In 1998, Sidley’s management team comprehensively reviewed the firm’s lawyer development and promotion system. As part of this review, we formed separate task forces on issues affecting women and ethnically and racially diverse lawyers. In 2001, the task forces became permanent firm administrative committees. The firm’s leadership, understanding that gender and race issues are sometimes distinct, created two separate committees: the Committee on Retention and Promotion of Women (Women’s Committee) and the Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity. In 2006, the latter changed its name to the Diversity Committee, underscoring its commitment to address a wider variety of diversity and inclusion issues, including those affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) lawyers and lawyers with disabilities.
The Diversity Committee is effective, in part, because it works together, as well as with other firm committees. In particular, by working closely with the Committee on Assignment and Compensation of Associates, the Associate Training and Development Committee, the Recruiting Committee and the Summer Associate Committee, we help to ensure that Sidley continues to recruit, retain and promote outstanding lawyers from diverse backgrounds.
The Diversity Committee also focuses on helping diverse associates thrive at the firm and in the profession. The chairs of the Diversity Committee confidentially track the monthly hours and semiannual review reports for diverse associates and meet with a representative of the Assignment and Compensation Committee to discuss ways to further those associates’ progress. “Tips for Success” programs, annual diversity and inclusion town halls, attention to work allocation, and social and educational events also support the progress of the firm’s diverse associates. Associate diversity and inclusion councils provide additional programming, support and feedback to firm management. The Diversity Committee oversees an enhanced mentoring program that pairs diverse associates with senior partners in their practice areas for coaching, skill-building, and client relationship development purposes.
Sidley’s commitment to diversity and inclusion extends to issues affecting the LGBT communities. Sidley was one of the first large law firms to grant parity in healthcare, leave and other employee benefits for same-sex domestic partners. Our non-discrimination policy forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and, in 2007, was amended to explicitly name “gender identity and expression” as a protected category. Openly LGBT lawyers practice in each of the firm’s domestic offices, serve on the firm’s leadership and administrative committees and are members of such legal organizations as the National Lesbian and Gay Law Association, Lambda Legal and Equality Illinois. Sidley performed all the legal work pro bono for Gay Games VII, held in Chicago in 2006. More recently, Sidley’s commitment to LGBT equality was recognized by the Human Rights Campaign, which gave the firm a “perfect” (100) score on its 2012 Corporate Equality Index (CEI) report. The firm has received perfect scores on each CEI report since 2008.
Our efforts extend far beyond the firm's doorway. In Chicago, the firm has helped form and lead bar and community groups such as the Chicago Committee on Minorities in Large Law Firms. The Chicago Committee assists law firms in developing strategies to identify, recruit, hire, retain and promote diverse lawyers to partnership. It also serves as a support group for diverse lawyers. Sidley also participates in the Cook County Bar Association (CCBA) mentoring program and has hosted its kick-off reception. CCBA is the oldest African-American bar association in America.
Sidley was one of the first large firms invited to participate in the Minority Counsel Demonstration Project, established by the American Bar Association's Commission on Opportunities for Minorities in the Profession. The firm participated in drafting, and is one of the original signatories to, the Statement of Diversity Principles adopted by the Association of the Bar of the City of New York in 2003. We are also signatories to the 2005 Statement of Goals and Principles on Minority Hiring, Retention and Promotion issued by the Los Angeles County Bar Association.
Sidley also contributes to, or participates in, law-related organizations that support minority and LGBT lawyers and law students.
- The firm funds an annual scholarship for a law school student in partnership with the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois.
- In honor of Wiley A. Branton, former dean of the Howard Law School and our partner until his untimely death, Sidley has established an annual scholarship for the Howard law student who achieves the highest grade point average in the first year.
- We support the Ronald Kennedy Fellowship program at the Northwestern University School of Law, which provides scholarships and employment opportunities for diverse law students.
- One of our African-American partners chaired the Dean's Advisory Committee on Community and Diversity at Northwestern University School of Law. This Committee examined, among other responsibilities, issues facing diverse law students at Northwestern.
- Sidley has donated to Lambda Legal, a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of LGBT people and those with HIV, through impact litigation, education and public policy work.
