Message from Chairman Richard M. Alexander on Arnold & Porter's Commitment to Meaningful Change
As we mark the 5th anniversary of the senseless massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, we must continue to confront the stark reality that all members of our community, particularly Black Americans and other people of color, do not experience the same America. The fear, frustration, anger, and pain that many in our community live with on a daily basis has never been more clear.
We are at a critical juncture. Prejudice, whether overt or unconscious, runs deep and there will be no easy solutions. But as people across the globe speak out and protest peacefully to address systemic racism, we see glimmers of hope—the courage of many to lift their voices with a shared sense of the comprehensive and lasting change that must be made.
Arnold & Porter affirms its commitment to help drive sustainable change. We will do so in two important ways:
- First, we will continue to use the power of the law to protect the rights of all citizens, including those who are marginalized or whose voices go unheard. We have a long history of taking on cases to redress injustice, whether in the criminal justice system, protecting the right to vote, defending those wrongly persecuted by the government or protecting immigrants. Never has this work been more important or impactful.
- Second, although the legal industry has been a powerful force for change by enforcing the rule of law, it too has contributed to systemic racism. We have talked about these issues for years but we have not made sufficient progress. We must confront that hard truth as a profession. And we as a Firm must acknowledge our own failures and the steps that need to be taken. Policies, programs and training are critical but they alone will not drive needed change. Rather, each of us must commit to the recruitment, retention and advancement of racially and ethnically diverse professionals, especially Black professionals, who remain significantly under-represented in major law firms. We must invest further in mentoring and professional development and find ways to provide more opportunities for meaningful work. Each of us must do our part in creating a work community that is inclusive and provides a sense of belonging. In doing so, we must hold each other accountable for achieving these goals.
As we re-evaluate our efforts to take on this shared responsibility, we will be taking the following immediate and long-term steps:
In 2020, the Arnold & Porter Foundation will contribute an additional $250,000 to charitable or educational organizations that promote (i) the recruitment, retention, and advancement of racially/ethnically diverse attorneys in the legal profession and (ii) social justice initiatives. We will seek input from our community to assist in identifying those organizations and we will provide you with additional information once they have been selected.
We will be announcing shortly the details of a new community service program for all of our colleagues across our offices. This program will grant each lawyer and professional staff member one day of paid leave to work together as colleagues to further our commitment to public service, with particular focus on social justice.
As a Firm, we are also taking steps to help drive systemic change. We are addressing impediments to success for all attorneys and professional staff, and we are reviewing and expanding other programs that will provide mentoring and sponsorship so that everyone at the Firm has an equal opportunity to succeed.
This Friday, June 19, is "Juneteenth," also known as Jubilee Day or Freedom Day. It commemorates June 19, 1865, the date on which Union Major General Gordon Granger read federal orders in Galveston, Texas, freeing the last remaining enslaved African Americans in the rebellious states. Six months later, on December 6, 1865, the 13th Amendment was passed and abolished slavery in all of the United States.
Sadly, Juneteenth also serves as a painful reminder that freedom and equality are not experienced by all. Arnold & Porter has decided to honor Juneteenth this year by closing our offices and observing a Day of Reflection. As we prepare to recognize Juneteenth, all members of the Firm are invited to stand in solidarity and listen to personal reflections shared by our colleagues on Thursday, June 18th at 12:00 pm EDT. These reflections are important for each of us to hear.
Our hope is that out of tragedy and injustice, meaningful and sustainable change will take place. We are committed to being a leader in a more inclusive profession and continuing our role as defenders of the rule of law.