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Business Review Western MI
Business Review Western MI
Firms drive for greater diversity
(wgvu) - Firms drive for greater diversity

Jan. 3, 2008

By Mark Sanchez

New initiatives at two Grand Rapids law firms are designed to further
the law profession's push for greater diversity.

Varnum, Riddering, Schmidt & Howlett recently formed a Diversity and
Inclusion Advisory Council that will work on strategies, tactics and
policies aimed at increasing the recruitment and retention of minority
staff and lawyers. The 12 members of the panel all come from outside the

It's a comprehensive approach to building diversity in the firm
and to take our words and put them into action, said David Rhem,
co-chair of the law firm's diversity group and a partner practicing
employment and labor law.

We've done a lot and we've accomplished a lot. We still have a
long ways to go, Rhem said.

Formation of the Varnum Riddering advisory council follows the law
profession's pursuit of greater diversity, driven in part by the
demands of corporate clients. As local law firms deal more with national
and multinational clients, they face increased demands to have a much
more racially and culturally diverse attorney roster.

Through such diversity, law firms are better able to interact with a
global client and know what to expect, Rhem said.

Cultural diversity brings different perspectives to resolving the
issue and/or challenge at hand, and if we don't have that as a law
firm, we cannot provide our clients with the best advice, Rhem said.

We need to be equipped to deal with that and reach out and service

Law firms internally need to create as inclusive of an environment as
possible to attract and retain a culturally diverse lineup of lawyers
and staff, Rhem said. Not only is diversity good for business, he added,
it's the right thing to do.

Formation of the firm's diversity group follows Varnum Riddering's
adoption last March of Diversity and Inclusion Principles.

Another recent push for greater diversity came from Warner, Norcross &
Judd in Grand Rapids when it formed a scholarship program that will
award five scholarships of up to $1,500 to help minority college
students prepare for the Law School Admissions Test.

The firm also sponsors a minority scholarship program that provides
$5,000 to a law student, $2,000 to a paralegal student and $1,500 to a
person studying to become a legal secretary.
Studies indicate that students who take a prep course perform better on
the LSAT. The deadline to apply for the Warner Norcross scholarship is
May 30.
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