At Quarles & Brady, diversity is a no-brainer.
And there are a lot of reasons for that, said George Marek, partner and co-chair of the firm’s diversity and inclusion committee.
“First and foremost, we are a service provider to our clients, and not only studies have shown, but we have seen ourselves, that we can provide the best services to our clients when we fully incorporate all of the expertise that we have,” said Marek. “And we really need a diversity of thought, different ways of looking at legal issues, different life experiences.”
Quarles’ internal efforts run the gamut. Marek noted that the firm has, for many years, worked to recruit law students and lateral attorneys from diverse backgrounds, including women, different ethnicities, LGBT attorneys and attorneys with physical disabilities.
“BigLaw has traditionally been behind the curve compared to much of corporate America when it comes to diversity within its own ranks,” said Marek. “We take that very seriously.”
But the firm recognizes that recruitment is only once piece of the solution. In addition to having a diversity and inclusion committee that represents all the firm’s partners, associates and administration employees, it provides leadership and business development training to women and minority lawyers. It also extends insurance coverage and policies such as parental leave to employees in domestic partnerships.
“It’s not just about bringing in people,” Marek said. “It’s giving them resources and equal footing so that they can succeed and have a successful career here. It doesn’t do anybody any good if you bring in great diverse staff and attorneys if they leave.”
Quarles’ diversity efforts also extend beyond the walls of its offices. It has a supplier-diversity program to support the development of veteran-, minority-, LGBT- and women-owned businesses.
The firm also works with organizations around the country that promote diversity and inclusion. Over the past 17 years, the firm has given more than $1 million to various groups.
Some prime examples of what Quarles is trying to accomplish efforts can be seen in its Milwaukee and Madison offices.
The firm has joined forces with the University of Wisconsin Law School to offer a scholars program that provides three-year scholarships to diverse law students, as well as an opportunity to work in either the firm’s Milwaukee or Madison offices during the summer of their first year. Students who do well can return for the subsequent summer and get an offer for a job upon graduation.
Also, the firm has been a long-time supporter of the Milwaukee Fellows Program, which provides summer positions for high school and college-age students.
“Statistically, it’s been shown that so many minorities go elsewhere because they feel there are better opportunities for them,” Marek said. “The idea is to make people realize: ‘You know, there are opportunities here in Milwaukee and the Greater Milwaukee area’ and to create connections right away.”