A Business Case For Diversity At Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP

Monday, February 1, 2010 - 01:00

Editor: Please tell our readers about your background at Goldman Sachs and as an attorney at Boies, Schiller & Flexner. What practice areas command your attention?

Reddy: After graduating from Georgetown University in 2000, I started my career at Goldman Sachs in the financial analyst program. I attended New York University Law School, and initially practiced at a large New York firm. I joined the corporate group at BS&F about two years ago. We have a generalist practice, giving me the opportunity to work on a wide range of matters and allowing me to serve a broad spectrum of our corporate clients' needs, including M&A, credit work, private investments and corporate restructuring. I came to BS&F not only to be part of the generalist corporate practice, but I also liked the way that young associates were trained and encouraged. It was easy to see that BS&F was going to count on and train every associate, and for me, this was an important factor.

Editor: How would you broadly define diversity today? What groups does it include and why should we view it through a wider lens?

Reddy: Diversity, for me, takes into account who people are and where they are from; what their background is. I look at issues of race, gender, sexual orientation and economic background - but I also like to have a global outlook; I think it is important to think about people's global experiences and international background as well.

Editor: What procedures does the firm use to attract and recruit minority attorneys such as job fairs, visits to law schools or other means?

Reddy: We have a very vibrant recruiting process. Because we are a Preferred Provider Firm, we are involved in the DuPont job fairs. We also support the AnBryce Scholars Program. We, as a firm, go on law school campuses to recruit, as well. Our associates are encouraged to take an active part in the recruiting process. Having diverse attorneys, both at the associate and partner level, in the recruiting process helps to recruit diverse law students to the firm. We do set a very high standard for our recruiting - focusing on motivated, independent thinkers that understand our model and how we are different. I think that we have been able to attract the best talent with this high standard, and ultimately the best talent is diverse talent.

Editor: What kind of mentoring is offered to retain talented minorities, both at the attorney level and at the legal support level?

Reddy: Mentorship, the retention and promotion of diverse attorneys and legal support staff, is an important issue for law firms. If you want to excel at the practice of law, you need people to support you, to push you and to really advocate for you in your career. I like to talk about mentorship in the context of the BS&F experience because I think that it is something that we do really well. Fundamentally, it is tied to the way that we do business. Our business model focuses on staffing deals and cases leanly in order to provide the most efficiency for our clients. By staffing leanly, every associate working on every deal or case is expected to accomplish the tasks in front of him or her. For that reason, every partner spends a lot of time with the associates, making sure that they are able to perform to the best of their capabilities. Ultimately, this provides great service and efficiency to our clients, and it provides great training and growing experience for our associates. I think that is one of the main reasons why diverse associates are able to excel at BS&F.

Editor: Who is involved in the training? Are only the partners involved?

Reddy: We have partners, senior attorneys and senior associates through the various experience levels working together and training each other, but the training definitely originates with the partners.

Editor: Do you have any formal training programs where you bring in outside consultants who give lectures or demonstrations?

Reddy: We do most of our training in-house. For example, in the corporate group we have monthly meetings where we talk about ongoing matters relevant to our practice that are generally led by our partners. However, I think the best training is the informal training and the day-to-day, on-the-job guidance; in my view, this is what helps an associate to grow.

Editor: What would you say is the business case for diversity?

Reddy: There are at least three business arguments for diversity. First, as I previously noted, our lean and efficient staffing supports our clients needs and also creates a model in which every associate is trained by the partners and senior attorneys. Second, diversity is an important issue for our clients - we are very fortunate that many of our clients' diversity initiatives and goals are aligned with the diversity initiatives and goals of the firm. Our clients are not only looking to staff their matters with a diverse team, but are also looking to staff their matters at top levels of seniority with diverse attorneys. Lastly, our clients are and our practice is diverse, making diversity within our firm an asset. Having driven, smart people from different backgrounds opens up the possibility for more creative thinking and energetic solutions to problems.

Editor: What common challenges do you feel that diverse attorneys face today upon entering law practice in a law firm?

Reddy: One of the biggest challenges for diverse attorneys (or for any attorney) is to find people - mentors - who will push them and help them grow in their careers. The law is a challenging career. You have to be dedicated to it and need people who are able to guide you. This type of guidance is an important focus at BS&F.

Editor: What do you think has been achieved by your firm and others as well as corporate legal departments in developing opportunities for minorities and women? Do you think that great strides have been made in terms of breaking down ceilings?

Reddy: There has been progress. Just since I graduated from law school, I have seen the faces of law firms change. BS&F has done a great job of hiring, retaining and promoting attorneys of diverse backgrounds. We were recently ranked in the top 12 percent of firms for diversity by the Minority Law Journal. For me, a relatively young attorney, it is encouraging and instills confidence to work at a place where you see people with diverse backgrounds excelling and having very promising careers. That is something that we have done well, but there is always room for improvement.

Editor: In some law firms young associates, early in their careers, are given pro bono assignments representing clients, which take them into the courtroom. Does BS&F have any such projects such as this kind of pro bono project that are designed to help the young associates come up to speed quickly?

Reddy: Yes, we do have pro bono projects on which many of our associates work. Our associates are given a lot of responsibility very early on, in pro bono and non-pro bono matters, which gives associates a lot of confidence and growth early on.

Editor: How much of your firm's policies about diversity are influenced by your relationship with DuPont as one of its Preferred Provider Firms? Have their programs such as job fairs, the Pipeline Project and other activities been helpful to your hiring minorities?

Reddy: DuPont, like a lot of our other clients, places a lot of value on diversity. Our clients' needs are very important to us, and we as a firm are very lucky that a lot of our diversity initiatives and diversity practice really coincide with a lot of the same goals that our clients have. Actually, satisfying our clients' needs hasn't required us to make any changes from a diversity perspective, since we were already working towards the same goals.

Editor: What do you consider to be the principal barriers to minority advancement in the legal profession and how would you address them?

Reddy: For all attorneys, and especially for attorneys of diverse backgrounds, the most important thing that they can do is to find senior attorneys at their firms who are willing to help them, support them and train them. One of the major reasons why I am here at BS&F is because this type of mentorship is built into our business model. The focus on recruiting, retention and promotion of diverse attorneys is important, but the way that it has been accomplished has been to build it into the fiber of the practice, the business model. The way we provide service to our clients, by staffing leanly, by providing effective and efficient services to our clients, in turn, promotes each individual associate's growth. For that reason, our diverse attorneys are able to excel.

Please email the interviewee at nreddy@bsfllp.com with questions about this interview.