Diversity conferences and literature typically focus on the business justifications for diversity. Goldberg Kohn believes that to succeed in the long term the principal motivation behind a diversity initiative must be a focus on creating a vibrant culture in which attorneys of all backgrounds can succeed here in the long term. The firm is committed to building an environment that contributes in important ways to all facets of community life and reflects the diversity of Chicago.
In order to ensure a professional environment that is welcoming and supportive of a diverse attorney population Goldberg Kohn officially adopted a diversity initiative that supplements the firm's core values with a more concerted recruiting and retention strategy for diverse attorneys. The program has several components, one of which is to emphasize the principles upon which Goldberg Kohn was founded and the unique culture it has created. The firm believes this culture is conducive to the professional development of a diverse group of attorneys.
Throughout its history, Goldberg Kohn has implemented a deliberate, purposeful growth plan — one attorney at a time. The firm does not hire or acquire practice groups and has never merged with another firm or group of attorneys. Goldberg Kohn is one of the few single-tiered partnerships remaining among major law firms and it operates on consensus building, not vote-counting. Goldberg Kohn has clients of the firm, not individual books of business. This creates a unique environment where every principal is seen as an equal and where every attorney of every background has the opportunity and encouragement to flourish. The firm's focus on diversity recruitment highlights these factors because it believes that diverse attorneys will recognize how these core values can help make Goldberg Kohn a better place to establish a long-term career.
In addition, the firm has a long-standing commitment to community involvement that is consciously directed toward diminishing obstacles that traditionally contribute to under-representation of minority groups in the legal profession. Goldberg Kohn has made an enormous and comprehensive commitment to increasing the educational opportunities for children and students of all backgrounds.
- Goldberg Kohn's principals are the founding board members of the Chicago Charter School Foundation, Chicago's largest charter school, which is attended by more than 6,000 K-12 students in nine of Chicago's most underserved neighborhoods. More than 90% of the students are African-American or Hispanic. Additionally, the firm devotes hundreds of hours a year on these efforts and has committed hundreds of thousands of dollars in pro bono legal services, to help assure that these children are provided a quality education.
- The firm is a long-time supporter of the Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund, an organization that provides economically disadvantaged students the opportunity and support necessary to attend private high schools in Chicago and around the country. More than 80% of the DMSF scholars are African-American or Hispanic. DMSF also provides mentoring, college counseling, SAT test preparation, speech training, summer jobs, and other support.
- Each year Goldberg Kohn provides internships to a number of students from Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, which offers a Catholic college preparatory education for immigrant families of Chicago's Near Southwest side.
- The firm is committed to ongoing support of economically disadvantaged students through its deep involvement in Chicago Scholars, a foundation that provides scholarships to colleges of the student's choice, along with mentoring and summer internships. These components provide the students with the tools to not only go to college, but to graduate and become successful in their chosen career. Nearly 90% of the Chicago Scholars are African-American or Hispanic. In 2005, Goldberg Kohn was the first law firm in Chicago to commit to becoming a "High 5 Sponsor" of Chicago Scholars. As part of this sponsorship, Goldberg Kohn will donate $110,000 over a ten-year period that will assist underprivileged Chicago high school juniors pursue their dreams of attending, and graduating from, college.
- As part of the firm's desire to build a pipeline of diverse lawyers, the firm regularly hires summer interns from Chicago Scholars to provide opportunities to a diverse group of college students to learn about the legal profession and develop skills that will assist them in law school. The firm created a "GK Scholar Program" which offers our Chicago Scholars interns a $2500 scholarship to be used for testing, application and enrollment into law school. The interns are paired with a Goldberg Kohn attorney who guides and mentors them through their preparation for law school, including the application process.
- As a leading member of Meritas, an international network of law firms, the firm led the effort to create the $30,000 Meritas Scholar scholarship through the Minority Corporate Counsel Association's Lloyd M. Johnson, Jr. Scholarship Program. Successful applicants will have been accepted to an accredited law school, have demonstrated leadership, and have shown a commitment to diversity.
- The firm supports the Union League Boys & Girls Clubs, an organization committed to inspiring and empowering all young people, especially those from underserved neighborhoods in Chicago, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens. Over 97% of the young people served are minority. One of the firm's principals serves on the Board of Trustees.
- The firm is an active participant in the Edward J. Lewis II Lawyers in the Classroom program, which is coordinated by the Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago (CRFC) and partners attorneys with elementary classes to help students understand the U.S. Constitution and the legal system. CRFC trains attorneys to lead interactive lessons, provides teaching materials and matches them with Chicago Public schools.
- The firm sponsors the annual program "Diversity in the Law" that brings groups of diverse college students into Goldberg Kohn's office, other local law firms and nonprofit organizations, for a morning or afternoon of career exploration, networking, and educational programs, including panel discussions on different career opportunities in the law and mock law school classes.
Goldberg Kohn's involvement in community and civic activities is also deep and rich.
- Goldberg Kohn has regularly sponsored a wide range of student activities and associations at the law schools where it has predominantly recruited, including: BLSA, CCBLSA, Black History Month, Diversity Week, LLSA, LLSA Heritage Month, APALSA, Outlaw, and the Women's Coalition, among others. In addition, the firm is a member of the Chicago Committee on Minorities in Large Law Firms, a regular sponsor of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, and a regular sponsor of conferences aimed at addressing how to increase diversity within the legal field.
- The Goldberg Kohn Foundation donates over $200,000 annually to more than 50 civic and charitable causes, including: Chicago Urban League, Chicago Foundation for Women, National Women's Law Center, Center on Halsted, Chicago Bar Foundation, Jewish United Fund, Filipino American Network, Lawyers Committee For Better Housing, Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, Public Interest Law Initiative, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, The Salvation Army, and Union League Boys & Girls Clubs.
- Oscar Alcantara, chair of the firm's Intellectual Property Group and the Diversity Committee, is a board member of the international organization Meritas. Michael Manuel, chair of the Climate Change & Resource Conservation Group, is actively involved in the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. This is in addition to the more than 20 firm attorneys who sit on the boards of a large variety of civic and charitable foundations and organizations in the Chicagoland area, collectively volunteering more than 2,000 hours annually.
- Goldberg Kohn's Committee on Women's Initiatives has been central in addressing the best practices for the firm to adopt in order to better promote women through the highest levels of the firm's leadership. As a result of the committee's efforts Goldberg Kohn is a signatory to the Chicago Bar Association Alliance for Women's "Call to Action." The Call to Action provides goals for law firm signatories to work toward and suggests best practices for achieving those goals. Denise Caplan, who chairs the firm's Corporate, Tax & Securities Group and who has served on the firm's Management Committee, is leading the firm's efforts toward meeting those goals.
- Goldberg Kohn's women attorneys also have established ENGAGE, a nonprofit group designed to bring together women entrepreneurs and business leaders. ENGAGE uses women-owned businesses for required services, such as graphic design and event logistics.
- The firm has an active Diversity Committee which holds primary responsibility for administering and furthering the goals of the firm's diversity initiative. The Diversity Committee meets regularly and is comprised of a cross-section of the firm’s attorneys, including associates, senior and junior partners, and individuals representing diverse communities.
- The Diversity Committee created an auxiliary committee made up of staff charged with creating internal programming that celebrates the different cultures and backgrounds within the firm. The committee hosts a quarterly event offering education and social interactions for firm employees.
Goldberg Kohn believes that these activities provide a strong foundation upon which to build a more proactive and concerted diversity initiative. Goldberg Kohn continues to explore new ways to promote greater diversity among Goldberg Kohn attorneys and staff.