Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger is committed to fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in our workplace and in the work that we do.
For us, diversity means the differences in people’s backgrounds and identities—including their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, disability, and religion—that result in varied perspectives and knowledge. Inclusion means nurturing a sense of belonging and a culture of respect within our firm, the legal profession, and our communities, especially by listening to and amplifying the voices of people who have been traditionally ignored or silenced, and supporting people in achieving their potential. Equity means the redistribution of opportunities, resources, and power to promote justice.
We acknowledge that the practice of law, the environmental movement, government actions, and land use planning contribute to structural inequities and the oppression of people of color and marginalized communities. We believe we have a moral obligation to fight systemic racism, as well as homophobia, transphobia, sexism, and other forms of discrimination and exclusion, and to work toward equity in our workplace and our communities. And we believe that creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace allows us to better serve our clients and their communities.
Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger is committed to acting to advance these values and goals, to learning and reflection, and to fostering needed change within our firm and our communities. We recognize that this work must be ongoing, and will never be complete. Click on the headings below to see what actions we have taken and are taking:
Increasing our social and environmental justice work, including through pro bono support:
For many years, SMW has worked with clients and on matters to address social and environmental justice; you can read more about this practice area here. In 2021, we revised our pro bono policy to prioritize matters that attempt to dismantle structural racism or protect human rights, with a specific focus on environmental justice. The firm also established industry-leading pro bono hours targets and created systems to help ensure we meet those goals.
Increasing charitable giving to environmental and social justice organizations:
We have revised our charitable giving polices to better direct funding to organizations engaged in environmental justice and anti-racism work. We have also doubled our overall charitable giving to help advance these aims. You can learn more here about the organizations we made donations to in 2021.
Anti-racism and social justice screening for new matters:
We have developed a mechanism for encouraging reflection and fostering dialogue on whether each new potential client or work matter may have positive or negative implications for the firm’s social justice and anti-racism goals.
Recruiting and hiring:
Several years ago, we restructured our recruiting and hiring procedures to reflect best practices for interrupting bias. We now use a structured interview process, where we ask the same questions of all candidates, conduct a blind review of written work product, and specifically evaluate candidates based on metrics tied more to job performance than prestige. We also have increased outreach to law schools with more diverse student bodies, connected directly with law student affinity groups to find candidates, and clarified our recruitment and hiring materials to encourage students with a broader range of professional interests (e.g., general public interest) to apply.
We are proud to be one of the largest majority-women-owned law firms in California.
Since its inception, the firm has paid its attorneys, including partners, primarily based on years of service to the firm. Similarly, the firm pays its staff primarily based on survey data tied to years of experience. This structure promotes transparency, helps to eliminate bias in compensation, supports a more cooperative and inclusive working environment, and benefits our clients.
Assessment of firm culture and practices:
In early 2021, we engaged outside consultant Soil & Shadow to help us assess our firm’s culture and practices. We wanted to better understand ways our firm can create a more inclusive and supportive environment where people with a range of backgrounds can thrive. Soil & Shadow has helped us develop a DEI action plan and establish structures and practices to better navigate the complexity that accompanies diverse organizations. We continue to update the plan, and a team at SMW meets regularly with Soil & Shadow to ensure the plan’s implementation.
Mentoring and professional development:
We are working to enhance the firm’s existing mentoring program and practices to better support inclusion and engagement in firm culture and professional development. For our attorney mentoring program, we solicited internal feedback on the firm’s existing mentorship practices, restructured mentoring assignments and duties, and formed a Mentoring Committee of attorneys at all levels of seniority to manage the firm’s program. Likewise, the firm intends to expand its current mentoring practices for staff into a more formal program.
Firmwide educational events:
The firm’s Diversity Committee organizes periodic presentations and discussions for all firm members that examine the intersections between systemic racism and inequity, the law, land use, and environmental issues. These events have included:
- A presentation on the firm’s Tribal Law practice, focusing on cultural resource protection and the Land Back movement, identifying racist terms in legal discourse, and describing America’s history of racism and erasure toward Native peoples.
- A discussion of cultural appropriation and the legal profession, and what it means to be an effective advocate for marginalized communities and communities of color.
- A discussion of diversity, equity, and inclusion in outdoor spaces, focusing on experiences of people of color in the outdoors.