Foreword: We Need to Talk About Race

The 2020 racial reckoning ignited a conversation at Weil, like many organizations, about justice and equity. To meet that watershed moment, we had to come together to catalyze meaningful change in society, the legal profession, and also within the Firm. In this moment, Weil’s Diversity Committee developed a mission statement with a special focus on our Black Attorneys and Staff, and reviewed over 175 ideas to develop an action plan.

As Co-Chair of the Diversity Committee, my primary goal for Weil’s Black attorneys is to help to make them successful. By “successful,” I mean continuing to foster a workplace culture conducive to their success, and continuing to focus the Firm’s efforts at recruiting, retaining and advancing attorneys of color, particularly our Black lawyers. Moreover, “success” means ensuring that our Black attorneys not only have the opportunities to excel, but that they get the specific skillset and training to take their practice to the next level, whether at Weil or elsewhere.

Leadership and Accountability: Two advisory boards were formed, one comprised of Black partners and the other of Black counsel and associates, to work with Executive Partner Barry Wolf. Each board meets with Barry Wolf, the Firm’s Executive Partner, monthly to advise on a range of issues of importance to the Firm, including but not limited to diversity-related topics.

In addition, we enhanced multiple accountability mechanisms to foster greater partner engagement, including new questions on the annual partner report card and upward review surveys for counsel and partners and an additional scoring element focused on Black attorney representation on Leadership Diversity scorecards.

Career and Leadership Development: BLAST (Black Lawyers Achieving Success Together) is a new initiative investing in the Firm’s Black talent. The BLAST program for senior Black attorneys features Management Committee Sponsors, individualized business plans, executive coaches, and group leadership sessions. Mid-level and junior Black associates participate in level-specific monthly sessions facilitated by external leadership experts. The partner mentors of Black associates participated in a pilot program to strengthen mentoring across different skill sets. In addition, we developed Jumpstart – a resource for new and lateral Black associates which pairs a Black partner with an associate upon joining to support their transition to the Firm.

Diversity Education: To raise awareness to the systemic nature of racism across broader society, we held over 30 programs as part of a Racial Justice series, addressing the impact of racism in many facets of society – ranging from health care to the criminal legal system, with thought-provoking speakers such as Professors Ibram X. Kendi and Kimberlee Crenshaw. Furthermore, we devoted both our 10th annual mandatory diversity education program and our biennial Diversity Month programming to being actively antiracist, and also highlighted the intersectional dynamics of racism, including with disability and gender identity.

Nearly two years later, we are reflecting both on our results and where attention is still needed. We now have 9 Black partners in 6 different practice areas and resident in 5 offices globally. Since 2020, we’ve also increased our Black senior associate ranks from 2% to 7% which establishes a foundation for future growth.

In the words of Barry Wolf: “While the issues we grapple with as a nation are not new, the collective energy towards change we have witnessed as a community signals a cautious hope for a better future.” I am proud that through the sustained commitment and intentional investments of the Firm – at all levels – we are making meaningful change. We invite you to join us on this journey to collectively address racial justice in our profession.

Adé Heyliger,
Partner and Co-Chair Diversity Committee,
Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP