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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Our Commitment


In this, our 120th year as a law firm, Carlton Fields’ commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is not a recent epiphany. Nor has it been prompted by client or social pressures. Quite to the contrary, it is deep in our DNA, extending back many decades.

The firm’s namesake, Governor Doyle Carlton, championed women’s suffrage in Florida in the 1920s. He was appointed by Governor Eisenhower to this country’s first Civil Rights Commission. Carlton Fields was one of the first law firms based in the South to hire a woman partner, a Black partner, and a Jewish partner, and to adopt same-sex benefits for its LGBTQ+ employees. Our law firm took these steps at a time when many clients looked askance at such developments.

Over the last 15 years, our board of directors has been chaired consecutively by one of the first female lawyers in Tampa, who currently serves as head of our Appellate and Trial Support Practice; by a multiracial female shareholder who also served as head of our Tallahassee office and Government Consulting Practice; and by a Cuban-born shareholder who also has headed our Construction Practice and Tampa office. Currently, our board of directors includes four women and five additional diverse shareholders (Black, Korean, Asian, Vietnamese, and Hispanic), and our CEO is Hispanic. Female shareholders currently serve as office managing shareholders of 4 of 11 of our offices, another office is headed by a Korean shareholder, and still another by a Hispanic shareholder. Our law firm was rated recently as the top law firm based in Florida for Black partners. Nine of our practice groups and industry groups are led by female shareholders (including Black, Korean, LGBTQ+, Chinese, and Hispanic) and five such groups are led by diverse male shareholders (including Black, Vietnamese, and Hispanic), and each and every one of these groups has female or diverse attorneys in strategic positions of influence.

Our talent director, who leads our efforts in recruiting, professional development, and DEI, is a Black woman, our chief diversity officer is openly lesbian, and our chief financial officer and chief marketing officer are women. 

  • Our Mission

    DEI is a core value of our firm. DEI is more than an initiative, program, or policy. It is who we are. We strive to have a critical mass of female and diverse colleagues across our national platform so that DEI is an organic part of our law firm. We are focused on the qualitative character of our firm. We endeavor for all of our professionals to have equal, unimpeded access to all opportunities, to have a seat at the table, to be treated fairly, and to thrive at our firm for the long haul.

  • Why DEI?

    Our law firm embraced DEI long before there was a conventional business case for diversity — before very many businesses favored it. Now, of course, many businesses understand that we make better, more thoughtful, more informed business decisions and get better results with diverse teams. A diverse leadership team and workforce not only operate more rigorously and creatively but they better understand and reflect the needs and interests of our clients and other constituencies.

    Nonetheless, two other considerations have always weighed very heavily in our calculus. First, DEI is the right thing to do, as a matter of social justice. Second, we enjoy being diverse. It enhances the depth, quality, and character of our professional relationships and experience immensely.

  • Strategies

    We employ many and varied strategies to achieve our goal of robust DEI, including:

    Representation

    As described more fully above, female and diverse lawyers are represented significantly in leadership roles and in offices and practice areas across our firm.

    Recruiting and Promotion

    Carlton Fields enjoys great success in recruiting female and diverse attorneys at the entry level and laterally from government, other law firms, and other organizations. We have built a reputation as a welcoming and inclusive law firm for female and diverse attorneys, and this has proven to be a great asset in our recruiting efforts. Our full-time talent director who oversees recruiting is a Black female attorney. We work closely with a diverse recruiter to assist in lateral hiring, and we have developed a robust recruiting pipeline with diverse and female judges. We also recruit from historically Black law schools. (Associate recruits, please use this link.)

    We have enjoyed great success over the past 15 years or more in promoting female and diverse attorneys to shareholder in great number. We have a rather unique structure that enables more liberal promotion than typically practiced by other firms. Over 10 years ago, we eliminated our strict “two-tier” system and now generally use only one class of stock that affords all shareholders equal voting rights, access to all activities and any leadership role in the firm, and participation in the same compensation process under the same performance-based, not class-based, criteria.

    Elimination of Hidden Barriers

    We scrutinize all offices, practice groups, and industry groups on an ongoing basis to ensure that all female and diverse lawyers are strategically placed and receiving access to important opportunities to build and sustain successful careers. This is something that we monitor in real time, year in and year out.

