Venable: Creating and Maintaining a Culture That Encourages Authenticity and Belonging

As the first Am Law 100 firm to appoint an African American as managing partner, Venable has long been guided by the principle that our clients are best served when we build a diversity of perspectives into the solutions that we offer. As Venable grows, so does the diversity of our attorneys, business professionals, and the clients we represent. Our goal is to continue building a law firm where all voices are represented, and all professionals feel supported and heard and have a sense of belonging.

As someone who has worked as both an attorney and a DEI professional in the legal sector, I’ve learned that in order to succeed at creating a diverse firm, it’s essential to think outside the box, be creative, and tailor efforts to the organization’s culture. As Venable’s first chief diversity and inclusion officer (CDIO), I’ve spent the last year meeting with attorneys across all of our offices, and I’ve been greatly inspired by the energy I’ve found surrounding DEI.

One of the questions often asked was, “What exactly does a CDIO do?” While more organizations are hiring CDIOs, it’s still a relatively new position, so the answer varies. But at its core, the role serves to strategically channel the desire for a more diverse workplace and to create lasting change that allows each employee to show up every day as their authentic self.

Venable’s leadership has a strong commitment to this work and is invested in enhancing processes and policies that make positive changes for historically underrepresented attorneys. Venable’s current priorities are aimed at improving the representation, participation, development, and advancement of diverse talent by integrating new practices into the current culture of the firm. Our focus is on the following:

  • Underscoring the importance of DEI in all firm messaging
  • Examining and adjusting the firm’s decision-making processes
    and systems for bias
  • Creating and executing a revised mentorship and sponsorship
    program for diverse talent
  • Enhancing the firm’s DEI training and education that
    underscores the importance of DEI as part of the firm’s culture of
    inclusion and belonging
  • Routinely evaluating and modifying DEI metrics and goals and
    assessing them against our strategic priorities
  • Increasing the firm’s diversity partnerships with clients,
    with DEI organizations in the legal profession, and within the
    communities where our offices are located
  • Continuing to participate in the Mansfield certification process
  • Regularly publishing a report on our DEI initiatives for key

In working with our newly formed Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, I actively use my voice to champion the firm’s DEI efforts and address its priorities. The activities of this Council will be complemented by a business professionals committee to be introduced in the coming year.

Another key aspect of our DEI mission is meaningful and consistent communication with all firm personnel. To that end, we offer regular educational programming that explores the impacts of implicit and explicit bias, microaggressions, and other matters of interest. This programming includes frequent dialogue circles led by historians and public figures that explore systemic racism; a vibrant speaker series; and communications on the EEO Special Emphasis Program Observances.

It’s sometimes easy to forget that not everyone has the same understanding of the myriad of interconnecting issues that tie all of our DEI efforts together. Part of bringing DEI into the collective consciousness is through education. You cannot change what you don’t comprehend, and my top priority is to continually help everyone at the firm understand the underlying issues and, more critically, how they can contribute to a more equitable workplace. Creating an environment where everyone can bring their whole selves to work will help foster the growth and strength of Venable for years to come.

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