When we met in the beginning of January, and then again in the beginning of March 2020, our Diversity and Inclusion Committee debated policy and made plans as if 2020 would be like any other year. It was not to be so. Yes, we are a law firm, a place of work, where we commit ourselves to provide excellence in our work for our clients, but together we are so much more. We are a community of individuals, who, more than 100 years strong, are better for knowing each other, working together and supporting and appreciating each other. So, the horror of the COVID-19 public health crisis has been particularly hard for us as we work with clients who have been directly affected by loss. We also miss each other. Through it all, Pullman remains a home for all of us. We look forward to rejoicing in it, all together, on the other side of this. For now, our efforts are focused on our families, our clients and the heroes in our community who serve us all; they are our health care providers, our bus drivers, our delivery people, our pharmacy and store workers. We salute them, those in our families and those in your families. We are one global world.
Before the public health crisis
Our firm hosted the annual Martin Luther King Day of Service at The Open Hearth, a Hartford organization which provides shelter and rehousing for men experiencing homeless, which our own Zach Schurin serves as a Corporator. We painted a home for people in transition in their lives. The work cheered us all up and provided a much-needed face lift for all of the residents, perhaps warming their way each time they moved about their home.
In January, our Diversity and Inclusion Committee mapped out a year of activities. Of course, we did not know then that COVID-19 would result in numerous postponements of events and new initiatives. Now that we have our sea legs and are working remotely, we are looking for ways to continue to support each other as a community. So far, spirits have remained high. Other than looking out for each other, our work for our clients has been our first priority. Our creativity has allowed us to work in ways we never would have imagined at the beginning of the year.
Additionally, in January, we interviewed an incredibly talented group of applicants for our unique first year program which provides a diverse 1L student the opportunity to work with us and Yale New Haven Hospital for the summer.
In February, Jill Bicks and Karen Wackerman participated in a Connect Us Academy “You Make the Law” program, in which Jill and State Representative Will Haskell were keynote speakers. Geared to high school students, the program provided insights into how laws are made and concluded with the students writing a law for the City of Bridgeport. Pullman representatives were also busy in February shaking off winter doldrums at a reception/mixer hosted by the Connecticut Legislative Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, the Annual Black Business Gala and hosting a meeting of Doing More Together, an informal networking group of minority owned businesses and community leaders. Some of our members also began work on a CLE program for New York.
On a national level, John F. Stafstrom, a longtime leader in the Lambda Legal – the oldest and largest national legal organization whose mission is to achieve full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender and everyone living with HIV – became the Chair of the Board of Directors of Lambda Legal’s National Leadership Council.
Once the crisis began
In March, we changed the way we do business for the foreseeable future. We look forward to embracing the challenge before us as we support our clients and each other to be the best we can, by pulling together. To that end, the Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee of the Connecticut Bar Association is monitoring the potential for a disparate impact on the diversity legal community.
The WLI was saddened to say goodbye to Liz Austin who has served as co-chair with her customary dedication and good cheer for several years. Jessica Grossarth Kennedy was appointed to serve in her stead with her customary energy and drive. In the first quarter, Jean Perry Phillips and Jessica, as co-chairs of the WLI, developed goals and action items for the 2020 year. The goals include: empowering women, improving entrepreneur skills, addressing human resource issues concerning gender imbalance and strengthening our community presence. In an effort to reach those goals, Jean and Jess formed small task force groups to plan and lead events and initiatives. Jean and Jess look forward to sharing the WLI 2020 platform with everyone and including the male attorneys and male paralegals in events and meetings where appropriate.
The Diversity and Inclusion Committee remains active and vigilant as our firm continues to honor the goals we have crafted as a committee. While the goals remain the same, a bit more creativity may be required to meet them. We look forward to continuing this work together—physically or not.