In our Sponsor Spotlight series, CBI highlights our relationships with our sponsors, and the work they are doing to build a more equitable and just community within their own spheres of influence. Today’s Sponsor Spotlight focuses on Moore & Van Allen.
Editor’s Note: This Sponsor Spotlight was written before the recent murders of 8 people, including 6 Asian women, in Atlanta. Below is a statement from Moore & Van Allen, which they provided to CBI after that news broke:
We are saddened and outraged by harassment and physical violence Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community and condemn not only the recent acts of violence, but also all forms of racial injustice and discrimination that the AAPI community has endured in our country for far too long. To our AAPI colleagues, clients, neighbors, and community partners, we express our support and heartfelt promise to stand with you against discrimination, hate and fear.
Moore & Van Allen sees their commitment to diversity and inclusion as a key to the firm’s success. According to their Diversity Statement, “We recognize that having people with different racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds, countries and regions of origin, genders, gender identities and expressions, generations, physical abilities, and sexual orientations is critical to our ability to provide the highest level of legal services. By fostering an inclusive work environment, we come together as one extraordinary team with the common purpose of providing truly outstanding legal services to our clients.”
Stephanie Gryder, Moore & Van Allen’s Senior Manager of Diversity and Community Initiatives, explained how the firm intentionally works to support the development of a diverse and inclusive workspace. “Two cornerstones of our firm’s long-term strategy are diversifying our employee ranks and building community across differences. A few years ago, the firm took a critical look how we were recruiting new attorneys coming out of law schools and realized that diverse candidates were not joining the firm at the same rate as their white male counterparts. Over the past six years the firm has launched a series of innovative programs strategically designed to better acquaint them with MVA, including the Spring Break Diversity Clerkship, the MVA Diversity Conference and the MVA Diversity Scholars program. Program candidates receive substantive work assignments and exposure to each of the firm’s sophisticated practice areas. We have been really pleased with the results and are proud that we took the necessary step back to examine what we could do differently.”
“I really credit the Diversity Committee, particularly its co-chairs Amy Johnson and Valecia McDowell, as well as our Management and Hiring Committees for collaboratively thinking through where change was necessary and deploying programs to expand our candidate outreach.”
CBI’s relationship with Moore & Van Allen has helped support a culture that values inclusion, according to Gryder. “Our partnership with CBI has been instrumental in increasing the capacity and commitment of our employees to champion an inclusive workplace. We are always working to develop better ways to ensure that firm employees feel supported, heard, and valued. By leveraging CBI’s programming like the Leadership Development Institute (LDI), Leaders Under 40 (LU40), the CBI Bus Tour, and the Stakeholders Breakfast, we are able to develop, connect, and guide diverse groups of leaders at MVA in increasing their awareness of and ability to advocate for inclusion and equity. CBI helps MVA in empowering its employees to leverage their knowledge, skills, and courage to fight bias, while also working alongside firm leadership to create and sustain an inclusive workplace for all.”
As racial equity moved to the forefront of the national conversation in 2020, Moore & Van Allen felt prepared to respond. “In the wake of the racially traumatic events of 2020 we were fortunate to have built such a strong foundation around our diversity and inclusion work to guide us forward. Last summer we heard very clearly from our employees their desire to gain awareness and personal understanding of the factors fueling racial injustice. We were able to use the CBI model of facilitated dialogues to host a series of guided conversations to discuss blind spots, biases, and racism safely and openly. Several MVA LU40 and LDI graduates joined us in these efforts. Their participation was, and continues to remain, important to our work. It is immensely helpful knowing we have such a deep bench of individuals skilled at navigating difficult conversations and connecting across differences. It speaks again to the value we place on engaging as many employees as we can in this important work.”
Moore & Van Allen embraces CBI’s practice of recognizing and respecting the differences of lived experiences. “As we responded to the senseless deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and others last year we further leaned into CBI’s model of creating safe spaces for our team members – particularly our Black colleagues,” said MVA Litigation Member and former chair of the CBI Board of Directors Valecia McDowell. McDowell also serves on the MVA Management Committee, which in late 2020 approved Juneteenth Freedom Day as standard annual firm holiday. “We have a wonderful, fully engaged, Lawyers of Color affinity group, but there are certain issues, particularly in this environment, where Black lawyers or Black professionals need to feel like they are in community with other Black professionals. At the suggestion of two of our associates, we’ve since established a Black Attorney Resource Group that is separate and distinct – a group really focusing on the Black experience. I think it’s important to acknowledge that there’s a push and pull for people of color during this time. As Black team members we want to support those larger dialogues around inclusion that include our non-Black colleagues and we genuinely appreciate that our businesses are engaged in those dialogues. But it’s also like, ‘Ah, this is another discussion in which I have to share my specific experiences as a Black person with my majority (or non-Black) colleagues.’ While those types of discussions are productive, given the workplace setting, sometimes we feel less than safe sharing our experiences. We often think, “Can I have a safe space at work?” That’s what our Black Attorney Resource Group attempts to provide. All businesses can better serve their employees by acknowledging that vulnerability and pain and creating safe spaces within their own institutions. In the end, that’s what it means to be inclusive.”
Gryder sees the potential for her colleagues to use their skillset to think critically and connect across differences more broadly in the community. “As a firm we encourage our employees to think bigger about what we can do in the community to make great change. Our attorneys have such a unique ability to find creative solutions for incredibly complex problems. We try to push our attorneys to consider how they might leverage this incredible talent beyond crafting an iron-clad contract or an oral argument in the courtroom. We believe we can leverage our thought leadership and collective resources to reimagine opportunities to support the advancement of all. For example, this spring we will launch a small business pro bono initiative designed to support the economic advancement of historically underutilized businesses. We hope access to these pro bono legal services will enhance and safeguard the economic achievements of our clients while also empowering diverse entrepreneurs to be successful.”
It’s hard to underestimate the impact of committed leadership in this kind of work, and that is certainly true at MVA. “I can’t say enough about our managing partner, Tom Mitchell,” said Gryder. “What I find so incredible is that Tom is not simply cheering us on and celebrating our progress – he is an active participant in the work. He offers new ideas and suggestions to help connect our employees, he is receptive to new practices that expand opportunities for all at the firm, and he has expressly stated that building a diverse and inclusive workspace is a priority for MVA. Over the last year Tom has demonstrated such an incredible level of compassion and empathy for our employees that has had such a positive impact. His leadership in the diversity and inclusion space, in addition to his genuine interest in the well-being of our team members, is invaluable.
Click here to view Moore & Van Allen’s 2021 Diversity Report