DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION

Last week, hundreds of lawyers and staff gathered across Proskauer for the 15th Annual Golden Gavel Awards ceremony to honor those who have made significant contributions to the Firm’s pro bono, corporate social responsibility and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion efforts this past year.  The evening began with a special guest.  Preet Bharara, the former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, shared insights from his time in office, impressed the importance of public service, and addressed several issues he raised in his best-selling book Doing Justice: A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and The Rule of Law.  Also of note were remarks from Labor & Employment associate Godfre Blackman who is currently serving as the Firm’s NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) Fellow. As part of the Firm’s Collaborate for Change initiative, Proskauer created this fellowship for one of our associates to work directly with the LDF on strategic matters focusing on eliminating disparities and achieving racial justice and equality.

Last week, the Proskauer community came together for the 14th Annual Golden Gavel Awards ceremony, a firm-wide virtual celebration to honor those lawyers and staff members who went far above and beyond to contribute to the Firm’s pro bono, corporate social responsibility, and diversity & inclusion initiatives this year. Congratulations

Have you read Caste? Partnership With Children featured the book’s author Isabel Wilkerson at the organization’s inaugural Women’s Leadership Breakfast on March 9. Proskauer was proud to be among the event underwriters, a collaboration made possible through the Firm’s corporate social responsibility program.

As part of Proskauer’s Women’s History Month celebration, colleagues in the Proskauer Women’s Alliance and the Black Lawyers Affinity Group, among others from Proskauer, had the chance to attend this remarkable event and hear insights from Isabel Wilkerson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Humanities Medal, and author of the critically acclaimed New York Times bestsellers The Warmth of Other Suns and Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.

Proskauer gathered for a firmwide virtual celebration, our 13th Annual Golden Gavel Awards ceremony on February 3, to honor those lawyers and staff members who went far above and beyond to contribute to the Firm’s pro bono, corporate social responsibility, and diversity & inclusion initiatives this year. This past year has been one of immense adversity and challenges. We thank and celebrate the following colleagues who rose to the occasion and made a difference for their communities.

Last month, we concluded the sixth year of our Adopt-a-School program, Proskauer’s signature education initiative that provides career and college readiness to high-achieving, low-income high school students across the country, with a panel discussion focusing on diversity and inclusion in college and the workplace. We planned carefully to facilitate a remote session with the same level of educational, interactive conversation that drives our in-person monthly workshops. We gathered around our computers at home for our first-ever virtual meeting with the students who were finishing up their junior year at our five partner high schools. Even with the challenge of connecting remotely, our final session brought us together beyond what we could imagine.

Our discussion featured panelists with various job roles across the Firm, all from diverse backgrounds: manager of client operations Gil Desroches, associate Winnie Ma, manager of diversity and inclusion Courtney Paul, associate Hena Vora and associate Bryant Wright, moderated by associate director of CSR Wendy Dessy. The panel discussion centered on the topic of diversity and inclusion at college and in the workplace, providing the students with a thought-provoking conversation at what seemed to be exactly the right time.

This post contains sensitive subject matter.

We sat down with Michael Narain, the founder of Out My Closet, to talk about the vital role this nonprofit organization plays in the lives of at-risk LGBTQ+ youth and how Proskauer’s pro bono collaboration has helped to advance the organization’s mission.

In your own words, what does Out My Closet do and why is this work important and impactful?

LGBTQ+ youth experience disproportionate levels of homelessness and mental health issues, and are more likely to suffer from substance abuse and sexual exploitation. Out My Closet is a nonprofit organization that attempts to combat those trends by offering resources such as clothing, counseling, and connectivity to LGBTQ+ youth. We provide direct social services that feature face-to-face connection such as clothing pop-up shops, as well as support through social media platforms that connect LGBTQ+ youth to each other and to our volunteers. Out My Closet is staffed entirely by volunteers, many of whom are in their 20s and 30s, LGBTQ+, of color, immigrants, and the first in their families to be college-educated. There’s a real power in seeing someone not much older than you who made it through – and in being helped by someone who can understand and relate to your personal experiences.