Seyfarth and a coalition of nonprofit groups have launched an initiative to mitigate the impacts of the Covid-19 crisis on diversity and inclusion in the legal profession by providing resources, training and mentorship opportunities to law students and young lawyers, the Big Law firm has announced.
The core of its initiative, titled The Belonging Project, is a “virtual hub” where law students and attorneys with up to 12 years of experience can access professional development resources including virtual one-on-one coaching and webinars on topics including networking, interviewing, and mental health, the firm said.
The program’s developers are aiming to avoid the diversity problems that followed the financial crisis a decade ago, in which young attorneys of color and women were disproportionately affected by law firm staffing cuts.
“What happened in 2008 is every diversity professional’s nightmare,” said Kori S. Carew, Seyfarth’s chief inclusion and diversity officer and leader of The Belonging Project.
The project is a collaborative effort between Seyfarth and a slew of organizations including Diversity Lab, the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, the National LGBT Bar Association, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, and the Hispanic National Bar Association.
“This is something that impacts the entire profession, and we didn’t think we could make a big enough dent by ourselves,” Carew said. “So if an organization is research based, let’s leverage their research capabilities. If they’re education based, let’s leverage the resources they provide.”
“When Kori reached out about creating a consortium or a group to prevent what happened in 2008 to associates of color, it was a no-brainer for me to say yes,” said Jean Lee, president and chief executive officer of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association.
Some resources are already available on the project’s website. Additional webinars, mentorship and coaching will become available later this month, Seyfarth said.
D’Arcy Kemnitz, executive director of the National LGBT Bar Association, described the project as a “vehicle” to get information to the students and lawyers who need it most urgently. “We’re all exhausted from tech right now,” she said. “It’s not just another online thing.”
Along with career resources, the project is also intended to provide support to attorneys of color who may also be disproportionately impacted by the Covid-19 crisis, according to Carew.
“Here in Chicago, a great majority of the people who have been sick and died from Covid have been black people,” Carew said. “For many diverse professionals, they are responsible for multiple people in their family. They’re worried about the older people they care for, and the younger people they care for.”
“We wanted to make sure that it was not just job related but also encompasses things like mental health and wellness,” she said.