Littler has appointed its first diversity head as it seeks to double the number of lawyers of colour, women and LGBTQ+ shareholders in the top quartile of its compensation system within five years.
Longstanding shareholder Paul Bateman assumes the title of chief inclusion, equity and diversity officer, reporting to newly installed managing director Erin Webber, who took over from joint heads Tom Bender and Jeremy Roth at the start of the month.
He will lead the international employment and labour law specialist’s inclusion, equity and diversity drive against the background of the launch in December of its Breaking Through: Littler’s D&I Comp Initiative, which put the firm among the growing ranks of practices that are setting targets against which to measure their progress in improving diversity.
Currently, lawyers of colour comprise 10% of the top quartile, women represent 18% and LBGTQ+ individuals represent 6%. Backed by the legal-focused advisers Diversity Lab, the initiative aims to double those proportions within the next five years. Measures include the creation of additional training programmes and mechanisms to boost diverse lawyers’ access to clients and their opportunities to take on key client relationships.
Webber said: “I consider Paul to be both a friend and a mentor, and he is the perfect choice to further Littler’s strong emphasis on our culture of inclusivity and the diversity of our team.”
Bateman, who joined Littler in 2000 and is based in Chicago, advises companies including airlines and manufactures on employment litigation with experience appearing in federal and state courts and before the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He has also held several management roles and has served on the firm’s Diversity and Inclusion Council since it was formed in 2003.
He said: “As the firm has grown to more than 1,600 attorneys around the world, operationalising our efforts is a natural and important next step to ensure proper coordination and that we continue to foster a culture of empowerment where people of all backgrounds belong, grow and succeed.”
Littler points out that the re-election of Kate Mrkonich Wilson as chair of the board on 15 January means its two top leadership positions are now held by women.
It adds that 67% of its board and more than half of the management committee are diverse and of the 26 lawyers promoted to shareholder and principal status in 2021, nearly 50% identify as of colour and more than 60% as women.
Among the law firms stepping up their diversity efforts last year were Baker McKenzie, which set up a task force to improve racial and ethnic diversity across its 77 offices, and Orrick, which hired senior lawyer Duane Hughes from JP Morgan, as managing director of inclusion.