Raising the Bar 2016

Equality Illinois Recognizes 40 Law Firms for ‘Raising the Bar’ on LGBT Inclusivity
U.S. District Court Judge Staci Yandle to honor recipients

CHICAGO (July 25, 2016)–Forty Illinois law firms that lead the way in providing a welcoming and fair work environment for LGBT employees and engaging with the LGBT community are being recognized by Equality Illinois for “Raising the Bar” in 2016.

In a growing and welcoming trend that helps spread fair and equal treatment, the annual Equality Illinois Law Firm Survey found that not only are the law firms creating affirming work spaces for their own employees, but they are increasingly demanding that the same respect be demonstrated by the vendors and contractors with whom they work.

U.S. District Court Judge Staci Yandle, the first openly LGBT judge in the Seventh Circuit, which encompasses Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, and the first African-American District Judge in the Southern District of Illinois, will honor the firms at the Raising the Bar breakfast on Tuesday in the InterContinental Hotel Chicago.

Judge Yandle received a Bachelor of Science degree in political science in 1983 from the University of Illinois and a Juris Doctorate in 1987 from the Vanderbilt University School of Law. From 1987 to 2014, she was in private practice.

President Barack Obama nominated Judge Yandle to the federal bench on January 16, 2014. She was confirmed by the United States Senate on June 16, 2014 and invested as a member of the court on August 21, 2014. She sits in the federal courthouse in Benton, Illinois.

“We are pleased that Judge Yandle will help us honor the law firms that have taken the initiative to raise the bar by which other firms and companies can be measured towards LGBT inclusivity.” said Brian C. Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois, which is in its 25th year advocating on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Illinoisans.

“Law firms–as institutions that make the practice of law their business–play a particularly salient role in advancing LGBT equality. When law firms not only fight for equality and inclusiveness, but mirror the world they hope to see within their own offices, they send a powerful message about the importance of fully embracing all coworkers and staff equally,” Johnson said.

With the information gathered from the 2016 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 Equality Illinois Raising the Bar 2016 report can be read here: http://tinyurl.com/EI-Lawyers-2016.

The findings include:

• For the fifth year in a row, 100% of responding firms have an EEO policy or non-discrimination policy that expressly includes sexual orientation.

• 93% of all responding firms have an EEO policy or non discrimination policy that includes gender identity and/or gender expression, up from 88% of the firms last year

• 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.

• In a growing trend, 47% of responding firms require vendors or contractors to have a nondiscrimination policy that includes both sexual orientation and gender identity and/or expression in order to provide staff or engage in business with the firm, which is up from 31% of responding firms last year and 21% two years ago.

• 79% of responding firms have at least one company-sponsored health plan that does not specifically exclude coverage for transgender, transsexual, or gender identity-related treatments.

Almost all of the firms have LGBT-inclusive diversity groups, train employees on diversity awareness including sexual orientation and gender identity, actively recruit LGBT lawyers and financially support LGBT organizations and community events.

Equality Illinois works with law firms and many other businesses to improve their inclusiveness. For the recognized law firms, inclusion in the 2016 Equality Illinois “Raising the Bar” report is highly valued.

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
Baker & McKenzie
Chapman and Cutler
Clark Hill
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
Marshall, Gerstein & Borun

Mayer Brown
McDermott Will & Emery
Michael Best & Friedrich
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius
Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg
Nixon Peabody
Perkins Coie
Quarles & Brady
Reed Smith
Schiff Hardin
Seyfarth Shaw
Shook, Hardy & Bacon
Sidley Austin
Thompson Coburn
Winston & Strawn


Equality Illinois
2016 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.” – Robert T. Cichocki, Partner, Arnstein & Lehr LLP

“Baker & McKenzie is honored to receive this important recognition from Equality Illinois. It underscores our continued commitment to advancing equality for LGBT individuals. We are proud to share the recognition with so many of our peers in the legal industry, reflecting our shared belief that an inclusive and diverse workplace strengthens our organizations and the services we provide our clients.” – Rick Hammett, North American Managing Partner of Baker & McKenzie

“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 Koenig, Member in Charge, Clark Hill Chicago office

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, we respect and value our lawyers and staff for who they are, regardless of sexual orientation, race or gender. We consider equal opportunity a fundamental tenet of our firm’s identity and strive to promote a safe and inclusive workplace through investment in recruiting, professional development, peer groups and mentoring programs.  We are grateful to Equality Illinois for again recognizing our efforts.” – Ed Getz, Regional Partner in Charge, Chicago Office.