- Our London office sponsors the Windsor Fellowship Programme, which helps diverse undergraduates become future leaders in industry. The charity selects students with a strong academic record and supports them in a two-year leadership and development program.
- At a firm-sponsored commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, Sidley awarded scholarships to outstanding diverse students from Illinois law schools.
- In March 2004, the firm established a chair at Howard to support the law school’s lecture series on diversity matters.
- We work to increase and regularly track the firm’s use of women and minority-owned businesses as part of our commitment to supplier diversity.
- We support the college aspirations of racially diverse high school students from Cristo Rey Network Schools in New York and Chicago by participating in the schools’ internship programs.
- For over 25 years, the firm’s Chicago office has “adopted” the Gerald Delgado Kanoon Magnet Elementary School, the student body of which is 99 percent Hispanic and predominantly economically disadvantaged. The firm organizes clothing, school supply, and holiday food drives to support the children of this community.
- The firm encourages its lawyers to become affiliated with minority and ethnic bar associations and underwrites membership dues for those groups. A number of our lawyers are active in the work of these groups or fill leadership positions on their boards of directors.
- Since 2002, our New York office has participated in the Justice Resource Center’s MENTOR program, in which the firm is paired with the High School for Leadership and Public Service, a public New York City high school where most students are racially and ethnically diverse. Our lawyers mentor and coach participating students who compete in state-wide Moot Court and Mock Trial competitions. The firm also provides summer employment for at least two of these students each year.
- Similarly, in Los Angeles, the firm has established an educational partnership with Dorsey High School’s Law Magnet Program to interest high school students in the legal profession.
In February, 2012, Sidley was awarded the first-ever "Chambers USA Women in Law Awards 2012: Most Innovative Gender Diversity Initiative," based on the firm’s comprehensive multi-faceted approach to supporting women in the development of their legal careers.
Sidley received a “perfect” 100 score on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2012 Corporate Equality Index (CEI) report. The firm was also named to Human Rights Campaign’s annual list of “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality,” a distinction awarded to businesses that scored 100 percent on the CEI report. The CEI evaluates companies based on their policies and programs that provide parity and support for their LGBT employees, including non-discrimination policies, diversity training, and benefits for domestic partners and transgender employees. Sidley has received perfect scores each year since 2008.
Sidley was named to Equality Illinois’ 2010 list of the 10 most “LGBT-friendly” law firms doing business in Illinois, in recognition of the firm’s achievements toward LGBT workplace equality. Equality Illinois is the state’s largest organization advocating for full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Sidley was awarded Gold Certification by the 2011 Women in Law Empowerment Forum, a designation for firms that have integrated women into top leadership positions and compensated them well.
In recognition of our firmwide diversity initiative, Sidley is one of just three law firms to receive the Catalyst Award, given by Catalyst, the leading research and advisory organization dedicated to expanding opportunities for women in business.
Sidley was recognized with an award for recruiting and attracting talent from diverse backgrounds at the Black Solicitors Network (BSN) UK Diversity Legal Awards 2011 ceremony. These national industry awards recognize the work of those organizations and individuals who are making significant contributions in the area of promoting diversity within, and equality of access into, the legal profession.
Sidley received an Honorable Mention for the Minority Corporate Counsel Association’s 2004 Western Region Thomas L. Sager Award and was the winner of the Thomas L. Sager Award for 2003 and 1991, which recognizes law firms that have demonstrated a sustained commitment to improve the hiring, retention and promotion of minority lawyers.
Sidley Austin Pipeline Programs
Over the past two decades, Sidley Austin LLP has developed or partnered in a comprehensive set of programs that encourage women, minority, LGBT, disabled and economically disadvantaged high school, college and law students to enter the legal profession and, specifically, the private practice of law. We encourage high school students to consider a career in the law, support college students seeking admission to law school, fund scholarships for law students and work to ensure that our newer diverse lawyers obtain early practical legal experience. Working with school administrators at every level, and in the communities where we practice, Sidley has supported the educational aspirations of thousands of diverse and economically disadvantaged students, and we are proud of the number who has entered the legal profession. Read More>>