A Model Diversity Program

Wednesday, March 1, 2006 - 00:00

Editor: Please tell us about your background before arriving at Saul

Vaughn: Immediately before coming to Saul Ewing, I was the Assistant
Dean for Career Planning at Temple University Beasley School of Law. In that
position, I was responsible for a department that supported the career needs of
students and alumni. I was familiar with many of the firms in the city and the
issues about which law students who sought to enter the large firm environment
were concerned, such as diversity and work-life balance. That made the
transition easy for me.

Diversity in the legal profession has been a passion of mine for many years.
I was very active in the Philadelphia Bar Association's Committee on Minorities
in the Profession when the Bar Association set forth a "Statement of Goals" for
increasing minority representation and retention in law firms and corporate
legal departments. Through the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), I
served as a liaison to the American Bar Association Commission on Opportunities
for Minorities in the Profession (now the Commission on Racial and Ethnic
Diversity in the Profession).This group's sub-entities are designed to promote
diversity in law firms and corporate counsel offices. I have had a lot of
exposure to the dialogue about diversity and various strategies that had been
used by bar associations and others to promote this agenda.

Editor: Please tell us about Saul Ewing's diversity initiative.

Vaughn: Saul Ewing embraces diversity as one of its core
values. About four years ago, the Firm stepped up the pace of its diversity
efforts. There had been attempts in the past to increase diversity within the
Firm but the desired result was elusive. Two partners stepped forward to lead
the charge with vigor and determination. They reconstituted the Diversity
Committee so that it included key leaders within the Firm. They took advantage
of extensive research materials available through the Minority Corporate Counsel
Association (MCCA). Dr. Arin Reeves, a nationally recognized consultant in the
field of diversity in the legal profession, came on board to share her
experience. All of these focused efforts culminated in a Strategic Plan for
Diversity. My energies are devoted full-time to plan implementation.

Editor: I understand the plan has 35 action points. Are the points staged
at different intervals?

Vaughn: Not really. We fully appreciate that creating a more diverse
and inclusive environment takes time . Some things are easy to do
like the creation and dissemination of the Firm's vision statement for
diversity. That has been completed and is on our website (www.saul.com).
However, most of the 35 action points are ongoing items that we continue to work
on and expect to take some time to fully implement.

Editor: You feel that you are touching upon most of these 35 points now or
are there some that you hope to meet in the future?

Vaughn: I think that it is difficult to hit every point at the same
time. Most diversity-oriented activity tends to be cyclical. Right now, because
a lot of law student organizations host banquets and conferences during the
first quarter of the year, we are spending time making our presence known in
those venues. As we move into spring, we may focus on some of the work of the
various committees within the Firm that have an impact on incoming law students
or the current cohort of associates. It is the type of the thing that shifts
from season to season. My focus is to prioritize and activate various
constituencies so that at any given point we are working on some portion of
implementation of the strategic plan.

Editor: One part of the plan calls for training of the attorneys. How is
this being implemented?

Vaughn: Diversity training manifests itself in many different ways.
This year I hope to involve everyone in the Firm, including staff, in some type
of training. We may begin with cultural awareness/ valuing differences. We also
plan to weave diversity into traditional instruction, such as interviewer

Editor: And new hires have training when they come in?

Vaughn: When new associates join the firm, I participate in
orientation to bring them up to speed on our diversity initiative. I let them
know how they can get involved and what to expect. I emphasize that we are
serious about diversity and solicit their active support.

Editor: Does your very active diversity program attract more lawyers to
the firm?

Vaughn: When new lawyers come to the firm, I send them an email
message attaching our strategic plan for diversity as well as a copy of the most
recent diversity newsletter. Recently, I have gotten replies from people who
were delighted to hear about our initiative, saying that it was one of the
things that attracted them to the firm. Some of our partners have received
feedback during law student interviews which signals awareness of and great
interest in our diversity focus.

Editor: Three key areas that the firm wishes to address with these
initiatives are: diversity in recruiting, retention and promotion and the
ongoing role that diversity will play in the firm. Please tell us about your
progress in these areas.