“Diversity at Franczek Radelet means inclusion of employees of different race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, religion, cultural and ethnic background, ability, nationality and other unique attributes that do not interfere with effective job performance and superior client service. We are proud that this commitment includes fostering an environment in which lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) employees have the opportunity to thrive, and we fully support those who wish to self-identify.”  – Michael J. Hernandez, Franczek Radelet’s Diversity Officer

“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 Chair of the Goldberg Kohn Diversity Committee

“We are honored to once again be named among the top Illinois firms for LBGT diversity and inclusive practices. Since our inception, we have built an inclusive environment where individuals are encouraged to be authentic and are celebrated for who they are. This recognition is a true reflection of what we value – diversity, equality, and inclusion.” – Greg Ostfeld, Shareholder, Greenberg Traurig, LLP

“Hinshaw is honored and delighted to be recognized again by Equality Illinois. At Hinshaw we keep our goals of equality and inclusion in mind as we make decisions in all aspects of law firm life. We are proud to support Equality Illinois as they continue their fight to end all types of discrimination against LGBT individuals.” – Todd Young, Head/Chair of Hinshaw & Culbertson’s LGBT Affinity Network

“Holland & Knight is proud of its long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion. It is a fundamental firm belief that diversity enhances our firm, our ability to serve our clients and the communities we live in.” – Grant McCorkhill, Partner, Holland & Knight

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to diversity and inclusion and are proud to be recognized again by Equality Illinois as one of the top LGBT-friendly law firms in Illinois,” said Terrence J. Truax, Jenner & Block’s managing partner. “We recognize that while there has been much progress on LGBT rights in the workplace and the community-at-large, there is still much work to be done.  Our firm is committed to continuing to lead in this area.”

Chicago Administrative Partner Michael Martinez, who also chairs the Chicago office Diversity Committee: “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.”

“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.” – Roger P. Furey, Chairman, Katten Muchin Rosenman

“Diversity and inclusiveness are now among the many standards of excellence in the legal profession. Kaye Scholer is proud of its recognized commitment to fostering a law firm culture where all talent is welcomed and has an equal opportunity to succeed.” – Michael Solow, Managing Partner & Executive Committee Co-Chair, Kaye Scholer LLP

“Each year Kirkland & Ellis continues to create new opportunities and programs for our diverse attorneys. Our commitment to diversity includes creating an environment where LGBT attorneys can thrive.” – Russell King, Partner

Latham & Watkins has a long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion, and we are thrilled to once again be recognized by Equality Illinois. This commitment enables us to offer clients the most innovative legal solutions and to recruit the best lawyers in the world, and it’s part of the very fabric of our firm’s culture.” – Brad Kotler, Chicago, Managing Partner

“We strive to create and maintain a diverse and inclusive firm environment in which different perspectives are valued. Marshall Gerstein promotes equal treatment of LGBT lawyers and staff through internal initiatives and by supporting the LGBT legal community at large.” – Sharon M. Sintich, Ph.D., Partner, Co-Chair of the Firm’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee

McDermott Will & Emery is deeply committed to building on the tremendous progress that LGBT Americans have made in the fight for full equality and acceptance. Through pro bono advocacy, community service and outreach, charitable contributions and fair and inclusive workplace policies, we continue to focus on eradicating discrimination for the benefit of our firm, our clients, and our communities.” – Michael W. Weaver, Partner-in-Charge for LGBT Diversity and Inclusion.

