FORUM Magazine Exclusive: Ropes & Gray Makes Diversity Part of its DNA

Topics: Diversity, Forum Magazine, Law Firms, Talent Development

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When the US Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision overturning state bans on gay marriage and creating a win for nation-wide diversity efforts, Ropes & Gray Hiring Partner Richard Batchelder was in the front row of the courtroom with Doug Hallward-Driemeier, who had victoriously argued the plaintiff’s side for the firm.

Achieving that favorable decision may have been the crowning achievement to what Batchelder describes as a culture at Ropes & Gray that has strongly emphasized inclusion and diversity and made reaching out to groups too long underrepresented at many law firms a key part of its hiring practices.

Richard Batchelder

And that is being recognized in a significant way. When Vault.com, the career website, published its annual rankings of law firms, Ropes & Gray was ranked #3 among “Best Law Firms for Diversity” in the 2016 rankings. And its individual diversity rankings were equally impressive, with #2 for LGBT Diversity; #3 in Diversity for Individuals with Disabilities and in Diversity for Women; #4 in Diversity for Military Veterans; and #5 in Diversity for Minorities. Indeed, Ropes & Gray is one of the few firms in the country to be ranked in the Top 5 in each of the diversity categories.

“Whether you’re talking about women who joined the firm in the 1950s, African- American lawyers who joined the firm in the early 1970s, or openly gay lawyers joining the firm in the 1980s and ‘90s, Ropes & Gray has always been a firm that stood for inclusion,” Batchelder said.

Vault.com also ranked the firm #2 among “The Best Law Firms to Work For,” a spot it has held for the past seven years. The Boston-based firm, which has more than 1,100 lawyers, also is celebrating its 150th year anniversary in 2015.

Diane B. Patrick, co-managing partner of the firm’s Boston office and head of the firm’s Diversity Committee for the past five years, said there is no one program or initiative that has cemented Ropes & Gray in the Diversity rankings. “I think what keeps us high in those rankings is that we, many years ago, began to not think of diversity as an initiative or a program or a project, but really part of our just day-to-day existence at the firm,” she said.

Diane Patrick

Indeed, in an effort to further ingrain diversity at the firm, Patrick stopped giving out the firm’s annual Diversity Award when she took over the committee. “It shouldn’t be an honor to do something special in the area of diversity,” she noted. “All of us are expected to do our part.”

Batchelder, who is in his fifth year as hiring partner and is cochair of the firm’s Hiring and Development Committee, noted the firm’s commitment to diversity is evident even during the interviewing process, where the firm tries to identify candidates – all candidates, whether minority candidates or not – that care deeply about diversity and express a willingness to be a part of the firm’s continued push for inclusion. “It’s part of the fabric of the firm, and so we are looking for candidates who will contribute to that aspect of the firm’s culture.”

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