Fenwick & West's efforts to improve diversity were the subject of a recent front-page article in The Recorder entitled, "Fenwick Redefines Color of Money." In the article, Kay Hodge, chair of the American Bar Association's Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity, called the firm's efforts "an innovative and creative step."
The article also quotes UCLA law professor Richard Sander, who critically analyzed diversity and minority presence in large firms, concluding that the low number of black partners could be blamed, in part, on larger firms' inadequate training and mentoring of their minority associates. However, not all firms are being criticized by Sander. Fenwick & West established a program two years ago that is "very promising," according to Sander.
Fenwick & West committed itself to increasing diversity by creating a program that asks each partner to participate in at least three of 12 activities which support minority recruiting and associate mentorship. Associates are then expected to evaluate the impact each partner has on the firm's diversity efforts. Furthermore, the firm established significant bonuses for the partners who are active in supporting diversity at the firm.
Laurence Pulgram, Chair of the Copyright Litigation Group, said, "The fact that diversity became one of a relatively low number of things that can—in and of itself—trigger a bonus I think particularly communicates the firm's seriousness of purpose." Adding, "It communicates that the firm means what it says in its desire to increase diversity in the workplace. It raises your own consciousness. You ask, 'What more can I do?' That gradually, incrementally, makes a difference, when 80 partners are asking themselves this. It adds up."
When asked about this program, Fenwick & West Chairman Gordon Davidson said, "It's the right thing to do." He then explained, "It's also just plain good for business. Our clients care about diversity."
The success of this program can be seen in a 2005 survey of 240 law firms conducted by Minority Law Journal. Fenwick & West ranked sixth.