Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi LLP

Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi LLP

2008 Sager Award Winner

Midwest Region

Marla Butler
Chair of the Diversity Committee

At Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, diversity is an active goal, not a passive one. The firm is devoted to advancing diversity through action by ensuring that fairness, respect, and professional opportunity for everyone at the firm remains a priority. The firm recognizes that the diverse backgrounds of its employees bring necessary and varied perspectives that enrich the law practice.

The current legal environment demands that the composition of the firm’s workforce reflects the racial, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity diversity of the entities and people with whom the firm interacts. Consequently, Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi puts the highest priority on the recruitment, retention, and promotion of talented, diverse attorneys and support staff. Its overall goal is to institutionalize diversity.

In order to achieve its goal, the firm established a formal diversity committee in 1999 to address issues of racial and ethnic diversity. Subsequently, the firm broadened its formal diversity efforts to include diversity activities specific to women and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.

In addition, the firm stepped up its efforts to attract LGBT attorneys by participating in the Lavender Law career fair. “The definition of diversity is evolving. The Lavender Law career fair, which I have been attending for the past four or five years, is a good indicator,” notes Marla Butler, a partner at the firm and chair of the firm’s diversity committee. “The question is no longer, ‘Who is here?’ It is now ‘Who is not here?’, because all the major firms and government bodies are represented. That was not the case a decade ago.”

(L to R) Veta Richardson of MCCA, Martin R. Lueck, Chairman of the Board, Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi, and Cornell Boggs of MillerCoors, LLC

The firm’s commitment to diversity starts at the law-school level. Since 2002, 40% of summer associates have been law students of color. In 2008, the firm hired 27 summer associates. Twelve were minority law students and fifteen were women.

The firm recruits directly from historically black colleges and universities such as Howard University in Washington, DC, Butler says. It also remains active with other law schools. For instance, “at the University of Georgia, we have a scholarship program for minority law students. In addition to helping these students fund their education, the scholarship makes them more aware of our firm,” she asserts.

Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi is a leader in the local community as well. It is part of the Twin Cities Diversity in Practice, an organization that promotes the Minneapolis-St. Paul region as a great place for lawyers of color to develop professionally and personally.

Winning the Thomas L. Sager Award means a lot to the firm. “To have an outside group look at us and see the progress we’ve made in the area of diversity is great. That recognition is one of many reasons that we want to keep doing a good job,” Butler shares. DB

From the November/December 2008 issue of Diversity & The Bar®

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