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08 May 2020

Seyfarth Shaw forms coalition to prevent impact of Covid-19 from undermining diversity

US firm teams up with array of representative groups to establish The Belonging Project

Portrait of Kori Carew

Kori Carew: 'As a profession, we must double-down on our efforts during this challenging time'

Seyfarth Shaw has formed a ‘coalition’ of representative groups to help lawyers and legal students from diverse backgrounds cope with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Belonging Project initiative aims to provide ‘a comprehensive suite of professional development resources’ for diverse lawyers and students to counter the disproportionate impact the pandemic is likely to have on their career prospects.

It will also offer webinars focused on professional and personal development and one-on-one coaching. 

The firm and the project’s other collaborators cite evidence from the last financial crisis that diversity and inclusion within the profession was severely impacted.

They point to data provided by the National Association of Law Placement that the proportion of black lawyers employed at law firms has only just reached pre-financial crisis levels.

In 2019, black attorneys accounted for 4.76% of all associates in the US, the highest level since reaching 4.66% in 2009.

The project is being spearheaded by Kori Carew, Seyfarth’s chief inclusion and diversity officer.

 “As a profession, we must double-down on our efforts during this challenging time,” she said. “We cannot allow this current crisis to set back our progress on inclusion and diversity. With The Belonging Project, like-minded organizations are taking tangible action to help prevent that from happening.”

Supporters include the Diversity Lab, the Association of Corporate Counsel’s ACC Foundation, the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, the National LGBT Bar Association, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), Corporate Counsel Women of Color (CCWC), and the California Minority Counsel Program.

Other groups, law firms and corporate legal departments are being invited to join the initiative.

D’Arcy Kemnitz, executive director of the National LGBT Bar Association, said: “The LGBT Bar is thrilled to help build and spread the word about this important online resource for underrepresented legal communities during this time of global crisis. The LGBT community of lawyers, law students, and judges considers itself a family and we are hopeful that this resource will help protect the very most vulnerable.”

Other diversity projects launched this year in the US include the Move the Needle Fund (MTN), which is seeing five law firms spend more than $5m over five years exploring how to improve diversity and inclusion, and The Black General Counsel 2025 website, which serves as a resource centre for aspiring GCs, providing help and advice on how to rise up the in-house career ladder.

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