Moving Forward Together: a Message from our Chair

June 5, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

Since I wrote to you last Friday, outrage over the death of George Floyd has continued to unfold around our country. These protests have spread to every US city where we have an office, and to some of our international locations.

At a time when we were already reeling from a pandemic, feelings of despair, shock, sadness, and anger are taking a toll on all of us. Even so, we must not forget that this uprising is a result of long-term systemic racism felt throughout our country and our history. George Floyd’s death is part of a pattern of injustice and violence we’ve seen too many times. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. Tony McDade. Nina Pop. Philando Castile. Eric Garner. Laquan McDonald. Sandra Bland. Botham Jean. The list goes on.

As a parent, I very much want to believe that each new generation brings advances in equality. Whether it is women’s rights, the rights of the LGBTQ community, or in racial equality, we hope in earnest that as human beings we are moving forward. As a 54-year-old, my generation was raised on the stories of the Civil Rights movement. We took pride in humanity that those before us had the courage to push through the evil and make the world a better place. In the year 2020, shouldn’t we be in an even better, more understanding, place? These most recent events, however, have revealed the cold truth of what my privilege concealed. Despite advances that have been made, there is no finish line to what we need to do. 

As our Chief Inclusion & Diversity Officer, Kori S. Carew, Esq. noted in her open letter, this moment invites us to be anti-racist, above all else. My message today echoes and affirms that. We unequivocally stand on the side of justice and equality with our Black colleagues, friends, family members, neighbors, and everyone who wants us to live up to the dream of America. We resolve to work together with you to address the systemic sickness of racism in America. And to our Black colleagues specifically: We hear you. We support you. We stand with you. We reject bigotry in all of its forms.

As a firm, we must look at this as an opportunity to reflect on the work we are doing—and the work yet to be done—regarding our own advances in inclusion. It will take intentional and conscious effort from all of us to make the necessary changes. If the resilience and empathy demonstrated over the last few months is any indication, I know we can do this difficult work.

In the next few days and weeks, you will continue to hear from firm leadership on how we can all address these issues together. You will hear from our Executive Committee and other firm leaders alongside our Office of Inclusion and Diversity, National Diversity & Inclusion Action Team, and Affinity Group Chairs. Our forward movement through these times will be collaborative and aligned.

If you haven’t already, I hope you will read Kori’s email. We are grateful she is here to help guide us through this troubling time, and to build upon the work done by others before her.

Here, I want to amplify the next steps she outlined previously:

  • On Tuesday, June 2, our Office of Inclusion & Diversity hosted a virtual check-in for our Black professionals at Seyfarth. It was a time of community, healing, and processing in a safe space. We invited Dr. Angela Neal-Barnett from Kent University who is a professor, psychologist, author, and director of the Program for Research on Anxiety Disorders among African Americans. We will continue this dialogue with our Black colleagues.
  • In the next week we are hosting a town hall meeting all employees and partners can attend to discuss and process the recent events, the underlying systemic racial inequity, the resulting trauma as well as what each of us can do. This is an essential next step in our roles as change agents and allies, and how we protect the inclusion and diversity we value.
  • Our leaders will receive toolkits on leading inclusively during this time. Information on allyship and understanding race in America will also be available to every employee. Our Office of Inclusion & Diversity will also be working with leadership one-on-one to answer their questions and discuss inclusive leadership competencies.
  • We are currently working with a group of law firms to develop specific longer-term, systemic solutions to racial injustice. Additionally, our Pro Bono and Inclusion & Diversity teams have a long history of collaboration and are continuing to explore opportunities to be of service in this time.
  • We pivoted our action plan for Inclusion & Diversity in March and April in response to COVID-19, and we will again examine our strategy and action plan to ensure we are addressing issues and concerns that have arisen in the last two weeks.

The actions Kori outlined above are part of our long-term commitment to inclusion and diversity in our communities and among our ranks. While we have made progress, we are not perfect. In recognition of this, we resolve to continue taking positive action. Our commitment is found in longstanding programs such as our Rooney Presumption and Triad Mentoring program, as well as The Belonging Project which we recently launched to support and build community among diverse law students, attorneys, and allies to combat the impact of COVID-19 on diversity in the profession.

In closing, I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for the work you have done, the work you continue to do, and the work you will do to address these very important issues.

Stay safe and well,