Vaughn: On the recruiting side, we are doing very well. In fact, out
of 263 attorneys, we have three minority partners, one minority special counsel
and 21 minority associates. We have 31 women partners, six women special
counsel, and 44 women associates. Our 2005 summer class was quite diverse. Out
of 18 students, 13 were females and seven were minorities. However, all the
research shows that retention is the big issue with regard to minority attorneys
in large law firms. In order to address this issue, we hosted our first Minority
Attorney Retreat in September of 2005. The outcome was so positive that this
will be an annual event.

Editor: Have you seen progress in addressing diversity in many different
levels of the firm?

Vaughn: With regard to creating a culture where diversity is valued,
we are creating a buzz and getting people more engaged. One of the action items
of the strategic plan calls for the firm to honor Dr. Martin Luther King's
birthday each year by participating in the National Day of Service. We did this
last year and in January of 2006. One of the ways I can measure progress is that
the number of people who volunteered this year for the Day of Service almost
doubled. The types of projects we were engaged in were varied. Some people
worked on school beautification projects. In Philadelphia, we sent volunteers to
the Signature Site at Martin Luther King High School. The larger part of our
group helped prepare meals for MANNA, an organization dedicated to preparing
meals for people living with HIV/AIDS. Our Philadelphia Office's Managing
Partner, Fred Strober, participated in the completion of a house that is
destined to be sent to Biloxi, Mississippi for a family displaced by Hurricane
Katrina. Some of us joined with the Point Breeze Performing Arts Center, a
community organization which focuses on children, during their annual dance
performance at a local mall. We had three people serve as narrators before each
dance segment. They spoke about the Jim Crow South, Dr. King's Letter from a
Birmingham Jail, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of
1965. At the same time, other volunteers from the Firm manned voter registration
tables. Our Harrisburg Office enhanced their ongoing relationship with the
InterFaith Family Shelter by lending a hand in different ways.

I see an expansion of these types of activities. The fact that we are
maintaining relationships with community organizations or developing new ones
and that the number of people participating has significantly increased is an
indicator of success.

Editor: Have you received client feedback on your initiatives?

Vaughn: I receive direct feedback in the sense that more and more
clients are sending us diversity surveys on a regular basis. These very
sophisticated documents ask direct questions about what we are doing in the
realm of diversity - whether we have someone leading the initiative, whether
minorities are lead counsel in their matters, who the relationship partner is,
whether there is a diversity committee, how we measure results, the demographics
of the management of the firm, the specifics of our diversity plan and the like.
They want to know about our internal programs and whether we have a supplier
diversity policy (which we do).

Editor: Do you evaluate the success of the initiatives?

Vaughn: We are still in the process of creating success metrics. Even
though it has not been formalized, I note success in a variety of ways that may
not be tangible. We monitor the demographics of the Firm on a monthly basis. I
also see expansion in ideas that are coming from the field. For example, one of
our associates in Harrisburg came up with the idea to invite everyone in that
office to participate in diversity lunch outings. For the past six months, she
has invited people to go to a different ethnic restaurant in the area. News of
this practice spread to the rest of the Firm via my diversity newsletter. An
attorney in Baltimore liked the idea so much that she took the initiative to
start the same program in that office. The impetus for this wonderful program
was generated from the field, not from my office. To me that is further evidence
of success.

Another intangible is that committee chairs have begun to incorporate regular
interaction with our Diversity Committee into their agendas.The minority lawyers
who participated in the Minority Attorney Retreat that I mentioned previously
enjoyed the interaction so much that they have created an affinity group. It is
an internal support network that adds to the integration of our minority
attorneys into the Firm. That is a spin off that came from an event that I set
up originally but which took off as a result of the momentum generated by
others. All of these things are indicators of success because we are building on
a strong base and the impetus is not coming directly from me all the time.

Editor: Have you found a good business case for diversity?

Vaughn: Absolutely. The business case for diversity is that many
corporate clients and prospects want to see that we are serious about diversity
as a part of the process of deciding whether to use our services. They continue
to ask about Firm efforts in this regard. I am privileged to work inside of a
wonderful organization whose commitment to diversity is sincere. We are
confident that by working together and remaining faithful to our strategic
objectives, we will reach our goals.

Please email the interviewee at kvaughn@saul.com with questions about this