Tennessee law firm Lewis Thomason recently fulfilled a priority of its strategic plan by forming InclusivLT, a diversity, equity, and inclusion committee (DE&I). The committee will be chaired by John R. Tarpley, a Nashville attorney whose practice focuses on complex litigation in the areas of transportation, tort, product liability, and a wide range of insurance-related matters in both state and federal courts.
Reflecting the diversity of the firm, committee members include Robyn Askew, Ray Babaoglu, Christen Blackburn, Ryan Clark, Brian Faughnan, Tania Freeman, Preston Hawkins, Whitney Henry Kimerling, Lynn Peterson, Kaya Grace Porter, Margaret Cooper Roney, Mary Ann Stackhouse, Marshall Stair, Chris Vescovo, Nic Vescovo, and firm president and managing partner, Lisa Ramsay Cole.
Lewis Thomason saw the need to form a DE&I Committee, not only as a response to current events, but as an amplification of the firm’s already existing commitment to women and minority leadership across its four Tennessee offices.
Lewis Thomason has always considered gender diversity a priority. For the past 25 years, the firm has been successively managed by two female presidents, including the current president who has served as the president and managing partner for the past seven years. The former president served during a time when female leadership was all but unheard of in law firms.
“We believe retention of diverse attorneys goes hand-in-hand with increasing diverse attorneys in leadership roles in our firm. For the past several years, we have actively recruited minority law clerks in each of our offices, enjoyed hosting minority high school summer interns, and developed a minority scholarship at the University of Tennessee College of Law in Knoxville thereby developing a pipeline of potential attorneys for our firm,” said Lisa Cole.
The managing shareholder of the Memphis office is female and a religious minority. The chairperson of the shareholders’ compensation committee is female, three of 11 board of directors are women, and four of the firm’s practice group leaders are women. Lewis Thomason’s diverse attorneys serve on internal committees such as the summer associate hiring and social committees and Project 2027, a group of young attorneys tasked with advising the firm president on the future of the firm.
InclusivLT’s goals are an extension of the firm’s strategic plan and include specific hiring goals to be met each year as well as actively working to retain and integrate diverse attorneys through mentoring and training. Lewis Thomason is in the process of establishing additional scholarships for diverse students at law schools in Memphis and Nashville.
Creating an inclusive environment at Lewis Thomason is important to facilitating the long-term retention of diverse attorneys. Cole continued, “An overwhelming number of our attorneys have never worked for another firm, and we believe that is because at Lewis Thomason we treat each other like family. We ensure our attorneys know they can find a focus on their well-being and a balance between work and family/life obligations.” Lewis Thomason has had that focus for decades.