How Sophisticated Work And A Collegial Environment Helped To Hire And Retain Three Diverse Attorneys

Saturday, March 1, 2008 - 01:00

With more than 175 attorneys and a sophisticated client base, Stradley Ronon has been thriving as a mid-sized firm. Part of the firm's success stems from its effort to recruit, retain and promote diverse attorneys by employing a collegial work environment - where attorneys know one another and each other's families - and a deep-rooted presence in the community. It is precisely these characteristics that enabled Stradley Ronon to retain and promote its three newest diverse partners: Prufesh Modhera, who was admitted into the partnership this year, and Deborah Hong and Peter Hong, both of whom became partners on January 1, 2007.

Prufesh Modhera 's parents are from India. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree from Rutgers University in 1986, his Masters in Business Administration from Georgetown University in 1990 and his Juris Doctorate from American University Washington College of Law in 1999. He worked at two other law firms prior to joining Stradley Ronon in April 2004. Mr. Modhera is a member of the firm's investment management group and works out of the Washington, DC office. He is married and has 4-year-old, twin sons.

Mr. Modhera was attracted to and has remained at the firm primarily because of its culture, which according to him, "fosters teamwork, camaraderie and excellent service to clients."He credits the investment management group with providing training opportunities to associates, both internally and through attendance at industry conferences. Lawrence Stadulis, the partner-in-charge of the Washington, D.C., office, has been Mr. Modhera's primary mentor in the firm. In addition, the firm's cross-selling efforts have afforded Mr. Modhera the opportunity to work extensively with partners and associates in the firm's other offices and practice groups. Mr. Modhera is also grateful for the firm's family friendly culture, which has enabled him to maintain a good balance between his personal life and career.

According to Mr. Modhera, the firm's focus on diversity initiatives and its transparency, in terms of communication from management to associates, distinguish it from other firms. As a member of both the firm's diversity group and the hiring committee, Mr. Modhera has seen management's commitment to recruiting and retaining diverse attorneys first-hand. The creation of the diversity group, the inclusion of several diverse attorneys on the hiring committee and the ascension of several diverse attorneys to the partnership ranks have been critical in attracting diverse attorneys to the firm. Mr. Modhera looks forward to continuing to build his practice as a partner of the firm, while also serving on important firm committees that will continue to shape its future.

Deborah Hong 's parents are from South Korea. She was born and raised in Orange County, California and attended The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Thereafter, she returned to California to attend The Pepperdine University School of Law. After graduating from law school in 1997, Ms. Hong moved east to join Stradley Ronon, where she has remained her entire legal career. According to Ms. Hong, she was initially attracted to the firm because of its sophisticated clients, challenging work assignments and sensitivity to balance-of-life issues. She has also developed nice working relationships with other Stradley Ronon attorneys,which have contributed to her commitment to the firm. Since her arrival at the firm, she concentrated her practice in the areas of structured finance, mergers and acquisitions and general corporate representation. Ms. Hong received formal training in monthly associate practice group meetings. Furthermore, she has had two mentors within her practice group, Ann Marie Janus, a former partner of the firm who ascended into the partnership when Ms. Hong was a mid-level associate, and Steve Scolari, a partner and chair of the firm's closely held family owned business group. In addition, Ms. Hong also established an informal mentoring relationship with Ellen Rogoff, a partner in the firm's employment group and a former member of the firm's board of directors. She has also had the opportunity to work with attorneys across all of the firm's practice groups.

On top of her hectic work schedule, Ms. Hong got married and had her son and daughter during her time as an associate. Having kids has had a very positive impact on Ms. Hong's life. She notes that the increased demands on her time have helped her channel her energies and focus on areas of particular interest to her. Ms. Hong has been working a reduced 80 percent schedule since returning to work after the birth of her son. The firm has been incredibly supportive of Ms. Hong in many respects. In fact, maternity leave and reduced work schedule had no adverse impact on Ms. Hong's partnership track, as she was voted into the partnership in January 2007.

In light of the focus and attention being placed on hiring and retention of diverse attorneys in the last few years, Ms. Hong recognizes the importance of offering competitive salaries and benefits to attract diverse attorneys. More importantly, once they are in the firm, she thinks it is important to ensure that proper programs are in place to address issues that may be unique to diverse attorneys, such as receiving stimulating work assignments and building meaningful mentoring relationships.

Over her years at Stradley Ronon, Ms. Hong has seen the firm mature in the areas of leadership, planning and execution. Ms. Hong's own goals over the next five years are to grow her practice group's clients and to contribute to the firm in the areas of hiring, diversity and mentoring.

Another diverse attorney admitted into Stradley Ronon's partnership in January 2007 was Peter Hong . Peter Hong's parents are from Korea, and he grew up in the Washington, DC area. He graduated from American University Washington College of Law in 1993, and went to work for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and then the Securities Exchange Commission, before joining Stradley Ronon in Sept. 2002. He is a member of the firm's investment management group and works in the firm's Washington, DC office. According to Mr. Hong, he chose Stradley Ronon because it had a good reputation among Securities Exchange Commission staffers, but more importantly because of the people. In March 2004, Mr. Hong left Stradley Ronon for a brief period but came back after realizing how important it is to work with people you respect, like and enjoy. Furthermore, he learned to appreciate the firm's culture and the realistic expectations it places on its attorneys. According to Mr. Hong, "[a]lthough we are getting busier each year it seems [that as the investment practice group] grows, there is still a sense that we are working to have a good and decent life, and not so that our lives are centered around work."

Like Ms. Hong and Mr. Modhera, Mr. Hong has had the opportunity to work extensively with attorneys in the firm's other offices and practice groups. His primary mentors have been partners in his practice group, Larry Stadulis and Kristin Ives, who ensured that he made steady progress toward partnership. Furthermore, as an associate he attended regular training sessions, and also served as an instructor for some of the sessions, which made him feel like an integral part of the firm.

Mr. Hong is married and has three children. He notes that his family life has not had any negative impact on his career. As with most parents who work outside the home, Mr. Hong wishes he had more time to spend with his family. However, he makes an effort to spend quality time with them and attend school trips and other events whenever he can.

With respect to hiring and retention of more diverse attorneys, Mr. Hong notes that the firm is on the right track. By admitting three diverse attorneys into the partnership in the last two years, Stradley Ronon has demonstrated and reinforced its commitment to welcome, develop and promote diverse attorneys through partnership.

Mr. Hong observes that over the last five years the firm has developed a more focused vision, with more emphasis on strategic planning. Mr. Hong's own goals over the next five years are to get more involved in the life of the firm, grow his practice and make a noticeable contribution to the economics and culture of the firm.

Frances Gauthier is Of Counsel and Diversity Chair at Stradley Ronon.

Please email the author at fgauthier@stradley.com with questions about this article.