Law Firms Recognized for Commitment to LGBT Diversity


Illinois Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis to
Address Recognized Firms at ‘Raising the Bar’ Breakfast

CHICAGO (July 15, 2015) – Equality Illinois today recognized 42 Illinois law firms for “Raising the Bar” and leading the way in providing a welcoming and fair work environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) employees and engaging with the LGBT community.

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis will address the firms at the Equality Illinois Raising the Bar Recognition Breakfast on Tuesday, July 21, 2015 in the InterContinental Hotel Chicago. Her topic will be the importance of diversity and inclusive practices in the legal profession.

“As part of our drive for Corporate Social Responsibility, the state’s lawyers are leading the way through LGBT inclusiveness in their workplaces, community outreach, and public advocacy,” said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, the state’s oldest and largest LGBT civil rights organization.

“We are using the lessons learned from our work with the law firms to work with a wide range of companies and public agencies to improve their relationships with LGBT employees and the public,” Cherkasov said. “We congratulate and thank the 42 law firms being recognized for their leadership.”

With the information gathered from the 2015 Equality Illinois Law Firm Survey, Equality Illinois identified the law firms in Illinois that are leading the way to LGBT workplace equality and community engagement. The findings include:

  • For the FOURTH year in a row, 100% of responding firms have an equal employment opportunity policy or non-discrimination policy that expressly included sexual orientation.
  • 88% of all responding firms have an equal employment opportunity policy or non-discrimination policy that includes gender identity and/or gender expression.
  • 49% of responding firms have written gender transition guidelines documenting supportive firm policy on issues such as name changes, restroom accommodations, dress codes, and harassment.
  • Among health care benefits available to firms’ general workforce, 74% of responding firms have at least one company-sponsored plan that does not specifically exclude coverage for transgender or gender identity-related treatments.
  • 100% of responding large and mid-size firms have a diversity council or workgroup with a mission that includes LGBT issues.
  • 95% of responding firms provide diversity awareness or employee training addressing sexual orientation .
  • 84% of responding firms provide diversity awareness or employee training addressing gender identity and expression.
  • 90% of responding firms provided financial support and/or resources to educational, political, and/or health-related LGBT organizations during the past year.
  • 31% of responding firms require their vendors or contractors to have a non-discrimination policy that includes both sexual orientation and gender identity and/or expression in order to provide staff or engage in business with the firm. (This is an increase from 21% a year ago, the first year this question was included.)

“Equality Illinois stands ready to help all companies improve their inclusiveness,” Cherkasov said.

Equality Illinois provides best practices trainings to businesses and government agencies and recently released a new publication to help businesses create a welcoming and affirming workplace for LGBT employees. The booklet, Corporate Best Practices: A Guide to LGBT-Inclusive Workplaces in Illinois, can be read and downloaded at

For the 42 recognized firms, inclusion in the 2015 Equality Illinois “Raising the Bar” report is highly valued.

For example, Michael W. Weaver, Partner-in-Charge for LGBT Diversity and Inclusion, McDermott Will & Emery, said,  “In this momentous year of Obergefell v. Hodges, we are keenly aware that there is much yet to do to eradicate discrimination against LGBT people. As a proud Equality Illinois honoree, McDermott is staunchly committed to promoting LGBT diversity and inclusion in our Firm, in our communities and across the world through wide-ranging pro bono advocacy, outreach and leadership, and philanthropic activities.”

The law firms being recognized, in alphabetical order, are listed here. Also, following the list, many of the firms commented on the meaning of this recognition:

Arnstein & Lehr
Aronberg Goldgehn
Baker & McKenzie
Bryan Cave
Butler Rubin Saltarelli & Boyd
Chapman and Cutler
Clark Hill PLC
DLA Piper
Drinker Biddle & Reath
Foley & Lardner
Franczek Radelet
Goldberg Kohn
Greenberg Traurig
Hinshaw & Culbertson
Holland & Knight
Jenner & Block
K&L Gates
Katten Muchin Rosenman
Kaye Scholer
Kirkland & Ellis
Latham & Watkins
Mayer Brown
McDermott Will & Emery
Michael Best & Friedrich
Morgan Lewis & Bockius
Neal Gerber Eisenberg
Nixon Peabody
Nyhan Bambrick Kinzie & Lowry
Perkins Coie
Quarles & Brady
Reed Smith
Schiff Hardin
Seyfarth Shaw
Sidley Austin
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
Thompson Coburn
Winston & Strawn
Yearwood & Associates


