Nixon Peabody’s success in creating diversity comes from the top

Updated 1:25 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 6

LEADING BY EXAMPLE: From left, Nixon Peabody LLP associate Meghan L. Hopkins, Providence office Managing Partner Andrew Prescott, department attorney Shelagh C.N. Michaud and associate Aaron F. Nadich help emphasize the firm’s goal in being a leader in workplace diversity and inclusion. / PBN PHOTO/TRACY JENKINS

PBN Diversity & Inclusion Awards 2019
LEGAL SERVICES: Nixon Peabody LLP


NIXON PEABODY LLP’s focus on employing an inclusive staff from diverse backgrounds is no mere nebulous goal. It has been an achievement that has helped define its success.

According to company statistics, more than half of the members in this year’s equity partner class are from underrepresented groups in the legal profession. Sixty percent of the members in this year’s income partners class are diverse attorneys. The firm has also received a 100% rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index.

The Providence office’s managing partner, Andrew Prescott, says one of the office’s biggest diversity and inclusion accomplishments has been participating in the Roger Williams University Law School in Bristol and Providence, and the firm’s multiyear support of the school’s MLK Jr. lecture series and annual Diversity Symposium. Nixon Peabody visits the campus every summer to recruit for its Diverse Scholars paid internships, a program the national law firm started in Washington, D.C., in 2016.

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These internships are available for second- or third-year law students to work in Nixon Peabody’s offices during either their school semester or during the summer. Since the program launched, the firm has hired 10 to 15 interns at its offices around the country, Prescott said. He noted four of these interns started as first-year associates this fall. One intern from the Providence office with a nontraditional educational background and valuable work and life experiences has since become an associate in Nixon Peabody’s Boston office.

In a similar effort, the firm holds Diversity Bootcamps, one-day programs for rising young law students, in various offices. Nixon Peabody Director of Diversity and Inclusion Rekha Chiruvolu explained that the students are brought into the office, where they spend the day with attorneys who share their experience working in a big law firm. Then, the students are put through fun, hypothetical scenarios to help them solve sample situations that may arise in the firm. This is followed by a luncheon that allows the students to network with each other and the firm’s staff to develop ongoing relationships “and hopefully find a mentor,” Chiruvolu said.

‘Studies show more inclusion and diversity in the workplace leads to more innovation, creativity, leading to better outcomes. It’s good for our clients. It’s good for our company.’
Rekha Chiruvolu, Nixon Peabody LLP director of diversity and inclusion

In its recent work with Diversity Lab, a national incubator for exchanging innovative ideas and solutions to boost diversity and inclusion in corporate America, Nixon Peabody earned the incubator’s Mansfield Certification Plus status for the last two years. The firm was recognized for achieving the “Mansfield Rule” goal, which requires that at least 30% of the candidates considered for leadership roles within the participating organizations must be women, racially diverse or LGBTQ attorneys and attorneys with disabilities.

These policies are derived from the firm’s executive staff.

“As a law firm focused on the future, diversity and inclusion reside at the heart of our firm’s top priorities,” Nixon Peabody CEO and Managing Partner Andrew Glincher said. “We need to actively seek out those who challenge our perspective and commit to intentionally fostering an environment where everyone can bring their best selves to this work.”

As director of diversity and inclusion, Chiruvolu reports directly to Nixon Peabody’s management committee, which, she said, “shows it comes from the top. You know what needs to be done and we will move further along because it started at the top.”

She said that when she came to work at Nixon Peabody, the diversity and inclusion efforts were previously led by partners at the firm. She was hired for her current role because the company saw the need for someone dedicated exclusively to the task of advancing diversity and inclusion initiatives.

“It’s a passion of mine. I’ve always been involved in diversity and inclusion in the legal profession,” she said.

Chiruvolu is also happy to note the industry itself is now focusing a lot on this issue. “To Nixon Peabody, this is an opportunity to make a difference in the industry within the next 10 years,” she said. “I will say I already see a change. I see more attention paid to unconscious bias in the workplace. We pay more attention to true equity. Studies show more inclusion and diversity in the workplace leads to more innovation [and] creativity, leading to better outcomes. It’s good for our clients. It’s good for our company.”

(Replaces second and third paragraphs to clarify equity partner representation and Prescott comments.)

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