilities that are consistent with their gender identities. 

Many of our attorneys also handle critical pro bono cases on behalf of individuals whose needs align with our diversity initiatives. We routinely represent immigrants and refugees through the complicated and often byzantine process of acquiring status that will permit them to live and work in the United States. We protect the rights of military personnel and veterans, assisting them to get the benefits they need and deserve, and representing them in family law, consumer protection, landlord-tenant, and other matters to ensure their rights are protected while they are on active duty.  And we represent people with disabilities to ensure that they receive appropriate accommodations in their housing.

 

For more information, contact
 

Lynnette D. Espy-Williams

Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer

 

 

 

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