Editor: Would each of you gentlemen tell our readers something about
your background and professional experience?
Tyre: I started in the Rochester office of the firm and am
currently a partner in the Washington, DC office. I have a corporate
transactional practice as well as a franchising practice. I am also the co-chair
of the firm's Diversity Action Committee.
Snellings: I am a partner in the firm's Boston office, and my
practice is focused on bankruptcy and litigation. I am also the chair of the
firm's Professional Personnel Committee, which is in charge of the
administration of our professional staff, including associates, paralegals and
Editor: Can you share with us the things that attracted you to the
Tyre: I was familiar with and had worked with the firm while I
was in college. The things that attracted me to the firm at that time still hold
true today. It is a collegial firm that emphasizes the use of technology to get
the job done. This in turn promotes a good work/life balance.
Snellings: I joined the Boston-based firm of Peabody &
Brown, a predecessor firm of Nixon Peabody, in 1991, after working at another
similarly-sized firm in town. Through several litigation matters, I had come to
know a number of the Peabody attorneys, and my respect for those attorneys was
immense. As Nixon Peabody continues to be today, I felt strongly that Peabody
& Brown offered its attorneys a unique opportunity to get involved in
sophisticated client work and yet continue to emphasize professional growth and
its culture of inclusion at the same time.
Editor: Nixon Peabody's commitment to diversity goes back over the
years. What are the origins of this initiative and how it has evolved over
Tyre: The Diversity Action Committee is a reflection of the
firm's long standing commitment to diversity. For example, we were one of the
first firms in the 1960s to hire women and African American attorneys in the
upstate New York region. With the creation of the committee, the firm pulls
together the patchwork of initiatives and programs of each of our offices across
the country. It had become clear that with the increased emphasis on diversity
we needed a more coordinated approach, and our chairman Harry Trueheart was
instrumental in establishing this more formalized structure. He is the executive
chair of that committee, and I am co-chair with Elizabeth Moore from our New
York City office.
Editor: Please tell us about the firm's Diversity Action Committee.
Tyre: The Diversity Action Committee is committed to making
Nixon Peabody an innovative leader in diversity. The committee is comprised of
eight partners from across the firm. Each member of the Committee was appointed
by our chairman. These attorneys are involved in the shaping of the firm wide
program and ongoing initiatives.
To date, we have undergone diversity training in all 16 firm offices and for
all 1,500 employees of the firm. We hired an outside consultant to conduct that
training and to begin the discussion of what was needed and what would work.
Our mission is to attract, retain and promote individuals of exceptional
ability from a broad range of racial, ethnic, social and economic backgrounds.
We want to continue to foster an open and inclusive culture within the firm. We
hope this will enhance our ability to meet and exceed our clients' expectations
with respect to diversity and make us a more successful firm. Overall, we want
to be a true leader in diversity, experimenting with and implementing those
programs and activities that will get us there.
Our diversity training was completed in 2005. Our next initiative includes
the creation of affinity groups - those groups that share a similar background
or experience. At this point we have formed an African American group, Hispanic
group, and GLBT group, as well as a women partners' affinity group that will
expand to include all women attorneys. These groups are structured to provide a
networking and support system to address the specific needs of diverse attorneys
and to connect with others in the community. One of the first affinity group
events included a presentation by the general counsel from a major firm client
who spoke on behalf of the African American affinity group to the entire San
Francisco office. Our other offices participated via telephone conference. It
was very interesting to get a client's perspective on diversity and why it is
important to them - in a sense, the business case for diversity from our
Editor: Do you have a special mandate or goal you hope to achieve
through these efforts?
Tyre: Our goal is to become an innovative leader in diversity
and to be known for our diversity efforts. We want to continue to build an
environment as a large firm with a solid track record of diversity and
inclusion. It is easy to have a committee of eight partners talking about
diversity, but what happens at the ground level when someone from a diverse
background walks through the door is what really matters. Their experiences with
respect to mentoring, working on matters for key clients, and being provided an
equal opportunity to succeed are the major factors that should be incorporated
into the core fabric of a firm. Otherwise, you will have a committee that is
only waving the "diversity flag." You need across-the-board, institutional
buy-in for these programs to be effective. That is where we are focused at this
point. And our plans, when fully in place, will make Nixon Peabody not only the
best place to work for diverse employees but also the best place to work for
everyone, regardless of their background.
