Diversity - Law Firms Nixon Peabody Lends A Hand To The National Bar Association

Tuesday, February 1, 2005 - 00:00

Editor: Mr. Tyre, would you tell our readers something about your background and professional experience?

Tyre: I am a partner in the law firm of Nixon Peabody LLP and am based in the firm's Washington, DC office. I have a general corporate practice and also specialize in franchise matters.

Editor: How did you come to Nixon Peabody?

Tyre: I did my undergraduate work at Brown University, and I actually began working for the firm in its Rochester, New York office during summers when I was in college. I worked as a clerk in the library and then in the litigation department. After graduating from the University of Minnesota Law School, it was a natural fit for me to return to the Rochester office and begin my practice. I eventually transferred to the firm's Washington, DC office to work with a team of attorneys that had a transactional practice with an international focus.

Editor: Please tell us about your franchising practice. This has an international dimension?

Tyre: I represent a number of franchisors that have developed their franchise systems abroad. Over the past year, I have counseled franchisors with respect to their operations in or expansion to a number of countries, including South Africa, Nigeria, Indonesia, Mexico and Canada. It's an exciting practice, and I have the privilege of working with a great group of people. Our franchise team has outstanding practitioners with an internationally renowned practice.

Editor: You also serve as co-chair of Nixon Peabody's diversity committee. Please tell us about the origin of the committee and its work.

Tyre: I currently serve as co-chair of Nixon Peabody's Diversity Action Committee with Elizabeth Moore, a partner in our New York City office. The committee, known as DAC, was formed early last year and is the most recent expression of the firm's longstanding commitment to diversity. The committee consists of a small number of partners from various offices as well as the firm's Chairman Harry Trueheart, who serves as DAC's Executive Chair.

DAC provides direction and focus to Nixon Peabody in becoming an innovative leader in diversity. As a firm, we want to attract, retain and promote individuals of exceptional ability and talent from both sexes and from a broad range of racial, ethnic, social, economic and personal backgrounds. Our mission is to create an open and inclusive culture within the firm. We believe that diversity and inclusion greatly enhance our ability to meet - and exceed - our client's expectations and will continue to make our firm a great place to work for all individuals.

DAC has developed a three-year diversity development plan that builds on our progress to date.

Editor: Can you tell us something about Nixon Peabody's culture and the support the committee has received in its work from the firm?

Tyre: Diversity is not something new to Nixon Peabody. Nixon Peabody has been a law firm leader in expanding the diversity of people who work in the legal profession and at our firm. In our various markets, we were among the first firms to hire and promote women to partnership. We were among the first majority firms to recruit and promote attorneys of color to partnership. More than ten years ago, we began offering benefits to domestic partners.

In addition, our attorneys are actively involved as members, or have held leadership positions, in such organizations as the National Bar Association, the National Hispanic Bar Association, the ABA Commission on Women in the Legal Profession, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, the National Urban League and a variety of not-for-profit, gay rights and other organizations.

Nixon Peabody's open and supportive culture has encouraged the strides in diversity that have been made to date. That culture is a major reason that attorney participation in these diverse organizations has been so strong. However, we feel we can do even better, and that is why we have created the Diversity Action Committee.

Editor: You mentioned the National Bar Association, where you have had something of a parallel career. For starters, would you tell us something about the Association?

Tyre: The National Bar Association was formed in 1925 and is the oldest and largest association of African-American lawyers, judges and legal scholars in the country. It represents a network of approximately 20,000 individuals and has about 86 affiliate chapters in the United States and abroad.

I have been active in the NBA since I began practicing law. As a professional organization, it has provided me with countless opportunities to develop my legal skills and broaden my client base. The organization has also tackled a number of issues of concern tothe African-American community. Recently, the NBA participated in an Election Protection initiative, and NBA attorneys across the nation were assigned to voting polls to assist with the recent elections. The organization also recently established a Judicial Nomination Task Force with the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus. This body reviews, evaluates and endorses nominees to the U.S. federal bench.

Editor: And as chief of staff to the President of the Association? What were your responsibilities?

Tyre: Last year I served as the chief of staff to the NBA President, Clyde E. Bailey, Sr. I assisted President Bailey in formulating and implementing the policies of the NBA. It could have easily been a full-time position, but I did this in addition to maintaining my practice. It was an intense experience and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. We launched a number of the initiatives that I just mentioned.

Editor: You have just been appointed chair of the Association's diversity task force. Please tell us about the Association's diversity pledge.

Tyre: The NBA Diversity Pledge is an effort to establish the National Bar Association as a leader in workforce diversity issues and a leading advocate for equal opportunities for all lawyers in both the private and public sectors. The Pledge has a series of "best practices" for corporate legal departments and law firms. In an effort to effect change in the workplace, each of the signatories to the Diversity Pledge undertakes one or more of the enumerated best practices for creating a diverse workforce.

Editor: What is the task force seeking to accomplish? Why is the diversity pledge so important now?

Tyre: Today, the goal of creating a diverse work environment is a goal that is shared by a number of institutions, including law firms and the legal departments of corporations. Often these organizations have struggled to create viable diversity programs. What we hope to do is share information with a wider audience regarding effective diversity practices in the legal industry. We plan to convene seminars on the topic with other professional organizations highlighting the relevant issues and communicate our findings with pledge participants and others.

Editor: The initiative is already underway? How are things progressing?

Tyre: The NBA Diversity Pledge is underway, and we have received a warm reception from those we have asked to participate and have a number of signatories to date and are working with the various sections of the NBA to ensure that the pledge participants become familiar with the organization.

We have also had the benefit of tapping into global insight on issues of diversity from an international Web-based network of black lawyers, LexNoir.org (www.lexnoir.org). LexNoir.org facilitates the exchange of information and connecting communities long separated by geographic barriers. The network has proven to be a resource for understanding how black attorneys in South Africa, the United Kingdom, Canada and other countries are addressing issues of diversity in the legal profession and how their experience may provide us with a different perspective as to what can be done.

Editor: This is a very significant and time-consuming project for the NBA. How has Nixon Peabody reacted to your role in this undertaking?

Tyre: Nixon Peabody has been a longstanding supporter of the National Bar Association. In fact, last year it was the only law firm in the nation to receive an NBA President's Award for its support of the organization. My work with the NBA Diversity Pledge complements the firm's own efforts to further establish itself as a leader in diversity.

Editor: At the end of your term as head of the task force you are to make a report to the Association concerning this project, as well as present the task force's views on best practices in the area of diversity. At this point it is probably too early to be able to make any predictions, but what do you hope to be able to say?

Tyre: We intend to provide some leadership and guidance to a number of majority-owned law firms and corporate legal departments. Our goal is to offer concrete steps that can be taken to create viable diversity programs that effectively recruit, hire, train, retain and promote attorneys of color and women. I have every hope that we will be able to show that we have made real progress in achieving that goal. That is certainly our expectation.

This is an important task and one in which I am honored to be involved.

Please email the interviewee at ktyre@nixonpeabody.com with questions about this interview.