Action for Change: Fenwick’s Commitment to the Equal Justice Movement

The uprising of protests for racial justice and against police brutality rightly calls for action. The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many others deeply concern us. As attorneys, we have a professional duty to hold the justice system accountable for treating all people equally. As people, we have a moral duty to hold ourselves and others—including our elected leaders and those charged with protecting and serving all members of our society—accountable to act against racism in all its forms.

Within our Fenwick community, our initial response to the calls for change has been focused on introspection and listening. Over the past two weeks, we have had practice group meetings, officewide meetings, community lunches, leadership discussions and countless individual conversations throughout our firm aiming to better understand the experiences of our African American colleagues and how we can best show our support and allyship. The candid sharing of lived realities, and the discomfort such conversations can sometimes involve, is an important part of our ongoing growth and learning.

We are also moved in this moment to work with our colleagues, our clients and our community to be advocates for equal justice and to fight racism in all forms. Here are some of the specific actions we will take to support meaningful change:

We will continue to listen. Ongoing, open-minded conversations that involve active listening with diverse members of our community are key. We will continue these important conversations and will invite our friends and clients to join us in them. We will also further invest in ongoing programs and trainings to enable all members of our community to identify racism and bias—both overt and implicit—and be more equipped to confront it.

We will give financial support to committed organizations. The firm and our partners will collectively donate more than $725,000 to organizations working for equal justice, to protect civil rights and to advance the democratic principles needed to support both. We recognize the importance of our institutional support for such organizations as well as the value of the individual action of our people in deciding to give directly. Our leadership and the substantial majority of our partners have contributed to our campaign so far. More than half of our collective contributions to date will go to the Equal Justice Initiative – one of the nation’s leading non-profits devoted to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, and to challenging racial and economic injustice – and our firm will sustain our financial support of EJI on an ongoing basis. The remainder has been committed to more than 20 other organizations fighting for justice and equality, including the ACLU, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Southern Poverty Law Center and many more. This week, we invited our associates and professional staff to join our campaign to provide financial support to these organizations, and we anticipate our total donation amount will increase as a result.

We will provide legal advocacy for equal justice. We recognize the importance of pairing our financial commitment with the direct support of our legal skills and our time. Fenwick is partnering with our clients and with legal service organizations to focus on pro bono legal projects that work to dismantle institutional and structural racism over the long haul, advocacy to help people caught in the criminal justice system, and legal services that build up entrepreneurial businesses and wealth within under-resourced and under-served communities of color, in addition to other equal justice projects.

We will promote and protect civic and community engagement. A democracy with a high level of engagement that holds our elected leaders accountable is vitally important to promoting equal justice and protecting rights for all. Our firm is deeply committed to voter protection efforts and, for many years, has provided pro bono legal services in support of voter rights. We will continue these longstanding efforts and support of the Election Protection coalition to encourage voter participation, while striving to defeat measures that make it harder for Americans to exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot—measures frequently targeting people of color. We will also add our voices to the grassroots efforts by many to demand that our elected officials enact meaningful police reform to limit uses of force, improve community interactions, improve training and ensure accountability.

Through continued listening and learning, charitable giving, pro bono legal advocacy, and civic and community engagement, our Fenwick community is committed to answering this call for change. We look forward to working with our friends, clients and the broader community to help take action that we hope will bring about changes that are unjustly overdue.