Equality Illinois
2015 Raising the Bar Survey
Statements by Honored Law Firms

Arnstein & Lehr LLP’s diverse team of attorneys and staff engenders unique and varied perspectives that best serve our clientele and the community at large.  Like Equality Illinois, we stand firmly for the principles of equality and justice for all, and are proud to serve and be a part of the LGBT community.” – William T. Eveland, Partner
“At Aronberg Goldgehn, our personal approach to the practice of law applies both internally and externally, and we view a commitment to diversity in the workplace as an extremely important component of that approach.  Having recently celebrated the firm’s 120-year anniversary, we understand the vital role of a welcoming and supportive work environment, and we are very honored to be recognized by Equality Illinois for our dedication to LGBT inclusion.” – Christopher J. Bannon, Co-Managing Member
“We are honored to be among the top law firms recognized by Equality Illinois and we are pleased to share this recognition with so many of our peers in the legal industry.  This is truly a celebration of our common commitment to fostering an inclusive workplace for all.  We take pride in this recognition as it underscores our belief that diversity and inclusion foster innovation and collaboration.  This allows us to serve our clients in the best way possible and it also contributes to the culture of friendship that is so prevalent across our global organization.” – Eduardo Leite, Chairman, Baker & McKenzie
“We are honored to be named among the most LGBT friendly firms in Illinois. We are proud to be part of this thriving legal community. And, we are excited at the rapid progress we see and help happen every day for LGBT families across the country.” – Coco Soodek, Of Counsel, Chicago, Bryan Cave LLP
“At Butler Rubin, it’s very important that every member of our firm feel a part of the team. We emphasize inclusiveness throughout the firm and in all areas of our recruitment process.” – Michael P. Motyka, Chief Operating Officer and Management Committee Member
“At Chapman, workplace equality is a core value we live by, both in and out of the office. Our dedication to diversity and inclusion enhances our ability to serve our clients and provides a strong platform for growth and advancement among the attorneys and support professionals within our firm.” – Tim Mohan, Chief Executive Partner, Chapman and Cutler LLP
“We recognize that utilizing the talents of people with a wide range of characteristics, backgrounds and experiences positively impacts every aspect of our firm – first and foremost, our ability to deliver quality legal and professional services to our clients. We emphasize diversity and inclusion in our strategic plan because we understand that a diverse workplace is critical to the firm’s ongoing success.” – Ray J. Koenig III, Managing Member, Chicago, Clark Hill PLC
Dentons and its predecessor firms have prided themselves for years on creating an atmosphere of inclusion that celebrates differences and emphasizes the importance of individuality and individual thought.  In that regard, we have long been at the forefront of acknowledging and supporting LGBT initiatives across the firm and encouraging lawyers, other professionals and staff in supporting those initiatives.”  – Steven Velkei, Partner and US Diversity and Inclusion Chair
“At DLA Piper, we are committed to developing a culture that is inclusive of all, where individual diversity is valued and everyone has the opportunity to succeed.  This, of course, includes our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender colleagues and straight allies.  This commitment to diversity and inclusion is key to our success as a firm and it defines who we are.” – Genhi Givings Bailey, Director of Diversity & Inclusion
“At Drinker Biddle & Reath, we value our lawyers and staff for the individuals they are, and believe that promoting equal opportunity is a fundamental principle and a matter of best practice. We also know that a safe and inclusive workplace is essential to provide the best client service, which is why we invest in recruiting, professional development, peer groups and mentoring programs. We are encouraged that Equality Illinois has once again recognized our efforts.” – Ed Getz, Chicago, Managing Partner
Foley and Lardner, LLP embraces a culture of inclusion and diversity including our LGBT attorneys and staff who are recognized as valued members of our community and serve in a number of leadership roles.  We also recognize the importance of being involved in the communities within which we work and encourage our firm members to reach out to their communities and meaningfully participate in their development.  We believe that by embracing and supporting our diverse firm members and communities we improve as a firm in the service we can provide our clients and our understanding of one another. “ – Eileen Ridley, Chief Diversity Partner
