Diversity matters

Opening Statement

Paul Dailing


For the past 17 years, Chicago Lawyer has surveyed the largest law firms in the state about topics ranging from office space to firm size to associate compensation. We parse out the survey results over the year.

This issue is dedicated to diversity.

Diversity is a continual sticky wicket for Chicago’s legal community. Despite 90 percent of firms that responded to our survey having committees or individual employees tasked with diversity issues, law in Illinois is still disproportionately white and male.

Local lawyers are also finding ways to promote diversity after hours. Chicago has a strong heritage of affinity bar groups that provide opportunities for and help advance their members, of course. But new groups are springing up to tackle the problem in new ways.

One group that launched in 2014, the Diverse Attorney Pipeline Program, helps advance women of color in law before they’re even in law, helping mentor and guide women of color through their first year of law school.

Co-founders Tiffany Harper of Grant Thornton and Chasity Boyce of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom were inspired to create the group after trying to count how many black female lawyers they knew in Chicago in or around their class year who still worked in law firms. They came up with 11.

To help us build a survey that can reflect this changing landscape, Chicago Lawyer publisher Ginger Lamb and I invited a group of practitioners and representatives from several local bar groups together to the Chicago Lawyer offices to discuss how the survey handles issues of race, gender and sexuality.

Attending the event were Cook County Bar Association President Natalie Howse; Virginia Yang and Elaine Sit of the Chinese American Bar Association of Chicago; Yankun Guo of the Asian American Bar Association of Chicago; Judge Cecilia Horan of the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago; Nura Yanaki of the Arab-American Bar Association of Chicago; Chicago Lawyer Women@Work columnist Camille Khodadad; and sole practitioner Jill Webb.

It was a frank and wide-ranging discussion, which helped guide the survey in these pages.

It won’t be the last conversation we have.

Although we tried to create a survey that highlights how the profession handles issues of diversity and inclusion, I would encourage each and every person reading this issue to share their thoughts on how we could improve, share their takes on these important matters, share the stories and insights into what it really means to be a member of Chicago’s legal community in 2017.

I can be reached at pdailing@lbpc.com with any feedback, on diversity or on any other topic you’d like to discuss. The door is always open.


Paul Dailing