Creating and maintaining a diverse workplace is of paramount importance to Sills Cummis & Gross. The Firm has always been an advocate of minority hiring practices and is involved in a number of minority hiring, retention and diversity initiatives. The Firm’s Diversity Committee and Women’s Group focus on initiatives to enhance the culture of Sills Cummis & Gross and the quality of service to the Firm’s clients. Sills Cummis & Gross also encourages its lawyers to actively participate in minority bar associations and local and national women’s groups.
The Sills Cummis & Gross Diversity Committee
The Sills Cummis & Gross Diversity Committee, co-chaired by Margaret F. Black and Anjana Patel, provides an avenue to continue to promote diversity within the Firm as well as within the legal community at large. The Committee hosts events aimed at increasing the dialog on diversity and providing insights and advice from experienced minority lawyers. The Committee also provides a mentor to each minority lawyer entering the Firm, in addition to the Firm’s other mentoring programs. The Firm’s minority hiring, retention and diversity initiatives include participation in the New Jersey Law Firm Group, the Hispanic Bar Association Mentorship Program, the Asian Pacific Lawyers Association of New Jersey, the Rutgers Law School Minority Student Program, and the New Jersey Law and Education Empowerment Project.
Two noteworthy events the Firm hosted included a breakfast seminar which provided insightful discussion on the importance of diversity in the outside counsel/in-house counsel partnership. Our distinguished panel of speakers included Jennifer DaSilva, Senior Legal Director, Chief Counsel, Animal Health for Schering-Plough Corporation; Vaughn L. McKoy, Associate General Counsel, Public Service Electric & Gas Co.; and John D. Rosero, Vice President, Corporate Counsel, Prudential. The panelists emphasized the need for law firms to commit to recruiting and retaining diverse legal talent, and offered strategies and resources to accomplish these goals. Also, another breakfast seminar featured The Hon. Julio M. Fuentes of the United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit and The Hon. Joseph A. Greenaway, Jr. of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. Judges Fuentes and Greenaway spoke to an overflowing audience of diverse law students, lawyers, Firm clients and representatives from the State’s numerous diverse bar associations and organizations about their personal experiences as minority lawyers and their perspectives on the opportunities for and obstacles faced by minority lawyers.
The Sills Cummis & Gross Women's Group
The Sills Cummis & Gross Women’s Group is dedicated to promoting the professional and personal growth of women lawyers. Recognizing that women face unique challenges, the Women’s Group provides a forum for meaningful discussion and learning. The Group seeks to provide mentoring for our women lawyers, positioning them to lead us into the future at our Firm and in our communities. The Group sponsors both internal programs as well as programs which include lawyers from outside the Firm. The Firm is a supporter of the National Association of Women Lawyers and the New Jersey Women Lawyers Association.
The Group held an event for clients and friends entitled “An Evening at the Museum,” which was held at the Montclair Art Museum and included a cocktail reception and private tour. The Group has hosted a wine and cheese party at the Elie Tahari company store in mid-town Manhattan as well as a wine tasting at the Montclair Golf Club. The Group also presented a program allowing women to speak candidly about the pros and cons of serving on the boards of not-for-profit organizations. Leadership opportunities available through individuals’ involvement in not-for-profit agencies and corporations were also discussed.
Detailed Minority Hiring, Retention and Diversity Initiatives
The Firm is involved in a number of minority hiring, retention and diversity initiatives, including:
New Jersey Law Firm Group – This group is comprised of New Jersey law firms, the New Jersey judiciary, the Office of the Attorney General and various prosecutors’ offices which together identify and encourage minority law students and lawyers to enter major firms and government practice in New Jersey. The group works with other professional organizations, the three New Jersey law schools (Rutgers Newark, Rutgers Camden and Seton Hall) and various government agencies. As a part of our participation in this group, the Firm provides a mentor each year to a minority law student from one of the New Jersey law schools. We also participate in roundtable discussions for students on topics such as how to build a resume, interviewing skills, etc. In addition, we participate each year in a minority student job fair (during the on-campus recruiting season) sponsored by this group.
Hispanic Bar Association Mentorship Program – Sill Cummis & Gross is a participant in the Hispanic Bar Association Mentorship Program.
