Cooley plans to hire a manager dedicated to diversity and inclusion efforts for professional staff, taking things a step further than what the industry has been slowly trying to do for its attorney ranks.
Cooley, which already has a diversity team in place for attorneys, said the new position would be the first in the industry to focus specifically on staff. The firm has nearly 1,200 staff members across 15 offices. Professional staff includes patent agents, administrators, among others.
“If we’re going to be truly focused on inclusion that includes the staff that help Cooley to achieve the success that we see and hope we continue to see,” said Amie Santos, Cooley’s director of diversity and inclusion.
Big Law is under pressure to recruit and promote more minorities and women. A 2018 study by the National Association for Law Placement published this year found that while women, minorities and LGBT lawyers made gains in representation at major U.S. law firms, progress has been incremental. In some cases, clients have pushed for more diversity.
But Santos’ D&I team at Cooley already includes two other managers, a coordinator and an assistant.
It has so far interviewed several candidates for the new post, and plans on hiring in the next month, Santos said.
“There’s been quite a lot of interest so its just making sure we get the right person,” Santos said.
Diversity and inclusion professionals at law firms have focused on supporting attorneys with an eye toward law school recruitment, lateral hiring, retention and promotion.
But Santos said it seemed out of balance that a diversity and inclusion team excluded half the firm.
“There is no other industry that has this separation between attorneys and staff and provides so much more support for the attorney side and really not on the staff side,” Santos said.
Cooley’s diversity and inclusion manager will have a broad mandate.
This will range from supporting and growing respective affinity groups, which at first will be veterans and LGBT+ groups, to involving staff in training around bias and bystander intervention as well as bridging the gap between attorneys and staff.