A day after the MTV Video Music Awards honored Heather Heyer, a legal assistant killed earlier this month while protesting against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a high-powered law firm announced that it would be among the first to support her former employer in its effort establishing a nonprofit organization in her memory.
The Heather Heyer Foundation, whose internet web domain name was registered last week by Alfred Wilson, head of legal support and a former colleague of Heyer’s at Charlottesville’s Miller Law Group, will provide scholarships to individuals committed to seeking positive social change in and around the legal profession.
Los Angeles-based Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, a mid-sized firm specializing in entertainment industry work that bolted on a smaller New York firm two years ago, said Monday that it would add its name to the foundation’s list of supporters.
“We just had a desire to do more than simply issue a statement condemning all of the really unfortunate events that took place that weekend,” said Gregory Olaniran (pictured right), co-chair of diversity and inclusion at Mitchell Silberberg in Washington, D.C., the firm’s only other office outside of Los Angeles and New York.
In the days following the clashes in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, many law firms, large and small, issued statements condemning the violence and reaffirming their commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion. Mitchell Silberberg reached out to the Miller Law Group, where Heyer had worked for five years as a paralegal, and learned about the firm’s plans to start an organization in her name, Olaniran said.
He declined to discuss the amount that Mitchell Silberberg has contributed to the Heyer Heyer Foundation, but said that the firm hoped its participation will encourage other large law firms to do the same and donate to the cause.
“We thought we could help [and] try to galvanize the legal community by calling on our colleagues to be a part of that effort,” Olaniran said.
Individuals poised to receive scholarships from the Virginia-based nonprofit, which is being created in conjunction with the Miller Law Group, must be pursuing degrees or certifications in, but not limited to, law, paralegal studies, social work, social justice and education.