Covington & Burling has hired Marlene Aquino, former head of diversity at Booz Allen Hamilton, as its first chief diversity and inclusion officer.
Aquino will serve as the firm’s most senior administrative officer for diversity and inclusion, responsible for developing and implementing strategic plans to increase the firm’s diversity efforts. She will work closely with Floyd Mills, Covington’s director of diversity and inclusion.
“The firm continues to view diversity and inclusion as a key priority, and these values fundamentally reflect who we want to be as an institution,” Covington Chairman Doug Gibson said in a statement. “We see Marlene’s addition as an important next step in fostering our diversity and inclusion efforts. She will be a key resource in helping us think strategically about the best ways to enhance our diversity and inclusion programs and practices.”
Gibson, who took over as firm chair in January, said when he was elected for the role that he plans to focus on collaboration, diversity, and growth.
Law firms are under increasing pressure to diversify their ranks. A 2019 study by the National Association for Law Placement found that while women and minorities have made steady gains in representation at Big Law firms, the pace of that growth has been incremental at best.
As chief diversity officer at Booz Allen Hamilton, Aquino implemented diversity and inclusion accountability programs and worked to diversity the firm’s talent acquisition pipeline. She also supported the development of affinity groups and forums for employees and leaders to discuss diversity and inclusion, according to Covington.
“Covington has an impressive reputation that extends well beyond the legal industry,” Aquino said. “I wanted to be at a firm that holds their people at the heart of their business. This shines through in their commitment to diversity and inclusion not only within the firm but also in the profession.”
Aquino said these values are incredibly important as the firm weathers the coronavirus pandemic, which many experts worry will hinder diversity and inclusion efforts in the legal profession. Covington has already modified much of its diversity programming to include virtual affinity groups and heritage celebrations, she said.