Since being named Executive Partner of Holland & Knight’s Miami office in 2007, Kelly-Ann Cartwright has seen the firm’s roster of attorneys grow nearly 30 percent, an impressive number in the intensely competitive South Florida legal market. As new law firms enter the market, they often recruit, unsuccessfully, Holland & Knight’s partners, and Cartwright’s leadership in creating a culture where the city’s top attorneys want to be – and stay – is part of what makes her a great leader.
It’s also one of the reasons why she was recently elected chair of the firm’s Directors Committee. The committee comprises 27 partners from across Holland & Knight’s offices worldwide and is the policy-making body of the firm. This new role has elevated Cartwright into the ranks of the most successful and powerful African-American leaders in the law. She is the first woman and African-American who has been elected chair of Holland & Knight’s Directors Committee, which is rare for an AmLaw 100 firm.
Born in Guyana and coming to the U.S. with her parents at age 11, Cartwright joined Holland & Knight directly from the University of Florida College of Law. Her early goal was to be a litigator, and she gravitated toward the contentious area of labor and employment, where she says the cases always have interesting fact patterns. She quickly established her credentials and has represented clients in dozens of jury trials, administrative hearings and mediations. Her work has won her recognition in the World’s Leading Labour and Employment Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America, Super Lawyers and among Florida Trend’s Legal Elite.
Cartwright credits many people along the way for her success, noting the firm’s commitment to creating a level playing field for women and minorities. Indeed, this is commitment that has only deepened since managing partner Steven Sonberg began his first term in 2008.
Since that time, Holland & Knight has significantly increased the number of minorities and women serving as leaders throughout the firm. Currently, seven of the firm’s 24 U.S. offices are led by women or minorities – including in major markets such as Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and San Francisco. Women and minorities also occupy 10 of the 27 seats on the firm’s Directors Committee.
Leadership opportunities are expected to increase for women lawyers and attorneys of color as a result of the firm’s adoption of The Mansfield Rule. This is a new program that requires firms to make sure that women and minorities comprise at least 30% of the candidate pool for promotions, senior level hiring, and significant leadership roles in the firm.
This program and others will help build the Holland & Knight of tomorrow. The ascendance of Cartwright is just one example of the firm’s forward-looking strategy and its commitment to inclusive leadership.
Kelly-Ann Cartwright is the first woman and African-American who has been elected chair of Holland & Knight’s Directors Committee, which is rare for an AmLaw 100 firm.