    Structure

    Our law firm is organized as a corporation and has a full-time CEO form of governance. Our CEO personally oversees the firm’s diversity efforts and reports to our board on our progress and challenges. We have a chief diversity officer and a full-time talent director who are responsible for overseeing and effectuating DEI. Our practice group leaders are all charged with embracing and implementing DEI. In addition, each of our practice groups also has talent managers who are tasked with overseeing DEI in their respective groups, working together with our firm’s CEO, CDO, firmwide talent director, and practice group leaders. DEI is a standing agenda item for every managers meeting, which include our CEO, CDO, talent director, practice group and industry group leaders, and other firm managers.

    Training and Professional Development

    Our law firm provides career track and business development training to our female and diverse attorneys at strategic stages of their careers in groups and in one-on-one coaching, employing in-house and outside professionals. The firm has a sponsorship program pairing diverse lawyers with highly successful senior shareholders in our firm to facilitate the development of important client relationships and access to strategic engagements. This is coupled with a mentorship program for all associates. In addition, the firm’s CEO meets one-on-one and in small groups with female and diverse lawyers throughout each year to provide them with access and advice on how to build their careers.

    We have also recently provided DEI training to all of the firm’s top managers; we have regular discussions about these issues in shareholder meetings, board meetings, and managers meetings; and we provide DEI training from time to time to all shareholders.

    Feedback

    Our firm does not rely on year-end reviews as a principal vehicle for feedback and career development. We foster a practice and climate of “real-time” feedback for all up-and-coming attorneys, augmented by quarterly meetings between each associate and his or her respective practice group leader, where our associates are expected to provide an agenda touching on all aspects of their progress, successes, disappointments, frustrations, and aspirations. We encourage frank feedback from all supervising attorneys and discourage “soft” feedback that dodges tough issues that can and should be resolved to empower career advancement.

    Growth Mindset

    We embrace a “growth” mindset and discourage a “fixed” mindset on the part of all of our attorneys and staff. Yes, society, our profession, and our law firm must continue to grow and evolve institutionally. But no individual can wait for that. We encourage and seek to empower each of our professionals to face obstacles with the resolve to go around them, over them, or through them.

    Accountability

    We evaluate all of our professionals regularly regarding their success in these endeavors. Our CEO, CDO, and talent director frequently intervene to resolve impediments or problems and to help identify solutions. Their success is a factor in the setting of their own compensation. All of our practice group leaders and industry group leaders are subjected to a 360-degree annual review by all members on a number of key performance indicators, including their commitment and success with DEI. This is taken into account in the setting of their compensation. Each year, in their annual self-evaluation reports, all shareholders must report their activities and success in mentoring younger lawyers and in promoting DEI. This is taken into account in the determination of shareholder compensation.

    Metrics

    The firm monitors its diversity metrics on a regular basis, including the engagement of female and diverse lawyers in servicing our most significant clients and matters to ensure that female and diverse lawyers are not simply staying busy but are getting equitable access to the firm’s best professional opportunities.

    Business Resource Groups

    Carlton Fields has several robust affinity groups for female and diverse lawyers and their allies, namely, our Minority Business Resource Group, our Women’s Business Resource Group, and our LGBTQ+ Business Resource Group.

    Networking

    Carlton Fields has been a member of the Leadership Council for Legal Diversity (LCLD) since its inception. Our CEO has served on its board and co-chaired its Fellows Program, and we have sponsored a number of LCLD Fellows and Pathfinders over the years. They have all built robust networks of in-house and law firm colleagues across the country and actively cultivate this network. Our CEO meets with them individually throughout the year to ensure that they are leveraging these and other relationships to full advantage. We also have colleagues who hold leadership roles in the National Bar Association and in regional diverse bar associations and other organizations. These are all in addition to involvement in more traditional ABA and state and local bar associations, Inns of Court, and trade associations, which we also support. Even more important, the firm encourages all client relationship managers to include female and diverse lawyers in client meetings and other client-facing conversations and opportunities, as appropriate.

    Succession Planning

    The firm has a formal succession planning policy that requires all shareholders who manage significant client relationships, regardless of the shareholder’s age or proximity to retirement, to involve female and diverse lawyers intentionally in these relationships and to position them for leadership roles at the time when actual succession occurs. This process is audited by a senior staff member and our CEO. This has produced significant success stories over the years in passing important client relationships along to female and diverse lawyers.

