June 1, 2012

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Utah Business Staff

June 1, 2012

LARSON: When I started with Strong and Hanni, it was primarily white male attorneys. We’ve made great strides at Strong and Hanni with the efforts to bring in women. In part, that’s from being adaptable to get rid of some of the old-school ways and be more new school with respect to part-time attorneys. Now, 20 percent of Strong and Hanni’s workforce are women. And I’m happy to say, as the first female president of Strong and Hanni, they’ve come a long way. And they’ve recognized the value in opening up the issue of diversity.

We don’t have a formal diversity program per se; but when we’re looking at applicants, diversity is really an issue we’re looking at in determining one applicant versus another. And not only is it a good thing to do, but a lot of our clients are requiring that we answer very detailed questionnaires before they determine whether they’ll hire us, questionnaires that look at specific criteria for diversity.

LORIMER: If you think you have trouble finding female lawyers trained in the law, try finding female engineers. It is very, very difficult to find qualified women who also have a scientific or technical background.

Last year, for example, we hired a woman who had a background in biology. And she was not in the top 10 percent. But we find that if we look a little harder, we can find them—and it does take some digging to find anybody with a technical background, especially qualified, smart women with technical backgrounds.

I agree that we have to look at their situation differently because they have different needs and wants. Sometimes you’ve just got to be a little more flexible if you want to get qualified candidates. And some of the women lawyers we have are some of the best lawyers that we’ve got.

VON MAACK: In this market, what is diversity? We easily latch onto gender because of the pool of applicants: there’s not much racial diversity. In my firm, which is a relatively small litigation boutique, we pride ourselves as being quite diverse because we’ve got about a 50/50 LDS/non-LDS mix, which actually has some relevance. We’ve got a fair portion of LGBT people. We’re filtering up the lifestyle diversity.

We have 40 percent female partners, and that’s good, but it’s because we’re small. It’s easy to do. As Utah grows and becomes more diverse in every way, shape and form, the nature of the practice is going to get more diverse because women are graduating from law schools at a much higher rate than men are. In my relatively short time as a lawyer, I always had a female senior to me, whether it was working for a female judge, working for a female partner originally, and now having two female partners.

BARKER: A few years ago, we put in place a very formal proportionate pay—gender neutral—but it’s only been used by female associates wanting to start a family. We were all very nervous about it and how it would go, but it’s been a huge selling point in recruiting female associates, primarily. We haven’t had a male take it yet. Someone said to us that they get looked at funny by their partner they work for sometimes, but it’s worked very well.

People have now moved in and out of it, and it’s worked just fine. We haven’t quite figured out how to do that at the shareholder level; but with that formal policy, it’s been very appealing for our female associates.

LEITHEAD: We actually have a flex-time program at the firm that goes through the associate and shareholder rate. It’s just a formula that says, “If you want to work this many hours, this is how the formula works with respect to your compensation.” And about half the people who are on that program at our firm are men. It’s been very well received, not only with young women who are starting families, but, interestingly enough, some of the older, male partners who want to step back and do something different than work the 15-hour days.

BATEMAN: I would love to see the day when this conversation doesn’t happen. One-third of the employees of our firm are white men or were white men. We have as many female attorneys as male attorneys, but I don’t have any diversity program because it’s not just an issue to me. I just hire the best candidate I see. I try to make it flexible so we can grab everybody. And I just hope we stop characterizing people as female attorneys and male attorneys. I just want good people. I don’t care what they look like, how they talk. I just want good people.

What advice would you give to Utah’s business executives? What’s the value of a good lawyer on their team?

BLACK: More than anything else, you’re looking for a trusted counselor and advisor, whether it’s litigation or corporate work. You’re looking for somebody who cares as much about your problem as you care about it and to whom you can look for counsel and advice, not just legal advice but good, solid business counsel: “What makes sense in these circumstances given the unique facts of my case.” You can find that person as a trusted advisor, hire them, and keep them.

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