McGuireWoods’ commitment to diversity and inclusion is essential to our mission of delivering the best service to our clients. We believe that commitment also serves the legal profession and our communities. Our work is strengthened by different points of view and experiences — a 360-degree perspective that can be achieved only through teams of diverse people. That’s why McGuireWoods proudly supports initiatives like our LGBT Lawyers Network that promote a culture of inclusiveness and equality. We’re honored that Equality Illinois has once again recognized those efforts.” – Christina Egan, Chicago Office 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, Managing Partner, Chicago Office

Morgan Lewis is dedicated to maintaining LGBT equality in all facets of the community through our policies, practices, and benefits. Our Diversity & Inclusion 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 Office 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 LGBTQ inclusiveness and equality. As we celebrate our 30th Anniversary, I am proud that we continue to focus on maintaining a culture of equality and inclusion to support our LGBTQ attorneys and staff and to promote creativity, opportunity and professional development throughout the firm to better serve our clients.” – Scott J. Fisher, Managing Partner

“At Nixon Peabody, we tap the collective intelligence of our diverse workforce to deliver the best thinking and create value for our clients throughout the world. We’re actively pursuing ideas that challenge the status quo to create and maintain a firm where the best professionals from a broad range of backgrounds feel welcome. Our goal is to lead with actions that inspire other law firms and businesses to embrace and nurture their own inclusive work environments, making the business community more successful for all.” – Andrew Glincher, Managing Partner & CEO

“We are honored to be among the top law firms recognized by Equality Illinois. At Perkins Coie, demonstrating our commitment to the LGBT community is a firmwide effort. We are proud of the work we have done and of this prestigious accolade.” – J. David Larsen, Partner.

“While Polsinelli recognizes it has made considerable progress towards advancing diversity and inclusion within the firm and the legal community it serves, it also recognizes that there is more  that can be done.  For this reason, Polsinelli will continue to look for new and innovative ways it can further foster maintenance  of a firm environment where all can reach their full potential, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion or any of the other characteristics that add value and perspective to the work done on behalf of firm clients.” – Chicago Office Managing Partner Tony Nasharr

“Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is part of who we are as an client service focused law firm,” said George Marek, Partner and Co-Chair D&I Committee, Quarles & Brady.  “Being recognized consistently throughout the years by Equality Illinois, confirms that we are successfully fulfilling our mission to support the LGBT community.  We are honored to be recognized for our efforts.”

“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,” said Paul Turner, Partner and Chair of Reed Smith‘s LGBT Subcommittee of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee

“Even after a historic 2015 for the LGBT rights movement, 2016 reminds us that there is still much work to be done. I am proud that Schiff Hardin does not shrink from this challenge, but instead maintains its steadfast focus on creating an inclusive, supportive, and diverse workplace for LGBT lawyers and staff.” – Clay
Tillack, chair

“Sidley is pleased to once again be recognized by Equality Illinois for our strong support of LGBT rights and our own LGBT lawyers. We take great pride in the best practices we have in place to support our LGBT lawyers and ensure that Sidley is a firm where they can advance their legal careers.”  – Pran Jha, Sidley Partner and Chair of Sidley’s Chicago Diversity Committee

“Fostering an inclusive environment for all of our lawyers and staff members is critical to our success as a global law firm.  Attracting, hiring and retaining LGBT colleagues who feel engaged and supported at the firm is an important aspect of our commitment to diversity and inclusion (D&I).  Our D&I efforts help create a community at Skadden that is built on the idea that similarities and differences are a source of our strength and excellence.”

“In less than 20 years, SmithAmundsen has grown from a small litigation firm to a firm of more than 160 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

“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. 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 of 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.” – Tom Lane, Partner and LGBT Affinity Group Leader; Amanda C. Sommerfeld, Partner and Chair, Diversity Committee, Winston & Strawn

“We believe advancing diversity and improving inclusion must be an intentional practice. Diversity and Inclusion make us better.  While we appreciate this validation from Equality Illinois that we are on the right track , we will continue our focus on LGBT inclusiveness and providing a welcoming and fair workplace for all.” – John Murphy, Chair, Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P.


Foley and Lardner LLP values the unique backgrounds and perspectives of all of our attorneys and staff.  With strong leadership support, we strive to continue to reach further and higher on behalf of our many talented diverse firm members and make deep contributions within the communities in which we work. I am proud to be part of an organization that recognizes and actively promotes the importance of diversity and inclusion.” – Eileen Ridley, Chief Diversity Partner

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