Originally one of our summer associates, Cat Zhang has represented private equity clients and public and private companies in domestic and cross-border transactions since she joined Sidley in 2017. She is also a board member of the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles and Asian Pacific American Women Lawyers Alliance.
“Retaining diverse talent not only results in a wider talent pool generally, but it also results in new and fresh perspectives, more creative problem solving, increased productivity, and greater bonding with clients.”
How did you choose Sidley as your professional home? Did the firm’s LGBTQ+ initiatives or support for diversity and inclusion play a role?
First and foremost, I chose Sidley for the people and the Sidley community. Sidley is, of course, a preeminent law firm that boasts incredible clients, challenging work, and strong mentorship and training programs, so I knew that choosing Sidley would help me grow my career and become the best lawyer that I could be.
Having strong role models as well as a sense of community and belonging is crucial for one’s success. In Los Angeles, there are two offices that operate as one Greater Los Angeles office: Century City (where I sit) and Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA). Having Dan Clivner as the managing partner of our Century City office and Rollin Ransom as the managing partner of our DTLA office has been very inspiring. Dan and Rollin are both part of the LGBTQ+ community, and are also two of the best lawyers in the country and immensely respected in their respective fields. Their success and support for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have certainly played a role in my continued success at the firm.
In your opinion, what more needs to be done within the legal profession in terms of creating a more diverse and inclusive work environment for the LGBTQ+ community?
It’s a pretty well known fact that historically the legal profession has not been as diverse, but that is slowly changing with every year. Clients are also demanding more diversity from their legal teams, which has helped emphasize the importance of diversity and inclusion across the legal profession. However, that can also result in diverse lawyers feeling like there is a dollar sign attached to DEI efforts. This could result in a law firm or legal organization focusing on DEI efforts purely because clients request it and a diverse lawyer only being staffed on a matter so that the client can see diversity on the legal team.
Creating a more diverse and inclusive work environment involves recognizing the value of having diverse lawyers, understanding why clients are asking for a more diverse legal team, and focusing on not only recruiting but also retaining diverse talent. Retaining diverse talent not only results in a wider talent pool generally, but it also results in new and fresh perspectives, more creative problem solving, increased productivity, and greater bonding with clients. Clients themselves are becoming more diverse and are looking for lawyers who they can relate to, connect with, and who can more deeply understand their wants and needs. It’s not enough to just get an LGBTQ+ lawyer through the door; their workplace has to be a place where they are accepted and continuously supported if you want to retain them.
Sidley, for example, not only has a Diversity Committee, but also various affinity groups that meet regularly. This is vital to help diverse lawyers connect and find a sense of place and community within the firm. This year, Sidley also held firmwide in-person retreats for various affinity groups, allowing folks from offices across the country to connect live, share in our experiences, and bond with our colleagues. I’ll be attending the Sidley AAPI lawyer retreat in NYC, and the Sidley Pride retreat for Sidley lawyers in the LGBTQ+ community in Chicago . Programs such as these show that the firm is not only committed to recruiting diverse talent and providing them with equal work opportunities, but also nurturing and supporting diverse lawyers to retain them and help them advance professionally.
Can you share with us a saying or quote that gives you inspiration?
“If I wait for someone else to validate my existence, it will mean that I’m short-changing myself.” — Zanele Muholi