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 Lynne Espy-Williams, Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer. 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 offers resource groups tailored to promote the success and inclusion of six self-identifying constituencies: Asian Attorney Resource Group, Black Attorney Resource Group, LGBTQ Attorney Resource Group, Hispanic/Latino Attorney Resource Group, Different Abilities Attorney Resource Group, and 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.
The firm became a signatory firm to Mansfield 3.0 in 2019, a pioneering initiative that helps law firms ensure a diverse candidate pool for significant leadership positions and/or appointments. The Mansfield Rule is an award winning idea from the 2016 Women in Law Hackathon hosted by the Diversity Lab in collaboration with Bloomberg Law and Stanford Law School – certifies that law firms consider at least 30% women, LGBTQ+ and minority lawyers for significant leadership and governance roles. In 2020, the firm achieved Mansfield status.
Most recently, Cozen O'Connor achieved Mansfield Certification Plus status for 2021. This is the highest designation that a firm can receive from the Diversity Lab. Mansfield Certification Plus recognizes that, in addition to meeting or exceeding the pipeline consideration requirements for certification; women, minority, LGBTQ+ and lawyers with disabilities represent at least 30 percent of a significant number of firm leadership roles and committee positions. Very few firms are able to achieve this status.
Cozen O’Connor focuses its DE&I activities in three key areas: Recruitment & Hiring, Retention & Promotion, and Community Engagement.
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 designed 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 program participants, accepts summer associates from these programs, and has hired program participants as full-time associates after graduation.
Cozen O’Connor’s own 1L DE&I Fellowship — named the Bernard Lee Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Scholars Program in honor of our late partner, Bernard Lee, and his passion for mentoring young lawyers and developing a pipeline of diverse talent within the firm and the legal profession —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 work as summer associates 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, 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.
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 Summit. 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 summits 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.
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, Asian Human Services, Chicago Youth Centers, Human Rights First, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Neighborhood Assistance Program, Center for Victims of Torture, Transgender Legal Defense Fund, The Food Bank, and Human Rights Coalition, among others.
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.
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.