Learn About Latham’s Second Annual Diversity Leadership Academy

Our award-winning academy brings together Latham lawyers and talented US law students to empower the legal profession’s future leaders.

April 06, 2016

Following the firm’s second annual Diversity Leadership Academy, BJ Trach, Vice Chair of the Diversity Leadership Committee and Boston partner; Kem Ihenacho, Vice Chair of the Recruiting Committee and London partner; and Nada Boutros, global leader of the Women Lawyers Group and San Francisco Litigation & Trial associate, discuss the Academy. The Academy is a three-day, firm-sponsored, training and development program for associates and law students that seeks to develop and empower future leaders of the legal profession.  

What are the goals for the Diversity Leadership Academy?

Trach: We are committed to diversity and inclusion at Latham & Watkins. The purpose of the Diversity Leadership Committee is to ensure that this commitment touches all aspects of our culture and informs all of our major decision-making processes. We understand that our diversity makes us stronger as a law firm, and that our diversity leads to better service for our clients. It is as simple as that. Our goal for the Academy is to build upon our commitment to diversity by providing concrete tools and guidance to our associates so they can continue to achieve success in our firm, and to build a tight-knit community of incredible Latham professionals across the world.

Ihenacho: Roughly half of our Academy attendees were first-year law school students who may or may not end up at Latham in the future. We want to encourage these students to be themselves, as they decide their career trajectory. No matter what you look like, your background or where you grew up, you will succeed the most as a lawyer at a place that welcomes you to be yourself, whether that place is Latham or elsewhere. At Latham, we expect and encourage you to be who you are; we believe our lawyers’ individuality and diversity are fundamental to our success. Latham associates work on the cutting edge of the law, and it is the multiplicity of viewpoints and perspectives that allows us to craft the best solutions for our clients.

Boutros: As an associate who attended the Academy, I had the opportunity to meet so many incredible Latham attorneys from across the globe. Building those relationships with my peers, and learning about their experiences at Latham, has helped me feel part of something bigger — part of the Latham family. I also left with valuable tips for how to grow as a lawyer and position myself for success.

This is the Academy’s second year — how has it changed since last year?

Trach: Our 2015 Academy was fantastic and exceeded our expectations, but this year’s Academy was even bigger and better. Nearly 110 Latham associates opted to attend the event, and over 40 partners, counsel and senior associates attend as faculty and mentors. Our panelists were fantastic and engaged in honest, thought-provoking discussions about their time here at Latham and their various paths to success. We also heard from NYU Law Professor Kenji Yoshino on the topic of “covering” — the process of muting an aspect of one’s identity to fit into the mainstream — and how that can pose a threat to our firm’s culture, our attorneys’ individual performance, and ultimately, our ability to provide the best legal services to our clients.

Ihenacho: We received nearly double the number of applications this year from law school students across the United States. More and more folks on campus are learning about the Academy, and there is a lot of buzz and excitement. In fact, we were honored with Profiles in Diversity Journal’s Innovation in Diversity Award for the ways in which our academy offers “fresh perspectives and different ways of thinking.” This year, we also had more interaction between our student attendees and our attorneys, which was helpful for students as they had more opportunities to engage with and learn from practicing lawyers.
What has been the response to the Academy at the firm and among law students?

Trach: Our associates are thrilled to have been able to participate in the Academy, and the response has truly been overwhelming. Our associates have told us that they have left the Academy with a renewed sense of community, purpose and drive. They are excited about the path ahead, and feel supported by the firm’s clear commitment to their careers and their professional development. 

Boutros: I was impressed by how much Latham truly cares about diversity in our firm, and in the legal profession in general. Latham dedicates a significant amount of resources and time to fulfilling its commitment, and the Diversity Leadership Academy is just one great example. I also was very encouraged and motivated after listening to the Latham faculty share about how they worked their way from law school to leadership positions at the firm. As a mid-level associate, I am learning to navigate my path at Latham; to hear their honest stories, including the challenges they faced and how they overcame those challenges, was very inspirational.

Ihenacho: The response from students has also been glowing. Part of our mission is to help law school students navigate the complex process of interviewing and seeking law firm employment. With this Academy, students get an opportunity to see how Latham invests in its people, through our training and development programs, affinity groups, global mentoring programs and associate participation in firm management. We really hope that our first-year law school attendees will consider interviewing with Latham this summer.

What more is Latham doing to improve diversity and inclusion?

Trach: We have a number of initiatives and programs in addition to the Diversity Leadership Academy, spearheaded by our Diversity Leadership Committee and our Women Enriching Business (WEB) Committee. For example, for the past several years we have held an annual Women’s Leadership Academy for our senior associates and partners, which similarly aims to provide concrete tools for professional success and advancement, specifically in the areas of leadership, communication, presence, self-promotion and business development. We also partner with and support our Global Affinity Groups, which provide a firm-wide platform for our diverse lawyers to share experiences, advice and interests, and our Multicultural Promotion and Attainment Coalition (MPAC), which is an associate-driven, grassroots initiative in our offices that strives to strengthen our culture of inclusion. The firm also has a global mentoring program to support integration and to provide career advice, and holds intensive professional development academies for summer associates and first-, third- and fifth-year associates. In short, we are focused on providing essential support, tailored for each stage of our associates’ careers and for the unique challenges they may face, arming them with the tools needed to develop into leaders, both here at the firm, but also in the legal industry at large. 

Ihenacho: We also have a number of recruiting programs designed to help us recruit the best and brightest in the world. Our 1L Fellowship Program is a unique summer employment opportunity for students who have just finished their first year of law school in the US, to spend half their summer with us and half their summer in-house in the legal department of one of our clients; our 2L Diversity Scholars Program, where we award US$10,000 scholarships with an offer of summer employment, and have given away over half a million dollars since 2005; our Law Preview Scholars Program, where we offer scholarships to select students to attend Law Preview’s week-long prep courses; and our partnership with Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO), where we host as interns talented, underrepresented students who have been accepted to top law schools.

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