Parker Poe recognizes that promoting diversity is not only the right thing to do – it is essential to the success of the firm, our lawyers, employees, and clients. When people from various backgrounds feel welcome and respected, it leads to creative ideas and new perspectives, thus enriching the practice of law. To that end, Parker Poe is building on initiatives to improve the diversity and inclusion of our employees, developing a pipeline for minority students interested in the legal profession, and collaborating with clients and local organizations who share our commitment to giving everyone a voice at the table.
Commitment to Diversity & Inclusion
“Each person at Parker Poe is different, and those differences lift our entire firm. So we work to build a diverse team that feels welcome and respected, which in turn serves our fundamental goals: building community, solidifying relationships, and finding the best ways to serve our clients.”
-Tom Griffin, Managing Partner
A strong commitment to creating a diverse work environment is central to Parker Poe’s core values and strategic vision. The diverse background and experiences of Parker Poe’s attorneys and staff enhance our practice of law and our service to our clients.
Parker Poe has worked hard to bring that vision to life. The firm was one of the first in the Southeast to set up central oversight of diversity initiatives. Under the leadership of a director of diversity and a firmwide Diversity & Inclusion Committee, we have expanded our focus on recruiting and retaining female, minority, LGBT, and other diverse attorneys. The number of diverse attorneys at Parker Poe has more than doubled since those initiatives began over a decade ago.
“I want people to know from the outside what I see inside the walls of Parker Poe – the support that I have received since the day I began working here from so many different people, young associates to older partners,” says attorney Chara O’Neale, who now serves as the director of diversity. “My goal is help make diversity and inclusion even more a part of the fabric of our firm and the culture of who we are.”
Parker Poe also recognizes there is more work to be done in the legal industry overall and the community at large. For that reason, our external efforts are equally important, including leadership of community initiatives and partnerships with organizations and advocacy groups. We are proud to partner with the Corporate Counsel Women of Color, the Hispanic National Bar Association, Equality NC, and others who share our commitment.
Here are some of the concrete ways Parker Poe is promoting diversity within our firm and our communities in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia:
Recruiting and Retention Efforts
- We fund a Parker Poe Scholars Program at Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU), a historically black university located in Charlotte, North Carolina. Through this program, we fund a scholarship endowment that has a mentorship component for undergraduate students attending JCSU. We have granted scholarships to 15 students who aspire to become attorneys.
- Parker Poe has hosted the THRIVE program in our Columbia and Raleigh offices since 2007. Previously known as Life in a Law Firm, the goal of the daylong program is to educate minority law students on what happens after law school, how to make an effective transition into the practice of law, and how to thrive as they pursue the different paths a legal career may take. More than 650 students have attended since the program’s inception.
- “The program was squarely directed at turning what is abstract and even daunting about the practice of law into meaningful and digestible insights, and I lean heavily on those insights today,” said Josh Bonney, who participated as a student and is now an attorney at Parker Poe. “But what was most impactful to me about the program was the firm’s commitment to put into practice the values it espoused. Everyone was welcome. Everyone contributed.”
- Parker Poe actively recruits at the Southeastern Minority Job Fair (SEMJF) in Atlanta, Georgia. Through our participation in SEMJF, we have the opportunity to interview students from a pool of 50 ABA-approved law schools across the region. Approximately 900 students attend the job fair annually, and five of those students have become Parker Poe attorneys.
- The firm was an original signatory of the Mecklenburg County Bar’s “Call to Action,” formalized in 2006, to significantly increase the number of minority attorneys in Mecklenburg County. We have also been a participant and leader in the Charlotte Legal Diversity Clerkship since it began in 2006.
- Since 2010 Parker Poe has organized a panel of lawyers and staff to spend a portion of their afternoon with high school students participating in the Mecklenburg County Court Camp, which is designed for students interested in learning about the court system and the practice of law.
- “It meant a lot, especially for the fact that I’ve never been inside a law firm and didn’t know what to expect,” said Jalen Lowery, a 16-year-old who participated at Parker Poe. “It’s good to see that people who look like you can work in these fields.”
- Parker Poe organizes an annual reception for lawyers of color and firm leadership as an opportunity for continued relationship building beyond the everyday office environment.
- The firm hosts a women’s roundtable, which provides women attorneys with an opportunity to have an open dialogue with firm leadership regarding prominent issues impacting them.
- Parker Poe reinforces its commitment to diversity and inclusion through firmwide training sessions, team building, and interaction. Recent examples include spending a half day learning about unconscious bias and meeting outside of work to navigate an escape room together.
- The firm offers alternative work schedule options to accommodate attorneys who strive to continue working while maintaining family commitments, civic engagement, and other personal obligations.
- Parker Poe has a professional development program that provides a structured path for young attorneys to learn on the job and invest in their careers with the support of senior associates and partners. The program includes a shadowing component that pairs non-partner attorneys with more experienced attorneys, helping to build relationships and develop legal skills.