|Diversity and Inclusion at Debevoise
We are dedicated to attracting, retaining and promoting lawyers and administrative staff from diverse backgrounds. To ensure our continuing focus on this commitment, we have an active Diversity Committee that identifies and addresses diversity-related challenges and initiatives in four general areas: mentoring, work opportunity and environment, education and communication.
In addition to the Diversity Committee, Debevoise has a full-time Diversity Manager who coordinates diversity initiatives with the Diversity Committee, the Management Committee and various other constituencies in the firm. The Diversity Manager acts as a resource for all lawyers and staff with respect to diversity and inclusion.
The Diversity Committee comprises partners, counsel, associates and administrative professionals, meets quarterly and develops and implements specific programs to further its objectives, which include:
- Improving the experience of all lawyers at the firm.
- Increasing the diversity of our community at all levels, including the partnership.
- Fostering an environment of greater inclusion and better communication that benefits all Debevoise lawyers.
- Working to become not just “one of the best,” but a true leader in law firm diversity.
In furtherance of these objectives, the Diversity Committee promotes awareness, provides education and encourages open and ongoing discussions about diversity issues throughout the firm. Specific initiatives include:
- Empowering formal affinity groups to strengthen the support systems and sense of community among different groups and increase the substantive training opportunities for associates of diverse backgrounds.
- Actively involving affinity groups in the recruiting process, including reaching out to offerees, strengthening relationships with external pipeline programs to increase the pool of diverse candidates, hosting recruiting events for candidates of diverse backgrounds and acting as contacts throughout the recruiting process and as advisors for summer associates of diverse backgrounds.
- Sponsoring diversity-related presentations and professional development programs for all lawyers.
- Organizing diversity and inclusion training by outside diversity consultants for partners, counsel, associates and administrative staff.
- Measuring our efforts on a regular basis through internal analysis and third-party surveys of our lawyer population.
- Reviewing best practices of other law firms as well as corporations with market-leading diversity programs.
- Participating actively in outside organizations that promote diversity.
Debevoise is committed to creating a diverse workforce for the benefit of our clients, the wider community and, most importantly, for ourselves, because we believe a diverse workforce in which all of our colleagues feel respected will result in a stronger and more talented firm.
One of the greatest strengths of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP is its community. The “Fundamental Values of the Firm” articulate the importance of “cohesiveness and collegiality within the firm, founded in the character of those we select as partners, counsel, associates and staff and in fundamental principles of fairness and cooperation” with “an emphasis on the success of the firm as a whole.”
Debevoise is committed to creating a work environment that values each individual’s contributions to our community. We recognize that we must work together every day to respect the different backgrounds, perspectives and experiences of people at the firm and to support our colleagues so they have the ability to develop to their full potential. These values are the foundation of our firm and strengthen our ability to work together as a team so that we can provide our clients with the best legal services available.
Debevoise is committed to promoting the diversity of our community. This commitment stems naturally from the values that shape our firm. To continue to flourish, our firm strives to recruit and develop the finest talent from all backgrounds and beliefs. Our ability to respond to the needs of our clients, in an increasingly open and global environment, requires that the members of our community have a broad range of skills and experiences. The firm’s commitment to diversity furthers these goals.
In the News
Partner James E. Johnson was named to Black Enterprise’s List of the Nation’s Top Black Lawyers and to Crain’s New York Business’s List of Most Powerful Minorities.
Debevoise Presiding Partner, Michael W. Blair, is a director of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, an organization of chief legal officers and law firm managing partners dedicated to using all means at their disposal to create a truly diverse legal profession. Former Presiding Partner Rick Evans was among the founding board members of the Council.
In 2011, Debevoise partner My Chi To was named to the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association’s list of “Best Under 40,” which recognizes talented individuals within the Asian Pacific American legal community under the age of 40 who have achieved prominence and distinction in their fields of endeavor.
Former Debevoise partner Gregory H. Woods was recently nominated to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, after serving as general counsel of the U.S. Department of Energy.
Former partner Lorna G. Schofield was named to the 50 most influential lawyers in America list, compiled by The National Law Journal. On August 1, 2009, she became the first Asian-American woman to chair the American Bar Association’s Section of Litigation. She became Debevoise’s first woman of color partner in 1991, and was recently confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, becoming the first Filipino American to serve as a federal judge.
Debevoise is a partnering sponsor of Catalyst’s study “Women of Color in U.S. Law Firms.” Catalyst is the leading nonprofit membership organization working globally with businesses and the professions to build inclusive workplaces and expand opportunities for women and business.
By the Numbers
Debevoise placed No. 1 overall in The American Lawyer’s recently published “10-Year A-List,” a ranking of the law firms who have earned the highest cumulative score on the A-List since its inception in 2003. The annual A-List ranks firms according to their performance in four categories: revenue per lawyer, pro bono service, associate satisfaction and diversity. In addition to the firm’s overall top score, Debevoise also placed first in pro bono, second in associate satisfaction, third in revenue per lawyer and fourth in diversity.
In in its most recent survey, Multicultural Law magazine ranked Debevoise eighth nationwide in overall diversity in its annual “Top 100 Law Firms for Diversity” survey.
In 2013, Debevoise was recognized as one of the “50 Best Law Firms for Women” by Working Mother Media and the Flex-Time Lawyers Group. Debevoise was one of only four New York firms listed, and is the only New York firm to have made the list in each of the six years that it has been compiled.
Vault's 2013 rankings list Debevoise among the top ten firms for diversity among minorities, women and GLBT lawyers.
In 2012, Debevoise was once again awarded a perfect score of 100 by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI) in its annual ranking of LGBT employment policies, designating the firm one of the “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality.” It was the fifth consecutive year that the firm was recognized.
