Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto (New York, NY)

Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto (New York, NY)

2004 Sager Award Winner

Northeast Region

Nicholas Cannella
Nicholas Cannella

Diversity is a core value at Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto. The firm believes that a diverse workplace enhances the quality of the legal services that it provides. As indicated by Nicholas Cannella, partner, when staff members consist of people from diverse backgrounds, different perspectives, and experiences are brought together, with the resultant synergy stimulating creativity and innovation.

Founded in 1971, Fitzpatrick, Cella practices all aspects of intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights, unfair competition, and trade secrets. The firm has offices in New York, Washington, DC, and Costa Mesa, Calif., and over 150 attorneys. With over 125 attorneys, the New York City office is the firm's largest.

In 2003, over one-third of its New York newly hired lawyers were minorities, and 60 percent were women. As of August 2004, 20 percent of their total New York lawyers are minorities and 28 percent are women. Within the partnership ranks, over the last five years the firm has named a total of 13 new equity partners (the only type they have): five of those partners (almost 40 percent) are women, and one of those women is a minority.

Fitzpatrick, Cella understands the need for work/life balance, and has responded positively to every request for more flexible hours and working arrangements. Currently about five percent of its lawyers work part-time, telecommute, or have schedules with some combination of the two.

Key elements of the firm's success are the mentoring of young attorneys, and the providing of real role models for them to emulate. For example, one of their women partners leads the litigation teams on several of their most important cases, and just this summer argued an appeal almost eight months into a pregnancy with her third child. This remarkable feat was made possible by a combination of her own personal talents and determination, and the firm's commitment to support its attorney's efforts to maintain a work/life balance and not become marginalized in the process.

Fitzpatrick, Cella is continually re-evaluating and challenging its own infrastructure, and this year has made several organizational changes to ensure that a greater cross section of its lawyers influence the firm's direction. Two spots on its management committee have been reserved for partners under 50 years of age, and they have added two associates to their recruiting committee and two to their professional development committee, all of whom are elected by their peers. Those important changes bring fresh ideas and diverse perspectives to all aspects of the firm's government and promote greatly the interests of diversity.

The firm's efforts to externalize its commitment to diversity are also laudable. They recognize the need to increase diversity in the pipeline of IP attorneys, and have pledged annual donations to fund the very worthy Sydney B. Williams, Jr. Scholarship of the American Intellectual Property Law Education Foundation, an organization on whose board of trustee's one of Fitzpatrick, Cella's partners sit. They are a signatory to the New York Bar Association's statement of diversity principles and have a regular presence at important diversity-related gatherings of the bar.

In terms of recruitment, while academic accomplishments remain important, Fitzpatrick, Cella looks beyond the traditional factors of law school name and class rank, and places great emphasis on other less tangible factors, such as motivation and drive, judgment, and the ability to function as part of a team. The firm recruits at minority job fairs and in addition to the "top 10" schools, looks carefully at other schools with significant numbers of minority students. Fitzpatrick, Cella has found this multi-faceted approach to diversity to be critical to achieving its aforesaid statistics.

At press time, the NY Dinner had not been held. Group photos of the awards winners will appear in the Jan./Feb. 2005 issue of Diversity & the Bar®.

From the November/December 2004 issue of Diversity & The Bar®

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