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Fish & Richardson focuses on broadening, advancing diversity

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Fish & Richardson, the largest intellectual property firm in the world, has a strong foundation of promoting diversity. Fish's diversity initiative encourages gender and ethnic diversity among the firm and the legal profession. The firm-wide initiative works hard to attract a diverse population to Fish and is committed to the recruitment and advancement of the most talented and qualified people, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion or sexual orientation.

Rhonda J. Grayson, Fish's manager of diversity, has more than 18 years experience in law firm administration and diversity programs.

Q: What is Fish's diversity program?

A: Fish's commitment to diversity is an integral part of our practice and culture, and we have the full support of top management. A key factor in maintaining a diverse population is creating an environment which values the diversity of people, experiences, perspectives, talents and capabilities. Our Diversity Initiative links together a variety of programs related to recruitment, professional development, retention and outreach in the legal and business communities. It also includes diversity awareness training for all lawyers and staff, support of several internal affinity groups, and a firm-wide Diversity Committee, which is representative of the diversity of the firm.

Q: What types of initiatives/programs is Fish implementing in 2009 to expand its diversity program?

A: Two areas we would like to concentrate additional efforts in 2009 are our Diversity Communication Plan and our Women's Initiative. We have made great strides in developing programs that foster a creative, inclusive environment, but a key to the sustained progress of these programs is to increase the visibility and awareness of Fish's Diversity Initiative. It's important to Fish that we more effectively communicate -- both internally and externally -- our demonstrated commitment in promoting diversity within the firm and the legal profession.

In regards to our Women's Initiative, the firm recognizes that women face unique challenges in the law profession. Fish already has several programs designed to retain and advance our women attorneys, including our LEAD retreat (Leadership Through Enrichment, Action and Diversity), a reduced hours policy, a working mother's affinity group, generous maternity and parental leaves and many family-friendly benefits. Our next step in strengthening this program would be to provide an additional mentoring component. We also anticipate hosting more events and seminars that support and advance the interests of women in law.

Q: Does Fish's recruiting program have a diversity component ?

A: Improving the representation of diverse lawyers within our firm is a priority for Fish. One key component of our recruitment efforts is the 1L Diversity Fellowship Program. This program annually provides five diverse first-year law students a paid summer associate position at Fish (in the office of their choice), an assigned attorney mentor, and a $5,000 academic scholarship. We also participate in numerous diversity job fairs and support minority law student organizations throughout the country.

Q: Why is it important to Fish and for law firms in general to have diversity programs?

A: Diversity adds value to both the law firm and the legal profession as a whole, and diversity programs benefit everyone. They make a firm more welcoming and inclusive and assist firms in the recruitment, retention and advancement of a diverse work force. Diversity is also important to our clients. Clients want to know that the firms they engage as outside counsel share their beliefs and values about the importance of diversity.

Q: What are the benefits of a diversity program and how has it helped Fish?

A: We recognize that diverse backgrounds and perspectives result in new and better solutions. Having diversity programs in place that not only promote an inclusive environment, but also empower each individual to share those unique perspectives and talents, results in creativity and innovation. This, in turn, enhances the quality of the legal services we can provide to our clients.

Submitted by Fish & Richardson

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