Philadelphia personal injury firm Haggerty, Goldberg, Schleifer & Kupersmith has brought aboard former Pennsylvania Secretary of State Pedro A. Cortés in an effort to strengthen its commitment to the Latino communities it serves.

Cortés, who served as secretary of state from 2003 to 2010 and was the senior adviser for Latino affairs to three governors, has joined the firm as of counsel.

Cortés said that while he will handle some cases, his role at Haggerty Goldberg will primarily be as a senior adviser on governmental affairs, community advocacy and strategic planning, noting that his time in state government has provided him with a “good feel” for legislative issues.

But beyond that, Cortés said his main focus will be helping the firm with community outreach, particularly with regard to Latino communities.

James C. Haggerty, a founding partner of Haggerty Goldberg, said the firm hopes to utilize Cortés’ extensive ties to Latino communities across Pennsylvania.

“Our firm has for years provided services to the Hispanic community and we look to Pedro to help us to grow our representation of persons throughout the commonwealth,” Haggerty said.

Cortés was Pennsylvania’s first confirmed Latino cabinet official and its longest-serving secretary of state.

Before becoming secretary, Cortés spent three years as the executive director of the Pennsylvania Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs, making recommendations on policies, procedures and legislation aimed at assisting Latinos in Pennsylvania.

He was also a member of the Interbranch Commission for Gender, Racial and Ethnic Fairness from 2005 until 2012.

Cortés, a native of Puerto Rico, said he believes he can strengthen Haggerty Goldberg’s representation of Latino clients from a business standpoint but will also seek to help the firm continue its efforts to be a “strong community member that understands the issues.”

“I feel I have an excellent sense of the dreams and aspirations of the Latino community,” Cortés said, explaining that the ability of a firm to empathize with a diverse client base hinges on having a diverse staff, something many law firms in Pennsylvania seem to lack.

In an “ideal world,” according to Cortés, all business organizations would have staffs that reflect the communities they serve.

“I think sometimes organizations see dollar signs when they’re looking at communities but they miss the mark on the cultural proficiency needed to understand that this is beyond a business transaction. This is about being able to fully engage a particular community,” Cortés said.

According to Cortés, in a profession where attorney-client relationships are built largely on trust, having shared experiences “helps immensely.”

“You don’t have to be a Latino to appreciate the experience and struggles of the Latino community, but the fact is when it comes to that issue of trust, it’s important to be able to relate to a person as someone who has been there,” Cortés said.

Cortés said he’s known some of the partners at Haggerty Goldberg, including founders Haggerty and Terry Goldberg, for more than 10 years, dating back to his time as executive director of the Governor’s Advisory Commission.

Cortés said he was attracted to Haggerty Goldberg in part because of its commitment to diversity.

“In the case of HGSK, it’s beyond the fact that you have a number of staff that are bilingual, beyond the fact we’re bicultural — we can understand the struggles of our clients in order to better relate to our clients,” Cortés said.

Cortés said he was also impressed by Haggerty Goldberg’s attempts to be a “good corporate citizen” that encourages its attorneys to get involved in the communities they serve, either by donating time and money to charitable causes or by serving on the boards of nonprofit organizations.

“HGSK has done well by doing good,” Cortés said. “The firm cares deeply about its clients and the communities it serves.”

Cortés said that while his of counsel role with Haggerty Goldberg will technically only be part-time, he expects to be “fully engaged.”

“I’m not coming in as an associate or a partner but it will be a full-time commitment,” Cortés said.

Zack Needles can be contacted at 215-557-2493 or Follow him on Twitter @ZNeedlesTLI.