Asian Pacific Lawyers Association of New Jersey – The Firm is a supporter of the Asian Pacific Lawyers Association of New Jersey. We sponsor membership for our lawyers as well as numerous programs.
Rutgers Law School Minority Student Program – Every summer we employ a first year minority law student from Rutgers–Newark with the goal of having that student come back to work in our summer program and eventually as a first year associate.
New Jersey Law and Education Empowerment Project (NJ-LEEP) – We mentor ninth and tenth graders as interns for this program that recruits potential minority lawyers. A Member of the Firm also serves on NJ-LEEP’s Board of Advisors.
The National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) – The Firm is a supporter of the NAWL, which has been a leader in supporting and promoting advancement for women lawyers. We also sponsor membership for our women lawyers in the NAWL. NAWL publishes an annual directory, a guide we have used as a tool for locating women lawyers and women-owned firms throughout the United States.
New Jersey Women Lawyers Association (NJWLA) – The Firm is a supporter of the NJWLA, an organization that is engaged in efforts in New Jersey to support and promote its members to the highest levels of law firm, government, academic, community, corporate positions and the judiciary, and to foster leadership among its membership. One of our attorneys serves as the Immediate Past President, and another attorney serves on the Executive Board as the Association's General Counsel.
The Firm is constantly researching potential opportunities to further its diversity objectives. To that end, Sills Cummis & Gross attorney Anjana Patel took part in a workshop designed for the female students at the Link Community School in Newark, New Jersey on March 26, 2009. She talked to the students about the obstacles and experiences in her career that helped her get to where she is today. The title of her presentation was “Empowering Women.”
Since our attorneys place such a high priority on creating and maintaining a diverse workplace, individual attorneys have been publicly acknowledged for their efforts. In April of 2007, Anjana Patel, a Member of the Firm’s Health and Hospital Law Practice Group, received the Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association of New Jersey, Inc. Award in Recognition of Professional Achievement. Former U.S. Congressman Steven R. Rothman, a Member of the Firm, was the recipient of the first annual Jack Drakeford Trailblazer Award presented by the Bergen Chapter of the NAACP.
The Firm is proud to support the following events aimed at enhancing the diversity of the New Jersey Bar:
• A Better Chance
Scholarship Luncheon, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004
• American Conference on Diversity
Humanitarian Awards Dinner, 2013, 2007
• Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association of New Jersey
Annual Dinner, 2011, 2010, 2006
Northeast Regional Conference, 2010
Pathways to the State Judiciary Seminar, 2009
Mock Interview Workshop for Law Students, 2008
What It Takes To Succeed Event, 2007
• Association of Latin American Law Students
• Corporate Counsel Women of Color
Annual Conference, 2009, 2008, 2007
• Essex County Bar Foundation
Black History Month Celebration, 2010
• Hispanic Bar Association
Annual Dinner Dance, 2011, 2010, 2007, 2006, 2005
Annual Installation Ceremony of Officers and Trustees, 2011, 2009, 2008
Corporate Counsel Roundtable, 2008, 2007
Diverse Summer Associate Mixer, 2008, 2007
• Jack and Jill of America, Greater Essex County Chapter
Harvest Ball, 2008
• Mid-Atlantic Black Law Students Association
Annual Dinner, 2006
• National Asian Pacific American Bar Association
Annual Convention, 2010
• National Association of Women Lawyers
Awards Luncheon, 2009, 2008, 2007
• New Jersey Law and Education Empowerment Project
Diversity in the Legal Profession, Diversity in Leadership, 2013, 2012, 2011
Impress for Success, 2010, 2009
Field Trip, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007
• New Jersey Women Lawyers Association
Annual Women’s Initiative and Leaders in the Law Gala, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008
• New York Women’s Bar Association
Annual Awards Dinner, 2011
• Northeast Black Law Students Association
Regional Conference, 2008
• Rutgers-Newark School of Law
Minority Student Program Annual Gala, 2010, 2008, 2007, 2006
Association of Black Law Students Annual Fund-raising Event, 2007
Rutgers Race & the Law Review Annual Symposium, 2008
• The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding
NY Cocktail Reception, 2008
• Westfield Area Y
8th Annual Black Achievers Fundraising Banquet
• Women of Color in Law Firms Group
• Women’s Fund of New Jersey