New York Associates Take the Lead in Forming Diversity Group

Building on Latham & Watkins’ long-held commitment to hiring a diverse and talented group of attorneys, associates in the New York office decided to take things a step further.

September 02, 2012

In 2006 a small group of associates in Latham’s New York office, including Virginia Tent and Veronica Relea, approached Sharon Bowen, a New York-based partner and co-chair of the firm’s Diversity Committee, with an idea. “They came to me and said we would like to form a multicultural affinity group, where anyone who is interested in diversity is invited to join,” said Bowen. From there, the Multicultural Promotion and Attainment Coalition (MPAC) was born.

“We felt like the firm did a really good job of recruiting a diverse group of people,” said Tent. But, what she and Relea wanted to focus on was what happened after an associate was hired. “MPAC was really designed to be sort of a critical mass of people who are interested in diversity overall,” said Tent. “It’s just a big forum that allows you to get to know people, to feel invested in the firm, and to feel like the firm cares.”

In the six years since, MPAC has hosted countless events running the gamut from bringing in speakers to discuss substantive diversity-related legal issues to inviting summer associates into the homes of MPAC members for informal dinner and conversation. “It’s a lot of fun to have an intersection of geeky law things and fun social things,” said Tent. 

An Open Forum for Discussion

The group meets once a week to give members an open forum for discussion and to organize events. “People just talk about what is on their minds,” said Tent. “Sometimes it’s grousing, but a lot of the times it’s focusing on issues within the firm or legal issues that are interesting to people.” “We encourage communication, discussion and the implementation of ideas,” Relea added.

For diverse law students launching their careers, a group like MPAC is particularly attractive. “I was very focused on what kind of initiatives for diversity any firm that I joined was doing,” said Drew Gulley, an associate in the New York office and a member of MPAC’s steering committee. “When I went through the recruitment process I asked to meet associates of color and LGBT associates to get their sense of how Latham treated its diverse associates and what approach they took to diversity. Through those meetings, I learned about MPAC.”

The group works not only to create an environment that will be welcoming to diverse new recruits, but also one that will make them want to stick around. “MPAC focuses on the long-term process of making Latham & Watkins a diverse workplace at all levels, but the work doesn’t stop there,” said Relea. “We want to hear what makes associates want to stay at Latham. Our interest is sustainable diversity and inclusion.”

An Associate-Driven Diversity Initiative

With several new hires taking spots on the steering committee each year, MPAC remains an associate driven initiative, though partners, counsel and firm management have been unwaveringly supportive. “I’m particularly proud of MPAC because it really showcases the firm at its best, i.e. when our associates approach us with something that is a really good idea, the firm is very receptive in supporting it and helping it to thrive, and it really has thrived,” said Bowen.

With firm support and track record of success MPAC is now looking to expand. There are talks to develop an MPAC in the Los Angeles office as well as an LGBT initiative between the New York and Washington, D.C. offices.

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