Our mission at Wright Lindsey Jennings is to advance diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging – within our firm, within the legal profession and within the communities we serve.
Our Plan of Action:
- Identify Focus Areas (Opportunities): Focus on the communities that have been historically underrepresented in the legal profession, including those communities identified by race, ethnicity, national origin, LGBTQIA+ status, disability, socioeconomic status, religious background or some other category or a combination of categories, and pinpoint potential avenues to help achieve advancement.
- Education: Disseminate and promote information internally that raises awareness of shortcomings within the legal profession and the greater community that result in the underrepresentation and lack of equity and inclusion of various communities, and share ways we can actively strive to improve representation of marginalized groups.
- Recruitment: Seek out diverse candidates within and outside of the Arkansas market to build a workforce of individuals from varying backgrounds and perspectives at all levels of WLJ to better serve and reflect our clients, communities and WLJ family.
- Inclusion/Development: Execute internal mentoring and training initiatives to prepare and position our attorneys and staff for the best chance of success within the firm and legal profession. In addition, develop and implement workplace practices that encourage and shape a culture welcoming of views and aspects of individuals from varying backgrounds and perspectives while providing the necessary tools, resources and equitable compensation that enable equal opportunity for growth and advancement within the firm and the legal profession.
- Growth Initiatives: Introduce underrepresented groups to the legal industry to spark interest in potential career pathways and provide tools to help achieve success. Partner with colleges, universities and other educational institutions to provide access, mentorship, financial support and other resources to diverse students aspiring to careers within the legal industry.
- Community Involvement: Partner with the WLJ Community Involvement Committee to continue our commitment of the collective time, talent and treasure of WLJ’s professionals. That commitment consists of WLJ family members being actively engaged on boards and within civic and professional organizations through the contribution of volunteer services and their professional and personal experience. And provide support, financial and otherwise, to various community organizations that serve and promote underrepresented, underserved and marginalized communities.
We have a history of fostering diversity and inclusion in the legal profession – and beyond.
At no time has this commitment been more evident than in our support of integration of public schools during the Central High Crisis in 1957. In defiance of the United States Supreme Court, Governor Orval Faubus attempted to keep the Little Rock School District segregated by denying nine African-American students, known as the Little Rock Nine, entrance to Central High School. The crisis made Little Rock a focal point of the civil rights movement.
Attorneys from Wright Lindsey Jennings (then called Wright, Harrison, Lindsey & Upton), including Ron May, took a stand against Governor Faubus by joining in “A Statement From Lawyers” published in Little Rock newspapers. In the Statement, sixty-three lawyers who felt “compelled to take our stand for public education” urged their fellow citizens in the Little Rock School District to “face frankly the hard alternatives and to join with us in an effort to preserve free public education in our city” by opposing Governor Faubus’ segregation measures.
In the years following the Central High Crisis, the firm established itself as a leader in the cause of diversity in the legal profession. Wright Lindsey Jennings was the first large law firm in Arkansas to elect an African-American partner, a woman partner, and a woman chair of its management committee. We pride ourselves in employing men and women of a variety of races, ethnicities, religions and political views and are committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive work environment.
In recent years, our attorneys have represented clients in cases involving issues of freedom of off-campus speech and detention of mentally ill persons, as well as other issues before the state Supreme Court. Additionally, the firm and its members continue their dedication to diversity and equality, particularly in the legal community and in education, by donating time and financial resources to organizations that promote the advancement of women and minorities.
Wright Lindsey Jennings is committed to the continuation of defending civil liberties within our state through innovative efforts to increase diversity awareness and decrease the disconnect within the legal industry and our communities. As Wright Lindsey Jennings celebrates more than 120 years of excellence in service and professionalism, the firm remains guided by its steadfast values that have fostered great change in and produced an immense impact on our society.