A Firm Whose Diversity Roots Are Deep

Friday, February 1, 2008 - 00:00

Editor: George, the last time we spoke you were Partner-in-Charge of Jones Day's Atlanta office. Now you are the head of the Dallas office. What prompted the change?

Manning: A couple of things - Steve Brogan, Jones Day's Managing Partner, asked me to consider moving to Dallas where I had a long time relationship with many of the lawyers. I started working with the Dallas office in 1985 when I joined Jones Day in Washington and have worked with lawyers there consistently over the years. Also, I am a builder by nature. The Dallas office has always been a model of the way an office's lawyers should work together with other lawyers around the Firm. I thought it was a great chance to do something different and to expand, with the Houston office, our Texas presence.

Editor: Please give us an overview of the Dallas office.

Manning: The Dallas office has two-hundred and five lawyers today. It is a full service office with most of the Firm's practice groups. We opened the office in 1981 and we now are the third largest law firm in Dallas.

One of my goals as head of the Dallas office is to make the Houston and Dallas offices operate together seamlessly. Among our practice group lawyers we have fine energy lawyers here as well as in Houston, but our energy practice is an area we would like to expand. With respect to the other practices in the office we have a very strong securities litigation, IP litigation, products and trial practice here as well as a strong labor and employment group. Under the transactional practices umbrella we have mergers and acquisitions, capital markets, outsourcing, banking and finance as well as a very strong real estate practice. We have robust state and local and federal general tax practices as well as a benefits practice and executive compensation practice. All of these practices are based here. Other practices such as government relations, environmental and antitrust practices are centered elsewhere, but we have expertise resident here.

Editor: Jones Day prides itself on being "one Firm - worldwide." How does the Dallas office fit into this concept?

Manning: The Dallas office is one of Jones Day's "strength up the middle" along with Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Atlanta. These are strong offices with a history of practicing with lawyers not only in other offices around the U.S., but also with lawyers in our European and Asian offices. Part of this Firm's culture is to have lawyers with appropriate expertise, wherever located, bring their talents together to serve our clients. These Dallas lawyers have always led or been major players in transactions, litigation and tax matters throughout the Firm both nationally and internationally.

Editor: In connection with the one Firm - worldwide concept, would you give us an overview of Jones Day's commitment to diversity and culture of inclusion?

Manning: Jones Day is a talent-based organization and a meritocracy. We serve clients from many different countries and cultures. It is not sufficient for us to be focused on one particular American, European or Asian client, but we expect our law firm to mirror many of its clients. We continue to push to have a diverse face among our lawyers, not only race, but also gender, and to create a work environment where diverse individuals are comfortable and succeed.

Editor: One of the particularly challenging issues that a law firm faces today concerns the recruiting and then the retention of minority attorneys. How is Jones Day doing in this regard?

Manning: The Firm is now and has long been committed to diversity. We are doing well. I am most familiar with our success in Atlanta, which was the result of several things. We will meet with similar success in Dallas. Early on in my tenure in Atlanta, a young accomplished lawyer of color suggested to me that the office was not engaged in practicing diversity as effectively as it might. With her help, and that of Rick Deane (a former U.S. attorney), and several associates of color, a plan was developed to reach diverse lawyers in law school and potential lawyers prior to law school, which included recruiting through job fairs outside the standard law school recruiting system. We were successful in attracting law students of color to the Atlanta office as summer and full time associates and we have a good track record on retention. In the last four years, the Atlanta office promoted three diverse lawyers to partnership up from the ranks. The only lawyer promoted to partnership in Houston this year was a diverse lawyer, Ruthie White.

The Dallas office has not yet had as much success as I would like, but we will have future success. We hosted the National and Regional Boards of BLSA, the Black Law Students Association, here in June. We are very active in the Dallas Bar minority recruiting activities. Our Dallas and Houston offices recruit for diverse law prospects from a wide range of schools including Thurgood Marshall School in Houston, an historically African American university.

Recruiting is easier than retention. Recruits must fully understand what is expected of them as they progress from first year associate to ninth year when they are poised to become partner. Minorities should feel they are not unique in the process, but included. While the Firm has a formal mentoring program, mentoring is most effective when there is one-on-one mentoring by senior lawyers taking an active interest in a young associate's career and development. We were successful in Atlanta in part because there were senior lawyers who acted as mentors with an active interest in the younger mentees' advancement in the Firm. Retention does require attention and effort by the entire Firm and we are committed to it from the Managing Partner on down.