“This recognition which we have now received for four years is a direct result of our commitment as a firm—from the top down—to create a workplace where each of our attorneys and employees has the ability to succeed while being their self.” – Michael J. Hernandez, Firm Diversity Officer, Franczek Radelet.
Goldberg Kohn believes that to succeed in the long term, the principal motivation behind a diversity initiative must be a focus on creating a vibrant culture in which all attorneys can thrive.  The firm is committed to building an environment that contributes in important ways to all facets of community life and reflects the diversity of Chicago.” – Oscar Alcantara, Principal in Litigation Group and Diversity Committee Chair
Greenberg Traurig remains committed to a culture of diversity and inclusiveness, and promotes equality of opportunity and dignity for all its employees. We are deeply honored to be recognized once more by Equality Illinois for our efforts.” – Greg Ostfeld, Shareholder
“We are proud to be recognized again by Equality Illinois as one of the top LGBT-friendly law firms in Illinois…we have long championed Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender diversity in the workplace, in the profession and in the community. Creating an inclusive work environment is a core value of the firm.” – Terrence J. Truax, Managing Partner, Jenner & Block
“At K&L Gates, we are committed to building an inclusive culture that encourages respect, cooperation and teamwork among all members of the K&L Gates community. We are proud of the work we have done and the supportive environment we have created and strive to maintain.” – Michael Martinez, Partner and Chair of Chicago Diversity Committee
“We have always worked to ensure Katten promotes and respects inclusion and diversity in the workplace and we are committed to implementing programs and benefits to reflect that.” – Vincent A.F. Sergi, Chairman, Katten Muchin Rosenman
Kaye Scholer’s commitment to cultivate and maintain a diverse and inclusive workforce is at the core of our business strategy.  It is a critical piece of our recruiting, development, retention and promotion efforts and it drives a rich firm culture that inspires greater performance, innovation and creativity.” – Michael Solow, Managing Partner & Executive Committee Co-Chair
“To provide the best possible service to our clients, Kirkland strives to hire, train, and promote the most talented attorneys. Part of this commitment includes fostering an environment in which all LGBT attorneys have the greatest opportunities to thrive.” – Jordan Heinz, Partner, Kirkland & Ellis
Latham & Watkins is once again honored to be recognized by Equality Illinois for its commitment to LGBT inclusiveness. As a firm, we value the multiplicity of viewpoints that comes from having lawyers and staff with a diverse mix of ethnicities, religions, races, and sexual orientations, and we are delighted to be acknowledged for our efforts in this area.” – Brad Kotler, Chicago, Managing Partner
“In this momentous year of Obergefell v. Hodges, we are keenly aware that there is much yet to do to eradicate discrimination against LGBT people. As a proud Equality Illinois honoree, McDermott is staunchly committed to promoting LGBT diversity and inclusion in our Firm, in our communities and across the world through wide-ranging pro bono advocacy, outreach and leadership, and philanthropic activities.” – Michael W. Weaver, Partner-in-Charge for LGBT Diversity and Inclusion, McDermott Will & Emery
“Diversity and inclusion are core values at McGuireWoods. We firmly believe that as an international law firm, we are strongest  when we blend diverse experiences, perspectives and beliefs.  We greatly appreciate this recognition by Equality Illinois.” – Amy Manning, Chicago, Managing Partner
Michael Best & Friedrich knows that different perspectives, voices and worldviews are critical to our firm’s success. Our inclusive environment allows for a variety of opinions that help us better serve our clients’ interests.  We are committed to promoting and sustaining a diverse, inclusive environment within our offices because of the positive impact it has on firm culture, employee satisfaction and client service. In addition, it simply is the right thing to do.” – Kerryann Haase Minton, Chicago, Managing Partner
Morgan Lewis is dedicated to maintaining LGBT equality in all facets of the community through our policies, practices, and benefits. Our Diversity Committee, which works to promote diversity and inclusion initiatives across the firm, is just one example of how we draw on a variety of viewpoints, experiences, and backgrounds to maintain an equal workplace.” – Scott Schutte, Chicago, Managing Partner
Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP is proud to once again be recognized by Equality Illinois as one of the top Illinois law firms for LGBT inclusiveness and equality. We believe that promoting equality and inclusion not only supports our LGBT attorneys and staff, it also promotes creativity, opportunity and professional development throughout the firm, making it a better place to work and allowing us to better serve our clients.” – Jerry H. Biederman, Managing Partner
“Thank you Equality Illinois for recognizing our commitment to the LGBT community. Nurturing a supportive environment where everyone’s perspectives are valued is critical to the success of our clients and our firm. We’re proud to welcome talented people of all backgrounds to Nixon Peabody, and we know we’re stronger because of our inclusive environment.” – Jenny Kuenster, Co-Chair, Diversity Committee
“At Nyhan, Bambrick, Kinzie & Lowry we embrace the gift of diversity as the linchpin of fairness and equality.” – William A. Lowry, Managing Shareholder
“When you enter any office of Quarles & Brady, you are greeted with a sign that reads, ‘This Law Firm Serves Everyone,’ as a visible reminder of our deep commitment to diversity and inclusion.  That commitment also extends to our LGBT attorneys and staff.  Our inclusive workplace—where we each add our unique perspective—makes Quarles & Brady a stronger organization that provides better service to all of our clients.”  George Marek, LGBT Partner and Co-Chair, Diversity & Inclusion Committee
“In this year of exciting and profound progress for the LGBT community, Reed Smith is proud to be recognized by Equality Illinois for our leading practices on LGBT inclusion.  Building an inclusive workplace and embracing diverse perspectives is a core value that positively impacts our colleagues and clients,” – Paul Turner, Partner and Chair of LGBT Subcommittee of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee
“Even as we make considerable, even breathtaking progress in the LGBT rights movement, it is sobering to recognize that much work remains to be done.  Each of us and each of the organizations to which we belong or for which we work can make a difference.  I am proud that Schiff Hardin continues to be at the forefront of efforts to provide LGBT lawyers and staff a workplace that is inclusive, supportive, and diverse.” – Clay Tillack, Chair of the LGBT Diversity Subcommittee
“We are extremely honored that Sidley will once again be recognized as one of the top Illinois law firms by Equality Illinois for our LGBT inclusiveness and equality. We take great pride in our commitment to diversity and for years have been at the forefront of creating a culture of inclusivity through our support of marriage equality and civil rights for the LGBT community, as well as through Sidley’s strong support for its own LGBT lawyers.” – Carter Phillips, Chair of Sidley Austin’s Executive Committee
 “In less than 20 years, SmithAmundsen has grown from a small litigation firm to a firm of more than 150 corporate and litigation attorneys practicing in seven communities across the Midwest. We credit this success to our true commitment to recruiting, mentoring and empowering individuals who bring differing perspectives and experiences to our firm. We are honored to receive this distinction from Equality Illinois and wholeheartedly plan to continue in our efforts to promote diversity in the legal profession.” – Glen Amundsen, Founder
“Having policies inclusive of the LGBT community is not only the right thing to do; it’s in the best interest of our firm, because diversity and inclusion matter to our clients across the country and our own people as well. We have vocally supported laws that extend basic workplace protections to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and will continue to do so in the future.”  – Tom Minogue, Chairman, Thompson Coburn
“We are honored to be named by Equality Illinois as one of the leading law firms doing business in Illinois.  Our leadership role includes expanding our domestic partner benefits to provide a tax gross-up payment for employees in same-sex partnerships as well as transgender-inclusive benefits.  We thank our attorneys, clients, and friends in the business community who always inspire, encourage, and motivate us to continue the hard work in finding solutions to challenging diversity issues.” – Amanda C. Sommerfeld, Partner and Chair, Diversity Committee, Winston & Strawn LLP
When asked why the Firm is a leader in providing equal treatment for LGBT lawyers, staff and community, Ellen Yearwood of Yearwood and Associates said, “I have always believed in respect and fairness. As a lesbian myself, I believe in making sure all my clients, my staff, and my neighbors — gay or straight, trans or bisexual, questioning or queer — are welcomed and treated with dignity. I also believe that what goes around comes around, and I have found that the nicer the people in my Firm behave, the nicer behave the people who interact with us.  Of course, we still politely litigate vigorously and negotiate aggressively!”
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