• Combining Professional Development and Diversity Departments: How One Change Can Make a Big Difference
  • June 21, 2016
  • Law Firm: Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak Stewart P.C. - Greenville Office
  • In the fall of 2011, the leaders of Ogletree Deakins took a bold and strategic decision to combine the firm’s professional development and inclusion departments into a single department. In doing so, the firm actualized its commitment to effectively developing all levels and varieties of talent, regardless of how attorneys identify in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or disability.

    This united approach towards professional development, on the one hand, and inclusion and diversity, on the other, is now an essential part of our firm’s attorney advancement and retention initiative. It is meant to ensure all our attorneys have the opportunity to grow professionally and develop the commercially viable skills that lead to success and directly benefit our clients. Additionally, this approach seamlessly integrates diversity and inclusion as a focus for leadership skills that can be taught and learned as part of our professional development initiatives.

    At the 2016 Annual Education Conference held in Boston, Massachusetts on April 13-16, three colleagues and I were panelists on a session in which we discussed how compartmentalizing professional development and diversity as independent initiatives can fail diverse attorneys and result in an inefficient use of law firm resources. We advocated for the new paradigm of strategically combining both departments and we shared our successes with an engaged, participative audience.

    For a fuller discussion of this paradigm, we invite you to read our article in the May 2016 NALP Bulletin, which expands on the rationale for dissolving the professional development and diversity silos and shares best practices for merging the two departments-a choice that has had such a positive impact on our attorneys, our firm, and most importantly, our clients.