    The Rooney Rule

    We seek to inculcate the habit in all law firm leaders and shareholders of practicing the “Rooney Rule” in all things. This includes hiring, promotions, staffing, client development, law firm committee membership, leadership roles, client meetings and events, professional and community activities and events, and appointments of all kinds. Although we have discrete practice groups and industry groups for good and sufficient reasons, and although we practice in 11 offices across the country, these are not hard and fast lines. We encourage our shareholders to “think outside the box” when making these decisions, drawing on talent, as appropriate, across groups and offices in order to diversify our teams.

    Culture of Diversity

    Maybe most importantly, we have established a genuine culture of diversity. All law firms tout their collegiality. We do, too. But ours has a secret sauce: What you see is what you get. This has always been the case in anyone’s memory at Carlton Fields. We welcome all newcomers from the outset, we abhor hidden agendas, we are not all the same by any means, but we revel in our differences, and we cherish authenticity, transparency, collaboration, and honesty. We do not promote “covering” or expect any of our colleagues to be “someone else.” We take our work very seriously, but we try not to take ourselves too seriously. We accept each of us for who we are. We have purposely and strategically decided to remain relatively small (under 500 lawyers), precisely to preserve the quality of relationships among ourselves and with our clients. This means we are very selective about who we hire, and every person counts.

  • Recognition

    Carlton Fields has been recognized for its accomplishments in DEI many times over the years, including the following ratings and rankings in recent years:

    • Ranked in the top 30 on The American Lawyer’s Diversity Scorecard, a ranking of law firms based on the percentage of diverse lawyers in their U.S. offices
    • One of the top law firms in the nation for female attorneys, according to Law360’s 2020 Glass Ceiling Report
    • Ranked No. 4 in Law360’s 2020 Diversity Snapshot for “The Best Law Firms for Minority Equity Partners” and in the top 30 for “The Best Law Firms for Minority Attorneys”
    • Ranked by Vault as among the top 10 law firms in the country for diversity 10 times and as the No. 1 law firm in the country seven times, based on anonymous associate surveys
    • Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality”: 100% perfect score for 12th consecutive year
    • One of the top five law firms in Florida with the most female honorees in Florida Trend’s Florida Legal Elite
    • Ranked as the top Florida-based law firm for Black partners, according to the Daily Business Review’s 2020 Diversity Report. The firm also ranks in the top 5 for Black attorneys and minority attorneys
    • Leadership Council on Legal Diversity “Top Performer” in 2017, 2018, and 2020
    • 2016 T-Mobile Legal Department Diversity Excellence Award

     

 


Carlton Fields Black History Month Program Featuring Florida State Senator Shevrin D. Jones

 

This year’s program featured Florida Senator Shevrin D. Jones, the first openly LGBTQ+ member of the Florida Senate and former member of the Florida House of Representatives. Senator Jones shared his path to politics, how he is breaking boundaries, and how we can all make an impact on our communities.

 


 

Hiring and advancing diverse attorneys has been important to us as a firm since long before the legal profession recognized the business benefits of diverse teams. Our top-down commitment to diversity requires us to look beyond statistics to ensure we create an environment where all of our attorneys — and, in turn, our clients — can truly succeed. We continually assess and launch diversity, equity,  and inclusion initiatives, and our efforts have been nationally recognized. For example, the firm conducts a 360-degree review process through which our attorneys and government consultants rank their practice group leaders on factors that include how well they promote diversity — their effectiveness weighs into their compensation.



Nancy Faggianelli

Nancy Faggianelli
Chief Diversity Officer

Accolades

2019 american lawyer diversity scorecard
vault guide to top 100 law firms

 

Business Resource Groups

Our internal networking groups power initiatives that have impacts within the firm, legal profession, and our communities.

Key Contacts for Carlton Fields Business Resource Groups

 

Gail Podolsky

Gail Podolsky
LGBTQ+
Business Resource Group

Derek Harris

M. Derek Harris
Minority 
Business Resource Group

Jin Liu

Jin Liu
Women's
Business Resource Group

Amanda Romfh Jesteadt

Amanda Romfh Jesteadt
Women's
Business Resource Group

 

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The information on this website is presented as a service for our clients and Internet users and is not intended to be legal advice, nor should you consider it as such. Although we welcome your inquiries, please keep in mind that merely contacting us will not establish an attorney-client relationship between us. Consequently, you should not convey any confidential information to us until a formal attorney-client relationship has been established. Please remember that electronic correspondence on the internet is not secure and that you should not include sensitive or confidential information in messages. With that in mind, we look forward to hearing from you.