Snellings: The Diversity Action Committee assists us in making
sure that the diversity initiative is a part of every aspect of the firm,
whether it is recruiting, training, and/or mentoring. We hope that it continues
to permeate the culture of the firm. It is not about putting up numbers but
about fostering a very inclusive environment in which people can grow and
experience an exceptional place to work.
Editor: The firm has good relations with a number of women's and
minority bar associations and other professional organizations with a minority
agenda. Can you tell us about these relationships?
Tyre: The relationships we have with the diverse bar
associations is an outgrowth of our continuing relationship with a number of
organizations such as the Hispanic Bar Association, The National Bar Association
(in which I am active), and The National Asian Pacific American Bar. In each of
these organizations we have or have had people who have held leadership
positions. The firm encourages people to join these organizations because we
realize the importance of connecting with the community and the potential that
this involvement has for the firm.
Snellings: We are also involved with initiatives within our own
cities. In Boston, for example, we participate in the Boston Lawyers Group,
which was formed by the major law firms to promote diversity within our
community. Prior to this group's founding, Boston had a checkered reputation as
a place for professionals of color. This is a group that has mandated diversity
-- holding job fairs, mentoring programs, and related gatherings to discuss
retention issues. A number of us participate in their programs and we have also
hired several associates that we have met through their job fairs.
Editor: I gather these relationships help Nixon Peabody attorneys to
network with their peers and help the firm in its recruiting efforts?
Tyre: Absolutely. These organizations serve the dual purpose of
providing educational benefits and raising awareness of the firm within the
communities served, as well as raising the awareness with respect to potential
candidates who may be interested in coming to the firm.
Editor: Please tell us about some of the firm's other minority
Tyre: We have the William McKnight Scholarship Fund which was
named for our first African American partner, who was named to the partnership
in the late 1970s. Based on the outpouring of emotion on his death in 1986, the
firm created the scholarship fund. The scholarship benefits an African American
high school student who may or may not elect the law as a profession.
We also have a summer internship program with John Hancock. Through this
program, a number of minority summer associates have gone in-house to work for
John Hancock for a few weeks during the summer and then have come to Nixon
Peabody to work with us for the remainder of their summer clerkship. It is an
important tool to promote diversity. It also provides minority associates with a
valuable experience which we hope will entice them to return to our firm when
they graduate. Of the total number of 48 summer interns we will host in 2006
across all of our offices, 33 percent are minority candidates.
Editor: How do you go about differentiating Nixon Peabody in the
competition to recruit?
Tyre: The issue is about building personal relationships. With
each pool of minority graduates, interviewing potential summer associates is a
great way to get to know our people - one of our greatest assets. Through our
recruiting, we have an opportunity to demonstrate our unique and collegial
environment. The rapport we establish with candidates serves us well in the
recruiting process and, even if they decide not to work for us they have a
positive experience and may consider us as a potential employer at some point in
Snellings: In a law firm all recruiting is personal. You have
to create that personal relationship and connect with the candidates early in
the first interview. We look at an interview session as an opportunity to sell
the firm and to get to know the person we are speaking with, but also to
emphasize the need to take the long view. We make significant dollar investments
in training our associates when they come on board. We assist them and give them
the tools for success in the profession. We also want to be adaptable in
accommodating their personal needs.
Editor: And retention? How do you keep them once they are on board?
Snellings: Our numbers are good but there is always room for
improvement. We want to develop those programs that assist and guide people in
their careers. We want to be more active in lateral recruiting of associates who
practice elsewhere and want to practice in a larger firm. We work with women on
maternity leave so that we can be adaptive if they want to work with us on a
part time basis. Our written policy states that people who have worked for us
part time are eligible for consideration for partnership. In fact, we have
elected several women who were part time associates to our partnership.
Tyre: The retention issue goes back to institutionalizing what
we are doing at the local level. To that extent we have come up with a diversity
tool kit for our firm leaders so that they are aware of the variety of ways they
can promote diversity and inclusion within their department and practice groups.
Editor: What do you hope to accomplish over the next few years?
Tyre: I hope that we continue to build a national reputation
where we are known for our diversity efforts. We want to be able to roll out
programs that are models for promoting diversity within law firms. I also hope
that our recent recognition on "Best Places to Work" lists in publications such
as Fortune, The Boston Business Journal, The Washington Business Journal
and others continues to help us reach our ambitious goals in the diversity
Snellings: Nothing speaks louder than success. As we roll out
these programs, I want people to be involved and interested in what we do.
Published March 1, 2006.