B&D Chairman Ben Wilson Stresses the Importance of "Intentional" Diversity Efforts in Bloomberg Law’s Black Lawyers Speak Podcast Series
Beveridge & Diamond Chairman Ben Wilson (Washington, DC) was one of seven “pathbreaking Black corporate lawyers and law deans” that participated in a new Bloomberg Law podcast series, Black Lawyers Speak: Stories of the Past, Hopes for the Future, that aired December 9. The series “provides firsthand perspectives on how Black lawyers are navigating elite spaces in the legal profession – and how law firms are more closely addressing diversity, barriers to entry, and retainment.”
The panelists spoke about the culture and mindset of the legal field as they entered the profession and how it has changed over time. When Ben graduated from Harvard Law School in 1976, the corporate legal market was not focused on diversity.
“The expectation then for our white counterparts was to go to major firms in New York, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, and Chicago. But Black attorneys were not at any of those firms as a general matter. It was the very rare exception, not the rule,” he explained. “And quite frankly, it was not clear if they didn’t want us, or that they simply thought we were not able,” he added.
After beginning his career at King & Spalding in Atlanta, Ben joined B&D in 1986 and became the firm’s Managing Principal in 2009. He has been a champion of diversity at the firm, which has received widespread recognition for its diversity and inclusion initiatives, including Mansfield Plus certification the last two years. Ben founded the Diverse Partners Network and African American General Counsel and Managing Partners Network, organizations that have grown exponentially over the years and include many prominent attorneys of color nationwide.
Ben’s experiences in law practice and in later leadership roles illustrated to him how important it is for firms to be intentional about diversity. “It doesn’t matter if you’re in a leadership position if you don’t make a difference, you don’t change the status quo. One of the things that I wanted to do, I wanted to see diversity advance within my firm. I wanted to see women progress. I wanted to see African- Americans and Asian-Americans progress in our firm,” he said.
Other prominent Black lawyers featured in the podcast include Danielle Holley-Walker, dean of Howard University School of Law; David Wilkins, vice dean for Global Initiatives on the Legal Profession, Harvard Law School; John Daniels, chairman emeritus of Quarles & Brady; Maja Hazell, global head of diversity & inclusion at White & Case; Patricia Brown Holmes, managing partner, Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila; and Wendell Taylor, Washington office managing partner of Hunton Andrews Kurth.
Listeners can subscribe to Bloomberg Law’s Black Lawyers Speak series here.
Image reproduced with permission. Published Dec. 9, 2020. Copyright 2020 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033) http://www.bloombergindustry.com