At Baker Donelson, we strive to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all our employees. We welcome people of all races, genders, ages, languages, ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, disabilities, sexual orientations and religious beliefs to assist our clients in achieving their legal goals. We understand and salute the unique perspectives and approaches that are provided by differences in educational background, socio-economic background, personality profile, geographic location, job duties, marital and family status.
Our goal is to create an atmosphere at our Firm that honors the diverse quality in each of our employees. The Diversity Committee includes our Chairman and CEO, COO, five board members and four Practice Group leaders among its ranks. Meeting once a month, the Committee is charged with overseeing and implementing the Firm's diversity initiatives.
In cultivating different ideas and perspectives, we strive to exceed expectations by encouraging our attorneys and supporting our attorneys in activities that promote diversity. We have engaged in many activities and organizations to encourage inclusion:
- We annually award three recipients the Baker Donelson Diversity Scholarship, which awards diverse law students a salaried second-year Summer Associate position and $10,000 to be paid during the students' third year of law school to help defray the cost of tuition and related expenses.
- The Firm funds the Baker Donelson Internship Program at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI). Three interns are chosen from an application process and are assigned to positions in education, archives or public relations to support the BCRI mission, which is "to promote civil and human rights worldwide through education."
- We participate in the Nashville Bar Association High School Internship Program, which has led to us hiring a high school student in our Nashville office since the summer of 2008.
- We regularly co-sponsor the Minority Enterprise Development (MED) Week and other similar events. Each event provides a forum to discuss the continued growth and development of minority business enterprises.
- Baker Donelson is a sponsor of the Birmingham Business Journal's Best in Minority Business Awards, which celebrates the spirit, creativity and resourcefulness of minority business leaders and companies promoting and achieving diversity in their business.
- We conduct mandatory diversity and inclusion training for the entire Firm each year, covering a variety of topics. In 2008, a professional consultant was retained to train several attorneys and staff members to deepen the discussion on inclusion and diversity.
- We are participating members in the Atlanta and Nashville Stonewall Bar Associations, and are active in LGBT business organizations.
- We regularly reward achievement by our diverse staff for their accomplishments.
We understand that changes will not be achieved by good intentions alone. In order to achieve meaningful, measurable and lasting progress toward greater inclusion of diverse legal talent, it is necessary for us to not only commit philosophically to those goals, but also to commit resources, individually and collectively, towards activities that we as a Firm believe will have a positive impact.
At the beginning of the Firm's diversity initiative, in 2002, we had seven minority attorneys. We outlined a goal of increasing our minority attorney population by 100 percent in two years, and we met it. Today, we have nearly 60 minority attorneys and nearly 250 women attorneys, and continue to strive to attract and retain diverse talent.
- We actively recruit at historically African-American law schools, such as Texas Southern University and Howard University. Our individual office Recruiting Committees and Diversity Committee work simultaneously to deepen the breadth of candidates.
- Our summer associate program has experienced a steady growth of diverse students, which increases our growth in associate hiring.
- We continue to build our mentoring program for our diverse associates and are preparing them for leadership positions throughout our Firm.
- We have created an initiative to reach out to diverse undergraduate students to help them achieve their goal of entering the legal field. "Bringing Diversity to Our Businesses" is led by two female minority attorneys, demonstrating our dedication to encourage more minorities to attend law school and our commitment to grow leaders from within our own ranks.
Baker Donelson's COO and President is a woman, and female and minority attorneys currently serve as chair of seven of our 19 practice groups, and serve or have recently served as one of our twelve managing shareholders. Four female and one minority shareholder serve on the Board of Directors, and numerous committees are chaired by minority and female lawyers. Women head several administrative departments, including our Attorney Recruitment, Human Resources and Professional Development departments.
Diversity is engrained in our culture and is an implemented aspect of attorney and shareholder retreats; Baker Donelson attorneys and clients increasingly desire and expect a diverse team of attorneys to be engaged in the Firm's work.
We have implemented a flex time policy for our attorneys, allowing lawyers to deviate from the standard billable-hour format. We support the desire of our attorneys to balance a challenging professional career with their personal lives and other outside interests and responsibilities.
We have not completed our journey. Baker Donelson attorneys continue to seek leadership opportunities and to encourage our attorneys to be active in the community.