Over the last 18 months, General Counsel Ellen Dwyer has met personally with nearly 90 Crowell & Moring partners – sometimes in small groups, but mostly one-on-one.
The meetings are part of a firm-wide effort to promote sponsorship, beginning with a ground level effort to support leaders in developing the key talent within their practice groups.
“We all have influence in our organizations at different levels, but I think it really just starts as a very human interaction with another person," Dwyer said at an LCLD regional event in 2016. "Getting to know them, listening, understanding what they want to do and then doing your part to help them get to that place."
The conversations are important from a diversity perspective because they encourage leaders to look beyond the talent most familiar to them to reach out and develop important relationships with talented women and diverse lawyers they may know less well, said Monica Parham, Diversity Counsel at Crowell & Moring. This means includes recognizing and connecting with a broader spectrum of lawyers, engaging and listening to the lawyers' ambitions and aspirations, and helping each of them chart a course that aligns with their goals and opportunities within the firm.
For organizations interested in helping leaders become sponsors, Dwyer and Parham offered a few tips:
- Your efforts must reflect the culture of your organization. “We spent considerable time at Crowell educating and engaging our partners about sponsorship one-on-one and in groups. Issuing edicts is not effective in our organization. We focused instead on helping our partners get to know and build relationships with tremendous promise. Once those connections were made, our partners knew exactly what to do."
- Protégés must be engaged. “Being a protégé is hard work. Getting sponsored, and indeed becoming 'sponsor-ready,' requires not only sustained excellence in terms of performance but demonstrated commitment to a shared mission and truly being 'all in.'"
- Recognize that building relationships (and trust) takes time. “We have learned through experience that we can be more impactful when we have built relationships of trust with our talent. Their needs, as well as the strategies we need to develop to support them, will evolve over time."
To learn more about this initiative, contact Ellen Dwyer.