Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman is the latest member of Big Law to appoint a chief diversity officer whose job will be to focus full time on diversity and inclusion issues.
Pillsbury has appointed Rosa Walker, who has been the administrator of the firm’s Texas offices, to serve as the firm’s senior director of diversity and inclusion. In the newly established role, she will work closely with Stacie Yee, a partner in Los Angeles who was named this summer as the firm’s executive partner of the diversity and inclusion committee.
“This year the firm has really invigorated its commitment to diversity and is kind of taking it to the next level. It’s not just diversity of attorneys … but expanding that diversity inclusion for staff at all levels of the firm,” Yee said.
Pillsbury is not alone. Other big firms, including Fisher & Phillips, Locke Lord, and Shearman & Sterling, have recently named chief diversity officers, and more firms are turning to a growing network of diversity nonprofits and consultants.
Yee said she is excited that Pillsbury chairman David Dekker and managing partner Edward Perron are open to innovative ideas and created the new position for Walker. “She brings enormous and very genuine enthusiasm for the work,” Yee said.
Pillsbury established a board committee several years ago focused on advancement of women to partner and to leadership roles, and it has been successful, Yee said. According to ALM statistics, 33 percent of the firm’s lawyers in 2017 were women, 22.4 percent of its partners were women and 19.7 percent were equity partners.
According to The American Lawyer’s Diversity Scorecard, 18.1 percent of Pillsbury attorneys are minorities and 11.8 percent are partners.
Walker will focus on promoting diversity and the inclusion of women, minorities and LGBTQ individuals throughout the firm, including among nonlawyers. She said she just spent two and a half weeks visiting the majority of the firm’s U.S. offices to discuss diversity and inclusion initiatives with employees.
For Walker, the responsibilities are not entirely new. She said for the past four years she has had firmwide responsibility for diversity and inclusion but she was also the Texas office administrator. ”This new role is only focused on the diversity and inclusion efforts of the firm. It’s 100 percent,” she said.
Walker will be responsible for anything that will help the firm excel in recruiting, retaining and advancing diverse attorneys and employees. On her recent tour throughout the firm’s offices, she talked about an effort to create more employee resource groups, such as a new one for LGBTQ attorneys and staff, and one for veterans that will soon launch.
Meanwhile, Yee started a twitter feed, @biglawdiversity, to promote diversity and share information with other firms.
‘It’s just sort of a passion project for me,” she said. “I wanted it to be not just focused on our firm, but recognizing what other firms are doing as well—in the legal community as well as our clients.”
Walker said Pillsbury has not set goals for the percentages of women or minority lawyers or partners, but that may be a part of a strategic plan she will submit to the firm’s managing partner and human resources department by the end of the year.