Media Center

Diversity and Inclusion Starts With Awareness and Succeeds Through Action

October 17, 2019

Diversity and Inclusion Starts With Awareness and Succeeds Through Action

By: Donna Kreiser

Reprinted with permission from the October 17, 2019 edition of The Legal Intelligencer © 2019 ALM Media Properties, LLC. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. All rights reserved.

McNees Wallace & Nurick identifies as its core values openness, inclusiveness, fairness, respect, dignity and collegiality. These core values are a meaningful component of our firm’s strategic plan. They constitute an element of the metrics and performance standards we utilize to evaluate all firm professionals and staff. Our core values are considered in the application of our membership criteria and are a factor as we undertake all hiring decisions.

More important, our core values drive our culture and define who we are as a firm of people and professionals. They truly constitute the fabric of our firm. The people of McNees Wallace & Nurick regularly utilize and apply the words “firm culture” as part of our firm vernacular. We know what these words mean, and we support and promote their meaning.

Our core values include the word “inclusiveness.” Inclusiveness is defined as, among other things, the practice or policy of including people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized. The first sentence of the mission statement of the diversity committee of McNees Wallace & Nurick recognizes and restates each of our core values. The mission statement then focuses on inclusiveness, as follows: “As part of this inclusiveness, McNees is committed to fostering diversity in a positive and supportive work environment. We firmly believe that a diverse group of professionals, including differences in race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and religion, increases the value of our law firm, strengthens our firm’s ability to attract talented individuals, and enhances our ability to retain and serve our clients.”

The integration of our core values, and in particular, the concept of inclusiveness, demonstrates that our core values and our firm culture drove and defined the creation of our firm’s diversity committee. The diversity committee was not created in response to social pressures or out of a desire to better position ourselves to attract new clients or maintain existing clients. Our diversity committee, and therefore the initiatives the committee undertakes, is a natural offshoot of what we believe as a firm.

Because our core values and culture were well defined and fully integrated before our diversity committee was created, and because the creation of the diversity committee clearly advanced these core values, the people of McNees Wallace & Nurick have encouraged its mission and embraced its initiatives.

The committee’s first initiative upon its creation is perhaps its most important to date—the undertaking of diversity and inclusion training for all of the people of the firm, in all of the firm offices. The training was offered by a strategist with significant experience in designing and implementing diversity initiatives, training and inclusionary processes in a business setting. These sessions were attended by 277 people, 98% of the firm. The evaluations of these sessions and the feedback received were both meaningful and impactful. Those who attended were interested and engaged, and additional diversity conversations and training sessions have been held and are in the planning process. In particular, our next series of training sessions will address the topic of unconscious bias.

The diversity committee continues to partner with the firm’s hiring committee in developing strategies and materials to enhance diversity in the hiring process. The committee is working to ensure the retention of diverse professionals and staff. The firm participates in the Capital Area Managing Partners (CAMP) Diversity Initiative program by hiring a CAMP 1L for the summer associate program and by hiring a CAMP participant for a winter internship with the firm. The diversity committee prepared, and the firm adopted, a commitment to supplier diversity. In an effort to enhance communication of our diversity initiatives, the diversity committee contributes a regular column to our firm’s bimonthly newsletter. The diversity committee also works to identify meaningful opportunities to support diversity initiatives in the community.

These initiatives may appear to be no different than those undertaken by similar committees at other firms. But, what we believe makes the genesis of the diversity committee of McNees Wallace & Nurick different than those of other firms, and uniquely mobilizes those initiatives undertaken by the committee, harkens back to what forged the creation of the committee itself:  the core values of our firm. The firm and its people promote, support and foster its core values, including the core value of inclusiveness, because those values are an important component of our cultural foundation. As a result, the diversity and inclusion initiatives of the firm are “owned” by the people of the firm. McNees Wallace & Nurick has and will continue to undertake the process of removing hidden barriers and promoting unity in its workforce, as inclusiveness is among the standards by which we define who we are as a firm.

While we are on our way to achieving success in the way we define it, there is much work to be done. We believe our firm is better equipped to drive change—to undertake inclusiveness—because doing so is consistent with our culture, integrated into our firm fabric and identifiable by the team of people who comprise McNees Wallace & Nurick.

Donna Kreiser is vice chair of McNees Wallace & Nurick, co-chair of the public finance & government services group, member-in-charge of the Lancaster office and chair of the firm’s diversity committee. Her practice focuses on municipal and project finance law, including economic development, transportation, government, health care and education.