Staying the Course: Nixon Peabody LLP is Building a Diverse, Equitable and Inclusive Workplace

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Leaders at Nixon Peabody LLP discuss how they’ve gone beyond mission statements and into real DEI actions

Thanks to decades of work from grassroots advocacy groups and professional service allies - including Nixon Peabody - most of us now agree that building diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces is a corporate imperative, with substantial social and economic benefits.

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Rekha Chiruvolu Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, Nixon Peabody LLP
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Sonia Nayak, Los Angeles Office Managing Partner, Nixon Peabody LLP

We must never take our new consensus for granted, but we can be confident that many businesses, customers and employees share this aspiration. Now that our missions are broadly aligned, we must examine our practices closely and ask ourselves some crucial questions: How effectively do our real-world actions reflect our stated DEI principles? Which tactics and strategies are truly moving the needle? And how do we engage with skeptics - in Big Law and beyond - who claim to see tension between the twin goals of representation and results?

Nixon Peabody’s Los Angeles office, home to 114 professionals who embody Southern California’s dynamic cultural diversity, offers a clear answer to each of these important questions. Since opening our L.A. office in 2005 - an ambitious West Coast expansion for a firm that began more than 100 years ago in Rochester, New York - we have made an intentional and concentrated effort to attract, develop, and retain top talent, with a particular focus on skilled attorneys from backgrounds that are underrepresented in our industry.

In fact, more than 80% of the people at Nixon Peabody L.A. identify as women, people of color, or as members of the LGBTQ+ community or another underrepresented group. More than 75% of all NP L.A. attorneys -- including 60% of partners -- are also members of underrepresented groups. And our years-long commitment to diversifying our firm and the L.A. office continues to pay dividends in today’s highly competitive job market: In 2022, we’ve added seven partners and nine associates to the L.A. team, nearly 63% of whom are diverse. There is perhaps no greater testament to the way Nixon Peabody’s diversity commitments resonate among talented attorneys and the industry at large. Firmwide, we have set ambitious goals to continue diversifying our equity partnership -- the ranks of attorneys who own our business -- by 2025.

Clearly, Nixon Peabody L.A. can claim one of the most diverse and inclusive Big Law offices in the country. We’ve invested the time, attention and resources required to make this happen, because we know that even the most well-intentioned principles fall short unless they are paired with concrete actions and validated by rigorous, measurable standards.

So, how have we done it? Building a firm that reflects our colleagues, clients and communities requires thoughtful strategies for recruiting and hiring.

Our firm follows the Mansfield Rule criteria, which require that 30% of the candidates considered for significant leadership roles must be women, attorneys of color or LGBTQ+ attorneys. And our commitment to representation in recruiting and staffing extends from C-suite executives to summer associates. Half of all second- and third-year law students interviewed for coveted internships, and 20% of candidates interviewed for open lateral associate positions, must come from underrepresented backgrounds. This ensures that we are truly considering a broad range of candidates who reflect the diversity of our communities and clients. Our DEI goals are threaded through every stage of the hiring and talent development process -- ensuring that we are building a firm and an L.A. office that mirrors the people we serve.

We also understand that hiring diverse talent is only the first step in a continuous, thoughtful effort to create an equitable and inclusive organization. We build our teams through new hires and extensive support for the people already here. By offering robust mentoring and sponsorship programs, and creating resource groups with a direct line to firm management, we ensure all our team members can make their voices heard on the issues that affect their performance, career development and firm citizenship.

Nixon Peabody has been a strong advocate for DEI principles in Big Law since long before the current consensus formed. Like any organization with a longstanding commitment to this work, we have often faced skepticism for those who claim such efforts are superficial -- that DEI is merely an exercise in optics.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. The research is clear: Diverse teams devise better solutions for clients. When a team draws on the varied experiences and knowledge of each member, the end result is more creative, more innovative and more effective. While we have always known that building a diverse organization is the right thing to do, we also see that it’s the smart thing to do. There is no tension between representation and results because our firm proves that one leads directly to the other.

Our clients are also prioritizing their DEI principles and taking active steps to live out their values. We are thrilled to contribute to these efforts. This year, we introduced our industry-leading DEI Strategic Services team, designed to position our clients for long-term success by helping them develop inclusive cultures that drive business success, elevate their brands and respond to the needs of their people.

The consensus is clear: Companies who act on DEI do better. Organizational success is measured not by stated promises but by disciplined practices that make a meaningful difference. Nixon Peabody is proud to lead the movement toward a more inclusive legal profession, and we’re excited to team with our people, our clients and our communities to create lasting change.