“DEI” is more than a popular and catchy acronym at Woods Rogers. The firm recognizes a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace creates an environment where everyone works towards a common goal with the benefit of seeing the path forward differently. This approach allows us to collaborate, foster good employee relationships, build the best team to serve a client, and use the creativity of our diversity for the client’s benefit. That is what we convey as counselors of the law.
Woods Rogers has resources, talent, and a platform to transform “equality” from a hopeful goal to an attainable reality within our firm and throughout the communities we serve. We will develop and implement programs that ensure all employees feel valued for their contributions, supported in reaching their full potential, and empowered to impact their community positively. Our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force (DEI) includes members from every Woods Rogers office. Collectively this group creates and implements DEI strategies in three key areas:
(1) Creating Important Discussions: Woods Rogers and R.A.C.E.
Following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many others, people across the U.S. joined together in protest against police officer brutality, inhumane treatment of people of color, systemic racism, and the racial division in our country. In response to and in support of these ideals, Woods Rogers issued its statement on R.A.C.E. and formed a DEI task force immediately before 2020’s Freedom Day—Juneteenth—to develop and implement programs included within our DEI platform that focus on Reflection, Action, and Conversation to promote Equality.
More than ever, we recognize this as a defining movement—not moment—in the history of our country. As part of our R.A.C.E. program, we reflect on shortcomings related to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal field and our society. To correct these shortcomings, we will act consciously and encourage constructive conversations internally and externally about existing inequalities and achieving equity.
This effort is consistent with our mission of providing quality legal advice and counsel to our clients while meeting our professional obligations as lawyers to the Rule of Law, the U.S. Constitution, and our great obligations owed to our fellow human beings. Our R.A.C.E. efforts include:
The Oliver W. Hill Sr. Conference Room
Woods Rogers named a conference room in its Roanoke office in honor and memory of Oliver W. Hill Sr. Our goal is to bring the story of this man—a lion of the law, a significant resident of Roanoke City, and a stellar representative of the legal profession—to life in this room. This room welcomes a diversity of people and thought and we hope those who use it will reflect on the life and work of Oliver Hill and on addressing injustices wherever they are found.
Opportunities for Action
All employees are encouraged to remember two important and nationally recognized days of reflection—Juneteenth and Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We offer Juneteenth as a paid time off opportunity to spend a day of service alongside co-workers, family and friends, or individually. Many of our attorneys celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day by attending the annual events of the Roanoke Valley chapter of the North Carolina A&T State University Alumni Association.
The DEI Task Force periodically surveys our attorneys to report how they contribute to recognizing and improving issues of diversity and discrimination. The results of this survey are used in our internal conversations about firm diversity and as a guide for improving our community efforts in this area.
(2) Building an Inclusive Workplace
As a leading law firm in Virginia, Woods Rogers understands and promotes compliance with federal, state, and local employment regulations. Yet the law does not define our efforts. We have a diverse workforce that includes people of color (BIPOC), LGBTQIA+ persons, women, and veterans among our leadership, attorneys, and staff. Our efforts to build an inclusive workplace include:
Hiring and Recruitment
A diverse talent pool enables our firm to offer clients the best combination of legal talent and differing perspectives. We consistently seek ways to attract top diverse attorneys and staff to serve clients from our offices across Virginia.
The DEI Task Force works with both the Recruitment Committee and the Director of Human Resources to attract and interview summer associates from diverse law schools, including historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). In 2022, this group will form a team that will participate in minority recruitment events.
Discrimination and Harassment Training
Woods Rogers has a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination and harassment of all types. Training programs on protected classes and the relationship between discrimination and harassment are required of all employees—regardless of position or title. In 2020, the firm conducted firm-wide training on harassment and discrimination in the workplace. In 2021 and beyond, this program will expand to include broader issues of implicit bias and the benefits of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.
Woods Rogers encourages women, LGBTQIA+ persons, and attorneys of color (BIPOC) to participate in relevant bar associations. We are committed to supporting these associations through dues and service in leadership positions. We also encourage all employees to vote in local, state, and federal elections and provide additional paid time off on election day to do so.
(3) Engaging In Our Communities
Woods Rogers is committed to helping improve the educational and social environment in the communities surrounding our offices in Charlottesville, Lynchburg, Roanoke, and Richmond. Our efforts include service on nonprofit boards, speaking engagements, and financial commitment in sponsorships or capital pledges. Our work in the community includes:
Promoting Access to Justice and Advocating for Civil Rights
We provide financial support and pro bono work to several Legal Aid Societies. Many of our attorneys volunteer their time on the boards of these organizations and provide pro bono legal services to area residents through the program. Our attorneys also spend time advocating on behalf of prisoners in federal court on cases that have included excessive force, retaliation, and other civil rights violations (Section 1983 cases). These services are provided pro bono and at the request of the federal courts.
Minority and Women-Owned Business Support Program
Woods Rogers’ Business attorneys have created a program to support minority and women-owned startup businesses who need assistance with entity organization/incorporation. These services will be offered through Small Business Development Centers and regional startup accelerators. Attorneys will assist in drafting documents for these startups including certificates/articles of incorporation, bylaws, NDAs, and consulting/independent contract agreements, to name a few. To qualify for the program, the company must be at least 51% owned, operated, and controlled by (i) a woman of any ethnic background or (ii) a person(s) whose ethnic background is at least 25% Asian-Indian, Asian-Pacific, Black, Hispanic, or Native American.
Leading the Way
Both community and professional organizations seek our attorneys as speakers and trainers on harassment, discrimination, diversity, implicit bias, and related workplace topics. Two attorneys presented an Implicit Bias session at the Virginia Women’s Conference sponsored bi-annually by Virginia Senator Mark Warner. Two attorneys wrote an OpEd for a local newspaper about the need—and the freedom—to discuss current events at work. Additionally, the Roanoke, VA Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference recognized two of our attorneys as “Drum Majors for Justice” and awarded another the Dr. Perneller Chubb-Wilson Justice Award. These awards are given annually in honor of the legacy and spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Stay tuned as we add additional programs to the firm’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion platform.