For the ninth year in a row, the global law firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP ( which has a branch in Chicago ) has earned a perfect score of 100 in the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's ( HRC ) 2017 Corporate Equality Index ( CEI ).
HRC's CEI is the national benchmarking tool on corporate policies and practices applicable to LGBT employees. According to the 2017 CEI report, 517 major businesses across nearly every industry and geography ( out of 1,043 businesses rated ), earned a top score of 100 percent, therefore receiving the distinction of "Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality." This number is a record and represents the largest jump in top- rated businesses within a single year in the history of the CEI.
"It's really great when you're recognized externally, when you feel like you're doing a good job internally," said Sam Schwartz-Fenwick, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw and the national chair of the firm's LGBT affinity group. "I think Seyfarth wants to be a model employer, so when we're recognized for our commitment to the LGBT community, it's a really great validation for what the firm's leadership is trying to do on a day to day basis to make the firm as inclusive and welcoming as possible and especially with something like the HRC index where the benchmark changes every year, it's great that as HRC is moving the ball forward on what they're expecting of employers who embrace diversity that Seyfarth continues to be recognized as a leader."
Seyfarth Shaw has offices across the United States and internationally with more than 850 attorneys providing a broad range of legal services including the areas of labor and employment, employee benefits, litigation, corporate and real estate. The firm's clients include over 300 of the Fortune 500 companies and reflect just about every industry and segment of the economy.
"We are a law firm, we're not a corporation and that's fundamentally a different kind of structure," said Amanda Sonneborn, the co-managing partner of Seyfarth Shaw's Chicago office. "We don't have shareholders that we are accountable to. We're a partnership whose primary job and goal every day is to provide good service to our clients. As an organization, I think we're driven to provide that good service, while simultaneously helping our community; helping those who are less fortunate than us through pro-bono efforts and generally trying to be a model for what we believe are the values that are important in the world and diversity and inclusion are one of those."
The firm specifically outlines its goals in diversity. These goals are to continuously strengthen inclusion and assist people of all different identities and backgrounds to succeed and to lead efforts in creating a more diverse and inclusive legal profession.
Seyfarth Shaw enforces this focus on diversity and inclusion with its affinity groups. According to Seyfarth Shaw's website, the firm's attorney affinity groups have been formed for African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic, LGBT and women's interests, and "serve as voluntary support networks, designed to create a more inclusive culture and work environment, and to help identify solutions and strategies that support the firm's diversity efforts."
"We have a number of different purposes," said Schwartz-Fenwick about the affinity groups. "One is internal networking, so that we can have a nationwide community for people to chat and get to know each other. We also, we do a lot of promotional work, in terms of making sure we're making everyone aware of LGBT best practices and also doing client-facing initiatives, which different offices take different focuses on."
Schwartz-Fenwick is also a member of the policy committee of the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance and identifies as a gay man. He explained there is LGBT support toward the affinity groups and throughout the firm. The firm also has involvement with HRC, Lambda Legal and different statewide LGBT-rights groups, such as Equality Illinois, adding they have "a very strong and long relationship with them."
"We want to be excellent legal practitioners who help our clients manage their problems, but we also want to be a positive and enjoyable place to work for the people who are our employees," said Sonneborn. "This piece, this recognition, is just one part of that. The diversity and inclusion are core values of ours and something we focus on and consider literally every day, in all settings."
To learn more about Seyfarth Shaw LLP, visit Seyfarth.com .
For more information on HRC's Corporate Equality Index 2017, visit HRC.org/campaigns/corporate-equality-index.