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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

INTRODUCTION

At McGrath North diversity, equity and inclusion are part of our core values and we are committed to providing a culture where lawyers and professional staff of all backgrounds, regardless of gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, national origin, disability status, sexual orientation or beliefs, develop and thrive.

We recognize that sameness is not a virtue and has persisted for too long in the legal industry.  We strive to create an environment that reflects the diversity of our clients and the communities where we live and work, and we are committed to achieving greater diversity, inclusivity, and equity not just within McGrath North but for the legal profession as a whole.

To lead these efforts, one of our firm’s standing committees is our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.  It is chaired by partner and board member Abigail Moland and includes both partners and associates from various practice groups across the firm.  The DEI Committee’s mission is to provide actionable steps to assure that our firm is building an open and affirming culture that provides equal career opportunities for every member of its increasingly diverse team.

RECRUITING AND DEVELOPMENT

Recruiting, retaining and developing a diverse team of lawyers is a fundamental priority for McGrath North.  Because of historical barriers, we know that this will not occur organically and instead requires intentional, ongoing efforts.

To help build a larger pipeline of diverse law students, and to push our profession to do more to increase workplace opportunities, we have led with both our voice and our financial resources.  McGrath North was one of the original firms to sign on to the Call to Action Initiative of the Nebraska State Bar Association publicly pledging to promote diversity hiring.  For over 20 years, we have endowed two Creighton University School of Law scholarships, one of which is dedicated to support minority students.  In addition, a number of our attorneys play leadership roles in high school mock trial programs which can help spark interest in students from all backgrounds.

The firm has also recognized that it is important to expand our geographic recruiting to increase the pool of diverse candidates.  While we still recruit within Nebraska, we also are very active at other law schools with larger candidate pools such as University of Iowa, University of Minnesota, and law schools in Illinois, Missouri and Colorado.

In addition, the structure of our summer law clerk program presents a unique opportunity for diverse students to transition to associate positions and beyond.  In both our 1st and 2nd year law clerk programs, students are introduced to real-world skills development which we believe materially enhances their preparation for a productive career.  Further, unlike many firms, our clerkship program is a key pipeline for associate positions.  We do not use it as a competitive, weeding-out process and instead nurture these relationships to maximize the likelihood clerks will choose McGrath North as the platform to build their careers.

But the firm is also very much aware that retention and development of associates is key to building a diverse, equitable and inclusive team.  We invest heavily in the professional growth and development of our lawyers through our Talent Development Committee.  The Committee is comprised of partners who hold leadership roles within the firm.  Members of the Committee work closely with participants to introduce them to all levels of firm practice, culture and people.  The Committee also provides continuing legal education, training and valuable mentoring opportunities for our newer lawyers to support and accelerate their path to partnership.  We do this because we understand that the success of our firm, and our ability to meet the needs of our clients now and in the future, depends upon the development and retention of highly talented attorneys at all stages of their careers.

All of the efforts outlined above are making a difference, but we are pushing hard to accomplish even more.  Our success to date includes:

  • Since 2011, 62% of all attorneys hired have been women.
  • Since 2015, 60% of all attorneys elevated to partner are women.
  • The firm’s Food Regulatory, Immigration, Insolvency and Privacy teams are led by women.
  • Our seven-person Board of Directors includes a woman and three of its members are under 45.
  • Of our lawyers age 40 and under, 50% are women and includes representatives of the Latina and LGBTQ communities.
  • As to the most recent group of five associates who have received and accepted offers, three are women and one is an African American male.
  • As to our 2020 group of five 1st year law clerks, two are women and one is an African American male.

TARGETED INITIATIVES

Women of McGrath North

McGrath North is committed to providing a workplace where women thrive, and our firm recognizes the importance of mentorship and affinity in the retention and development of female lawyers. To further support and facilitate this, McGrath North has established a women’s affinity group which meets monthly around shared interests, such as arts and culture, civic involvement, health and fitness, and business or practice development. These activities afford female associates immediate access to women partners and counsel both inside and outside of their practice group, thus giving them exposure to a wide variety of personalities and perspectives.

McGrath North’s Board of Directors and the firm’s Talent Development Committee have also worked to maximize the firm’s success in retaining women lawyers, promoting women associates to partnership and promoting women partners to positions of authority and leadership within the firm.

Supporting Remote and Flexible Work Life

McGrath North wants all of our professionals to have rewarding careers that help us fulfill our commitments to our clients without sacrificing our personal lives.  We also recognize that our firm benefits from having diverse and well-rounded lawyers who excel in the practice of law, as well as in other aspects of their lives.  As a result, our firm is committed to supporting our professionals through the changing times in their lives.  We do not believe in a “one size fits all” approach to work arrangements, which is why we offer a variety of resources to help our lawyers better manage their personal and professional obligations.  These include the following initiatives:

  • The firm has made significant investments in technology to enhance our capability to work remotely without compromising data security. This allows us to be responsive to our clients yet support flexible work opportunities.
  • The firm has adopted a flexible work policy that allows our professionals to maintain a full-time schedule in more than just an 8-5 day.
  • The firm has generous leave policies that allow our professionals to focus on their parental and family responsibilities.

EDUCATION AND AWARENESS

Over the last five years, the firm has made a material investment of its time and resources to help all of our professionals better understand the challenges and benefits surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion in our profession and workplace.  With the leadership of nationally renowned experts Joe Gerstandt and Kathleen Nalty, we have conducted regular, training sessions to help all of us be better equipped to see and overcome the disruptors and barriers to building and maintaining a work environment that benefits all of our lawyers equally.

We are now focused on driving all of this to a person-to-person level within our firm.  We are continuing these important efforts through activities including in part one-on-one discussions between lawyers and staff who may not regularly interact and additional all attorney and staff training.

McGrath North is not done, will never be done, and is fully committed to pushing everyone within the firm to become their best version of inclusive, equity-driven team members.

PARTNERSHIPS

McGrath North is actively involved in promoting and supporting many important community organizations that serve a broad range of goals and purposes.  We have partnered with over 50 civic and charitable organizations in order to advance the diverse interests and needs of members of our community.  Some of our closest alliances include:

  • Girls Inc.
  • CUES (Christian Urban Education Services)
  • The American Lung Association
  • Heartland Pride Festival
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Project Harmony
  • The Hope Center for Kids
  • The Salvation Army
  • The Stephen Center
  • Women’s Fund of Omaha

McGrath North’s partnership activities go beyond financial assistance.  For example, Abigail Moland, a McGrath North partner, is a member of the inaugural 2019/2020 class of LeadDIVERSITY advocates.   This is a program of Inclusive Communities intended to build a network of leaders to help provide solutions for enhancing diversity and inclusion in Nebraska.  Cody Brookhouser-Sisney serves on the Board of Directors of Heartland Pride which promotes and celebrates LGBTQ+ communities.  In addition, “Outreach 365” is a philanthropy committee at McGrath North that was established in recognition of our responsibility to contribute time, skills and other resources for improvement of the quality of life in our community.  The committee leads staff in pro bono volunteer efforts that foster staff involvement and enable us to enhance and maintain needed human services.  Through all our targeted actions, we are working to make a lasting difference in our community.

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