Ropes & Gray has added Kia Scipio as its first director of diversity and inclusion in Washington as the legal industry focuses more and more on diversity.

Scipio comes from Fish & Richardson, which she joined in 2017 as diversity and inclusion manager. Prior to that she served as director of small and medium firms and diversity and inclusion initiatives at Georgetown University Law Center, where she counseled law students and developed employer relationships.

She previously worked in senior professional development positions at McKenna Long & Aldridge,—now combined with Dentons— and at Paul Hastings. She also served as assistant director of externship programs at the University of Baltimore School of Law.

Despite her credentials, Scipio, who is an attorney, said she initially got into D&I work “in some ways, kicking and screaming.”

“I kind of went into diversity and inclusion almost halfheartedly in that I thought it was very cliche that the black woman in the room is the diversity and inclusion person,” she said.

But over the years Scipio said she came to realize that she truly enjoyed this work as it spoke to her own personal commitment to D&I.

”It feels like it’s truly an adventure and I feel very fortunate to be at a firm that’s excited to go on this next adventure,” she said of Ropes & Gray.

Scipio is the 154-year old firm’s first director of diversity and inclusion and will work alongside its D&I committee to advance and grow the firm’s efforts in this area.

She plans on initially assessing where Ropes & Gray is on its progress with its established diversity goals and what it’s doing to achieve those goals.

She’ll focus specifically on the life cycle of the lawyer to ensure that the firm is creating and developing opportunities for its diverse lawyers from the recruitment stage through partnership promotion.

“We have invested significant time and effort in focusing on the full life cycle of the lawyer from the first moment that we may interact with them,” said Joan McPhee, a Ropes & Gray partner and co-chair of the firm’s diversity committee.

Dedicated Executive

McPhee said that with Scipio’s addition the firm will now have a dedicated executive that can coordinate across Ropes & Gray to make sure it’s moving forward as effectively as it can on diversity and inclusion.

The 1,400-lawyer firm has been investing significantly in programs to promote diversity. Professor and former associate dean at The George Washington University Law School Roger Fairfax is consulting with the firm for a year as its diversity advisor and scholar-in-residence.

The firm also has several related programs and scholarships, such as The Diane Patrick Attorney Advancement Fund, named for the retired Ropes & Gray partner and former First Lady of Massachusetts, which supports the professional development of diverse associates. The firm also offers the Roscoe Trimmier Jr. Diversity Scholarship which provides scholarship and a summer associate position to second-year law students from populations historically underrepresented in the profession.

With Scipio’s addition Ropes & Gray joins a growing number of Big Law firms hiring diversity and inclusion executives—sometimes from each other.

Kirkland & Ellis brought on Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe’s global head of diversity and inclusion Joi Bourgeois as its firmwide director of diversity and inclusion last week. In February, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld added WilmerHale’s Nimesh Patel as its new chief diversity officer. Perkins Coie last fall added DLA Piper’s former diversity leader Genhi Givings Bailey as its chief diversity and inclusion officer.

Scipio said that not only are law firms keen to improve diversity and inclusion, but their clients are expecting them to commit to it.

“It’s become something that’s such a high priority that law firms are realizing that we really need somebody who can truly focus on the strategy behind creating effective D&I efforts,” she said.