Robert Johnson

On the heels of unveiling its new diversity committee, the country's largest minority-owned law firm will host its inaugural Diversity Conference later this month in Chicago.

Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, P.A. will host the conference April 26-27 at the Willis Tower, and welcome "thought leaders in the academic, business and legal professions with the intention of fostering meaningful discussions surrounding the most important aspects of diversity," according to a release from the firm. 

The event has been organized through the firm's new diversity committee, empaneled at the end of 2015. Attorney Robert Johnson, a partner at Quintarios with more than 20 years of legal experience, serves as the committee's first chair.

Though Johnson's practice focuses on providing management and consulting services to corporate departments, he also regularly advises on issues of diversity and social responsibility. 

Johnson said the goal of the new diversity committee is to expand the firm’s efforts around embracing and building on diverse backgrounds. The core committee has 15 members, and is supplemented by eight subcommittees. It uses best practices from other law firms, but is essentially a new construction. 

“We hope that it will influence every aspect of the firm including culture, training, business development, and association with other organizations," Johnson said. “One of the things we want to do is advance the notion of diversity in the legal profession."

According to the National Association for Law Placement Directory of Legal Employers 2015-2016, members of minority groups account for 7.52 percent of partners. The numbers are slightly higher for associates at 22 percent, and staff attorneys at 20 percent. 

The NALP definition of minority includes Black/African-American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and multi-racial groups, but the committee at Quintairos has a broader definition, Johnson said, including racial, ethnic, gender, disabled and veteran groups. 

“We want to create a firm that reflects the society we live in,” Johnson said. 

Employees of the firm were overwhelmingly supportive of the idea, Johnson said. When leadership first presented employees with the opportunity to get involved with the diversity committee, more than 200 of the firm’s 350 staff and attorneys expressed interest.

“We’re trying to match what the committee is doing to their interests,” Johnson said.

The committee is reaching outside the firm as well. External members of the diversity committee include members of the American Bar Association, leaders in the community, and even some of the firm’s clients. 

“We’ve also started to form affinity groups so that different groups within the firm can provide their perspective,” Johnson said. 

In the first month, Johnson said the committee created groups for women, veterans, and members of the LGBT community. More groups are in the works. 

All of the affinity groups are led by attorneys, but they will include staff members from across the firm. 

Johnson said the Diversity Conference reflects a desire by the committee to extend the effort beyond the Quintarios firm.

"We really want to bring the conversation to a head," he said.

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