In this MiBiz article, “Legal profession makes DEI gains as Grand Rapids Market Lags,” Warner Norcross + Judd’s Managing Partner, Mark Wassink, and Director of Recruiting and Professional Development, Carin Ojala, discuss the strides the firm is taking to promote greater diversity in the legal profession.
Recently, the firm announced a $20,000 scholarship for a second-year law student who identifies as a racial minority, LGBTQIA+ or who has a disability, with the intention to offer the recipient a 2023 summer associate position at one of Warner’s nine offices in Michigan with the hope “that they join us” after earning their law degree, although it is not a requirement. The idea for the scholarship grew out of the firm’s 26-member Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Action Committee.
“We know having a diverse law firm with diverse people here makes us a better place and it makes the Bar a better place with more diverse attorneys. It also is more reflective of our clients these days. More of our clients are more diverse, and all of those things kind of combine together and is something that we feel is important, not just for the law firm, but for the (profession) and business in general,” Wassink said. “We hear from some of our large clients: ‘Tell us about your diversity. Tell us about your diversity efforts. We want to see what you’re doing.”
Warner accepts applications for the scholar ship through June 30. The law firm will notify the winner on July 11.
The difference since Ojala started at Warner 28 years ago is “night and day” compared to today’s practices, policies and a conducive workplace environment, she said. Back then, just a few women were law partners at the firm.
As of 2020, more than a quarter of Warner’s law partners are women, according to the firm’s most recent annual diversity report.
Ojala expects the legal profession to continue making gains on diversity, especially as law associates eventually move into partner positions.
“I think we’re going to see huge, huge changes in the next 20 years, and I base that on the huge changes that I’ve seen in the 20 years that have passed,” Ojala said.
To read the full MiBiz article, click here.
To learn more about the firm’s diversity, equity and inclusion commitment, click here.
To read more about the $20,000 scholarship for a second-year law student who identifies as a racial minority, LGBTQIA+ or who has a disability, click here.