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Fighting for fairness, diversity

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//February 16, 2012//

Fighting for fairness, diversity

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//February 16, 2012//

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Whether she’s spearheading diversity efforts at Foley & Lardner LLP or donating time through pro bono work, Maureen McGinnity’s commitment to the law profession is sustained by a strong sense of fairness and her desire to solve problems.

Though she initially pursued social work as a college undergraduate, McGinnity said she realized she’d rather have the power of the law behind her while attending a pre-sentence report as part of a college internship.

“It’s particularly rewarding when doing pro bono work and representing someone,” she said, “to solve a problem for someone who’s helpless.”

Since assuming the title of chief diversity partner at Foley in 2006, McGinnity has pushed for greater fairness through cultural change at the firm.

She’s dedicated to providing an environment where diversity and flexibility are evident, she said. The effort is not only popular internally, but also in recruiting new hires.

“As an organization, we devote a lot of resources to identifying and recruiting talent, and it’s very important to support and retain them,” she said. “We want everyone to understand how things work so they can accomplish their goals.

“The ultimate goal is to recruit and retain diverse talent.”

Foley & Lardner’s clients take notice of the firm’s efforts, as well, she said.

“They’re evaluating firms on the basis of whether we can staff their matters with diverse teams,” said McGinnity.

Calling her push for greater diversity “a competitive necessity” for the firm, McGinnity said many corporate law departments have pledged to continue to work with outside counsel at least in part based on diversity.

“I believe everyone benefits from the opportunity to work with diverse people,” she said. “Not just those who think and act like we do.

“We’re a stronger law firm and we’ll provide a better ‘product’ to clients if we include people from diverse perspectives.”

Known as someone who gets her hands dirty when spearheading an effort, McGinnity was the driving force behind the firm’s new working parent coaching program. The effort created a group of mid- to high-level attorneys who give “in-the-trench” advice for those going on a flex schedule or parental leave.

“Everybody who comes here,” she said, “deserves a fair opportunity to succeed.”

– Neil Bartlett

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