Leadership Inside and Out
Women partners and partner members of minority groups play a critical role in the leadership of the firm. Mary Beth Hogan is co-chair of the firm’s Litigation Department and Peggy Davenport is co-chair of the firm’s Corporate Department. Maeve O’Connor is a member of the firm’s Management Committee. Nicole Levin Mesard is co-chair of the Hiring Committee, and Catherine Amirfar is co-chair of the Pro Bono Committee. M. Natasha Labovitz is co-head of the Business Restructuring & Workouts Group and Satish Kini is co-chair of the Banking Group. Becky Silberstein and Joe Hamid are co-chairs of the Associate Liaison Committee, Ben Lim is head of the Hedge Funds and Derivatives & Structured Finance Groups, and Ivan Mattei co-heads the Project Finance and Infrastructure Group. In addition, Sarah Fitts is Co-Chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Group.
In leadership of the profession outside the firm, Barbara Paul Robinson was the first woman President of the New York City Bar Association (1994-96). She is currently a member of the DirectWomen Institute, a joint venture of the ABA and Catalyst formed to train women lawyers to become directors of public companies. Mary Beth Hogan is a board member of Catalyst, a research and advisory organization that promotes women’s career advancement and leadership, and is President-elect of the Board of Directors of Nazareth Housing. Sarah Fitts is a vice chair of the Renewable and Demand Energy Resources Committee of the Section on Environment, Energy and Resources of the American Bar Association, a member of the Leadership Council of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) and a board member of the Urban Teaching Corps. She also chaired the New York City Bar Association’s Asian Affairs Committee from 2007-2010.
Debevoise is an active participant in the Diversity Committee of the New York City Bar Association and is a signatory of the City Bar’s three diversity statements:
The 1991 Statement of Goals of New York Law Firms and Corporate Legal Departments for Increasing Minority Representation and Retention.
The 1998 Restatement and Reaffirmation of Goals for the hiring, retention and promotion of attorneys of color and the retention and promotion of women.
The 2003 Statement of Diversity. Debevoise was one of the first firms to sign onto the statement.
Diversity-related Pro Bono
Debevoise recently finished No. 1 overall and No. 1 in pro bono among all U.S. law firms in The American Lawyer’s recently published “10-Year A-List.” which ranks firms according to their performance in four categories: revenue per lawyer, pro bono service, associate satisfaction and diversity. Our lawyers regularly support diversity in their pro bono commitments, including the following recent or current representations:
- Advising a group of individuals seeking to establish a not-for-profit women’s university in Asia, based on an American liberal arts educational model, that would educate, train and cultivate women leaders.
- Providing legal advice to inner-city micro-enterprises through partnerships with the Business Outreach Center, the City Bar Justice Center Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project, the Legal Aid Society, and the Business Center for New Americans.
- Advising Rwanda Works, a not-for-profit company that invests in sustainable development projects in the Republic of Rwanda, on rebranding and corporate restructuring.
- Assisting New York’s Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project establish a loan fund for DREAM Act-qualified low-income immigrants, helping them obtain the necessary funds to pay the DREAM Act fee.
- Representing the Human Dignity Trust, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association and the International Commission of Jurists in a constitutional challenge to legislation in Belize that criminalizes private consensual sexual activity between people of the same sex. Debevoise is also leading the fight to overturn Singapore’s criminalization of male homosexuality.
- Filing an amicus brief in the administrative appeal before the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services challenging Medicare’s ban on coverage for sexual reassignment surgery to treat gender dysphoria.
- Filing an amicus brief in the Superior Court of New Jersey on behalf of several LGBT rights organizations in El’Jai Devoureau v. Camden Treatment Associates, LLC.
- Assisting the Social and Economic Rights Action Center, a Nigerian NGO, in representing a class of citizens of Lagos, Nigeria who were forcibly evicted from their homes in a large slum community when the government demolished it before the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights. After 18 years of litigation, the evictees have yet to receive any redress and have decided to take their case to the African Commission.
- Helping Haitian nationals residing in the U.S. to apply for Temporary Protected Status following the January 2010 earthquake through clinics set up by the Legal Aid Society, The City Bar Justice Center and New York Legal Assistance Group.
- Drafting an amicus brief to the West Virginia Supreme Court for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund challenging a trial court’s ruling against a gay couple seeking to adopt the foster child they had been raising since birth.
- Achieving a significant settlement in one of the firm’s larger and longest lasting civil rights pro bono matters. In E.E.O.C., et al. v. Local 28 of the Sheet Metal Workers’ Int’l Assoc., Debevoise worked with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, as well as the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the State of New York and City of New York, to challenge the discriminatory practices of a labor union on behalf of a class of the union’s black and Hispanic members.
- Helping Holocaust survivors apply for benefits under the German Ghetto Work Payment Program through a Bet Tzedek clinic.
- Assisting low-income transgender individuals with their legal name change process through the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund Name Change Project.
- Obtaining political asylum for clients from all over the world, including Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe and the People’s Republic of China, among many other countries through Human Rights First and City Bar Refugee Assistance Project, and clients persecuted in their home country based on their sexual orientation, transgender identity or HIV status through Immigration Equality.
- Working on custody, child support, matrimonial and family offense cases for low-income female survivors of domestic violence through inMotion and Sanctuary for Families.
- Assisting the Muslim Women’s Collective, a group of 12 voluntary and community organizations in the London borough of Tower Hamlets with forming a legal entity.
- Assisting a non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging mental and physical wellness within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community through participation in the sport of rock climbing in becoming incorporated and obtaining tax-exempt status.
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