Iveliz Crespo, the city of Philadelphia Law Department’s newest director of professional development, is on a mission to diversify the ranks of city attorneys.
Before joining the Law Department, Crespo worked as a civil attorney for several nonprofit organizations representing minority communities. She has represented migrant farm workers in civil rights, labor trafficking, and employment cases and LGBTQ clients in a variety of legal matters related to sexual orientation and gender identity.
Hired by City Solicitor Marcel Pratt to her new post in September, The Legal asked her about the current state of the Law Department and her vision for the future:
Q: Is the Philadelphia Law Department currently a reflection of the community it serves? If not, why?
A: Ensuring diversity in the workforce of the Philadelphia Law Department continues to be a key priority on my agenda. The Law Department should reflect the diversity of all of Philadelphia’s citizens.
As attorneys, we have a shared responsibility to provide historically underrepresented groups the opportunity to participate fully in our profession. I believe this is both a moral and ethical responsibility—one that is rooted in a belief that law, at its best, can be a means of achieving equality for all.
This obligation is even more significant in the public sector, where we ultimately are accountable to the public as well as our government clients.
At the Law Department, I am proud that out of a staff of 332 employees, nearly 43% identify as racially diverse and about 63% identify as women.
Despite these numbers, we still have many strides to make to ensure that we are fully reflective of the community that we serve. I am proud to work with an executive team that is equally committed to attaining that goal
Q: How do you measure an office’s diversity?
A: As a queer woman of color, my view of diversity is a global and intersectional one that includes, but is not limited to, race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, age, pregnancy, religion and veteran status. At some point, everyone falls into an identity that may come up against a barrier to their full participation.
That’s why it is important to have a wide lens on diversity and an understanding that the concept of diversity is a fluid one that must be continuously adjusted to adapt to the ever-changing nature of our population.
To ensure that we are ahead of the curve, we are conducting an inclusivity assessment, that will allow us the opportunity to measure diversity beyond race and sex, and to ensure that we are providing an inclusive work environment where everyone can thrive.
Q: How will you attract diverse attorneys to the ranks of the law department?
A: We are committed to ensuring that we are consistent in our efforts to attract and retain diverse talent.
The Law Department remains committed to diversity through our hiring process by both ensuring that diverse candidates are part of the pool of potential candidates and ensuring that hiring panels are diverse.
Law’s increased diversity reflects our efforts to recruit diverse attorneys from law schools, law firms and other areas. In addition, the Law Department encourages attorneys to pursue leadership positions in legal organizations and minority-based affinity groups, which directly assists in raising the profile of the Law Department and attracting talented individuals.
In fact, since January 2019, 66% of our new hires identified as people of color and 61% identified as women.
As the first-ever director of professional development/diversity and inclusion, one of my focuses has been to continue expanding outreach efforts with law schools and minority-based affinity groups to fill vacant positions.
Additionally, I recognize that diversity initiatives are unsuccessful unless we are intentional about creating an inclusive work environment. In conjunction with our first-ever inclusivity assessment, we are also ensuring that our professional development trainings include ongoing cultural competency workshops.
Q: What challenges to your goal keep you up at night?
A: The biggest challenge about working in my role is that the work is never “done.” There will always be more to do when it comes to creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace and world.