WSGR Holds Inaugural Diversity Summit
On June 24-25, 2019, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati held its inaugural Diversity Summit at the InterContinental San Francisco Hotel. With a theme of "Pathways to Equity," the event brought together over 160 of the firm's attorneys and summer associates for two days of speakers, discussions, and networking opportunities.
After WSGR managing partner Doug Clark kicked off the summit with introductory remarks, Zenefits senior vice president Issac Vaughn, a former WSGR partner, delivered a keynote address in which he shared several formative experiences in his career, illustrating the need for and powerful business potential of an inclusive and diverse workplace culture. Citing rapidly evolving industry and societal forces, Issac laid out a clear charge to diverse attorneys to embrace their uniqueness and continue to make valuable contributions with a growth mindset. He also affirmed the current approach taken by firm leadership to continue diversity and inclusion efforts not only with the summit, but also with the firm's ongoing attorney recruiting and retention practices.
Following the keynote address, a panel comprised of WSGR clients—Forte Labs GC (and WSGR alumna) Ira Lam, AppDirect GC (and WSGR alumnus) Mark Liu, and Google senior counsel Shana Simmons—addressed growing client demand for diverse legal representation, as well as ways that diverse attorneys can develop new business. The panel was moderated by WSGR partner Jeana Kim.
Subsequently, a panel of WSGR partners—Greg Broome, Christopher Paniewski, Lianna Whittleton, and Lucy Yen—discussed their varied paths to partnership and how they were able to identify and navigate challenges along the way. In particular, they spoke about how WSGR's culture of support for diversity and inclusion has grown over time, and the ways that diverse attorneys can contribute to firm culture.
Day One's program concluded with a panel of WSGR alumni speaking candidly about the finer points of deciding to go in-house or pursue other careers, as well as what it means to be a diverse lawyer in today's practice. Moderated by WSGR associate Amanda Urquiza, the panel included Hasani Caraway of Zendesk, Grant Reid of Box, Jae Kim of Rambus, and Weilyn (Pa) Wood of Splunk.
Following a networking reception, the evening dinner program opened with a special welcome to retired WSGR partner Harry Bremond. It continued with an insightful conversation between WSGR partner Beth George and Google senior counsel Shaudy Danaye-Armstrong. Their exchange reflected on major accomplishments and challenges they faced as diverse attorneys working in contexts that were not particularly diverse or inclusive at the time. Both Beth and Shaudy noted that significant progress has been made over the past 10 years on a larger societal scale and within their respective fields, while also sharing their thoughts on significant, complex issues that still need to be addressed.
Day Two of the Diversity Summit began with an affinity group breakout session, during which the firm's African American, Asian American, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ affinity groups met over breakfast to build relationships and discuss future firm and community engagement goals. It continued with a panel on artificial intelligence that explored whether computers and big data are the answer to unconscious bias. Moderated by WSGR corporate strategic innovation counsel David Wang, the discussion featured Santa Clara law professor Colleen Chien, Ravel Law CEO Daniel Lewis, and WSGR partner Jim Yoon.
Next, in a session titled "Building the Equity Toolkit," WSGR attorneys were organized into tables that mixed offices, departments, and affinity groups to discuss a variety of scenarios that diverse attorneys face. Questions included what attorneys sought to gain from and contribute to affinity groups, as well as specific ways the firm can continue to foster a diverse and equitable culture. At the end of the session, which was moderated by WSGR counsel Kenisha Nicholson, each table reported their responses to the larger group.
The summit's final discussion focused on the topic of community engagement, as a panel comprised of Hewlett Packard Enterprise senior IP litigation counsel Deanna Kwong, WSGR Of Counsel and Pro Bono Counsel Luke Liss, and WSGR partner Scott Zimmermann addressed how diverse attorneys can build and leverage their networks and skills at different phases in their careers. They also shared best practices for partnering with professional associations and community organizations. The panel was moderated by WSGR associate and Pro Bono Committee member Jamie Otto.
"Overall, our inaugural Diversity Summit was incredibly successful," said Jullia Carretta, WSGR's manager of attorney development and diversity. "It meant a lot to bring together the firm's diverse attorneys to meet, collaborate, and learn from our clients, alumni, and one another. Not only do events like these strengthen our commitment to diversity and inclusion, but they allow us to showcase the talented lawyers we have at WSGR. I've never been more proud to be a part of this firm."