Editor: You mentioned the fact that young people would come to you for counseling on a variety of issues. Obviously, a commitment to an open door policy is one of the keys to success. Is this something you bring to the Dallas office?

Manning: We have an open door policy. The one constraint on my open door policy is that I expect to receive adult questions. The recipient may not always like the answer, but there will be an answer. Lawyers and non-lawyers of color here know there is an interest and focus on diversity here which will continue. We will spend more time in achieving even greater success.

Editor: Are there any linkages between the Firm's diversity initiatives and its pro bono undertakings?

Manning: Those are two separate initiatives. I do not view diversity as being a pro bono undertaking. We have had good success in both our pro bono programs as well as our diversity initiatives. In some instances they do overlap. In Atlanta, the Firm developed the Morehouse/Spellman (College) internship where we would hire top students in their junior and senior years for twenty hours a week during the school year. We expose them to the practice of law, conduct seminars on applying to law schools and preparing for the LSAT and give advice as to what they should consider in a law school. One of our first interns is now a six-year associate in Atlanta, who after Morehouse went to the University of Pennsylvania Law School. We have had good success in reaching down into the colleges and high schools to help diverse people understand how much fun law practice is. In Houston, we have a 'Junior JD' program in which our Houston attorneys teach weekly classes about the law to Hispanic and other minority middle school students at an inner-city charter school.

Editor: While there is a Firm-wide commitment, each office must have a somewhat autonomous spin on its diversity undertakings. What do you have on the drawing boards for Dallas?

Manning: Over the last year, the Dallas office has undertaken several initiatives: we have lawyers active in the J.L. Turner Legal Association, which is the minority bar here in Dallas; we have been instrumental in the Dallas minority counsel program; helped initiate a series of networking programs that was started in part by our Dallas lawyers, called the Texas Law Firm Minority Attorney Networking Series, the goal being to provide minority lawyers with an opportunity to focus on professional development, networking and building alliances with minority peers and partners and we coordinate a nation-wide law school minority recruiting program on behalf of the Dallas Bar Association. We have formed a diversity committee headed by Jim Cox, an African American partner. Several diverse persons hold significant positions in the Dallas office. Pat Villareal is a co-head of our national securities litigation practice and on the Firm's Advisory Committee, and Hilda Galvan, an Hispanic partner, heads our IP practice here.

Editor: Where would you like to be in terms of diversity in say five years?

Manning: I think Firm-wide we would like to increase our diverse lawyers by at least 25 percent, if not 50 percent, over the next five years. Kevyn Orr, a Washington partner, has recently taken over that process. I hope we will mirror the Atlanta success across the board. It is a question of expanding the Firm's focus and searching to find the right people and then working hard to retain them in this highly mobile market.

Editor: There seem to be too few minority lawyers in the market and the competition for them is very intense. I see Jones Day as differentiating itself by already having a critical mass of minorities in place.

Manning: That is correct. Going back to the late 1990s and early 2000, we had developed a critical mass of minority lawyers in Atlanta. We were able to attract Rick Deane, the former U.S. Attorney in Atlanta, who happened to be African American. We worked hard and found good lawyers. Since 2004, three diverse lawyers up from the ranks were admitted to the partnership; two out of the transactional practices and one out of litigation. Three of Atlanta's last eight partners were diverse. This demonstrates to our lawyers that we mean it and that if you work hard, you can become a partner here. This year, eight of our 46 up-from-the-ranks partners are diverse lawyers. Our partners are talented and often sought after. Charles James, a former antitrust partner, spent significant time at the Antitrust Division and left as Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust of the Department of Justice to become the General Counsel of Chevron.

Editor: How far back does the Firm's acquaintanceship with a diversity practice go?

Manning: While some law firms are focusing on diversity because their clients are insisting upon it, this is not so at Jones Day. Jones Day had one of the first women partners in the country in the 1960's. Bob Duncan, a former federal judge and African American, was a partner in our Columbus office in the 1980's and one of our early partners in L.A. was Yvonne Burke, a former Congresswoman and now on the L.A. Board of Supervisors. We have a history of diversity in our Firm and a good building block for the future.

Please email the interviewee at gtmanning@jonesday.com with questions about this interview.