From its office in Milwaukee to its offices in Salt Lake City, Utah, Michael Best & Friedrich is making strides in fostering diversity and inclusion both internally and around the communities the firm serves.
“We’re strongly committed to our mission of diversity and inclusion within the firm and also helping our diverse communities,” said Jorge Leon, chair of the firm’s diversity and inclusion committee. “It’s just one of those things that, ultimately, is the right thing to do.”
For one, diversity and inclusion just makes good business sense. He noted that the businesses the firm works with often demand to see diversity in the attorneys they hire and engage with.
Moreover, having a diverse and inclusive environment helps the firm recruit and retain talent.
“If you want to keep people you’ve got to keep them happy,” said Leon. “You have to be able to create an environment where people can feel that they can thrive and succeed and reach their potential.”
That includes having an employee resource group focusing on women and another group that supports LGBTQ and racially diverse attorneys and professionals.
One of the most unique aspects of Michael Best’s diversity and inclusion efforts is that its diversity and inclusion committee, which has members from all its offices around the nation, has teeth.
“It’s not just a fluff organization of everyone spouting good intentions or lamenting what could have been,” said Leon. “But it’s a committee composed of actual decision-makers and leaders in the firm. It’s the frontline people that actually have a say in steering policy that can implement what gets decided.”
The committee is made up of 17 attorneys and HR professionals who take part in recruitment, retention and evaluating existing and proposed firm policies to promote the firm’s diversity and inclusion efforts.
Externally, the firm not only gives to various groups in the communities it serves, but its employees also serve on boards and committees of those groups and participate in the groups’ efforts.
“It’s not just about writing checks,” said Leon. “When we partner up with an organization, we do it in a meaningful way as well. We have folks that are on site.”
One example of how the firm’s efforts are changing lives in the communities it serves is through
Best Efforts, which is a firm-wide volunteer program established two years ago. On the same workday, everyone in the firm volunteers.
This year, all the firm’s offices volunteered with local veterans programs. In other years, each office catered to its strengths. For example, the office in Washington, D.C., collected clothing and supplies for children in the foster care system. Teams in Madison helped out at the Second Harvest Foodbank.
“A lot of what we do is really important because our community service is generated from the mindset that as a business we can’t thrive if our community is suffering,” said Leon. “Both are interrelated concepts.”