2015 Diversity Leader
Ballard Spahr LLP
Headquarters: Philadelphia, PA
Chief Diversity Officer: Virginia G. Essandoh
Recent Recognition Includes:
- Women in Law Empowerment Forum (WILEF), Gold Standard Certification, 2011–2014
- Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession, Honor Roll of Legal Organizations Welcoming Women, 2013
- The American Lawyer Survey of Women Equity Partners, Ranked No. 2, 2013
- Maryland Legal Aid’s Equal Justice Council Pacesetter Award, 2014 & 2013
- Justice William J. Brennan Jr. Award-Philadelphia VIP, April 2014
- Bright Beginnings – Pro Bono Champion for Children, 2013
This law firm is taking a focused and farsighted approach to diversity and inclusion in the workplace and beyond, says Chair and Diversity Champion Mark S. Stewart.
“Since becoming firm Chair nearly four years ago, my role in championing diversity has grown. More important, my motivation for doing so has evolved: In this position, I have come to realize that I will never understand the world unless I hear from people who see it differently. The drive to foster an inclusive environment is changing the way we think about and pursue diversity.
“I encourage the firm to look at all aspects of our work, business development, and community involvement through a diversity lens. I direct our recruiters to look for diverse talent to ensure that a variety of perspectives is represented at all levels. Our partners make sure to include diverse associates in client meetings and business development activities. And, we are influencing the next generation.
“Engaging diverse youth is key to creating a more representative profession. I worked with colleagues on a team that partnered with the School District of Philadelphia, the National Constitution Center, and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History to open Constitution High School in 2006. Our groundbreaking pipeline partnership with this magnet school—the student body is 80 percent minority—offers lawyer mentoring, job shadowing, summer internships, mock trial coaching, and an annual scholarship given to a student interested in pursuing a career in law.
“Ballard Spahr’s diversity and inclusion efforts don’t simply advance diverse lawyers—they elevate the entire firm. A diverse team is better equipped to generate creative solutions to complicated problems, because it will consider a variety of perspectives in handling complex class action litigation, determining the best way to defend a trademark, or closing a real estate development deal. I want our diverse lawyers to know that the perspectives and insights they contribute are uniquely valuable to all of us at the firm and to our clients.”