WSHB’s commitment to diversity to be celebrated at DRI conference in October

Wood, Smith, Henning & Berman LLP has been selected to receive the DRI’s Law Firm Diversity Award at the 2014 DRI Annual Meeting in San Francisco, CA on Thursday, October 23. DRI is the nation’s leading organization of defense attorneys and in-house counsel. Each year, DRI’s Annual Professional Achievement and Service Awards celebrate and honor outstanding performance by law firms and individuals.

“This award demonstrates a significant commitment to diversity,” said J. Michael Weston, DRI President, in a letter to the firm. “Wood, Smith, Henning and Berman’s commitment to diversity is demonstrated not only through your policies and practices, but also by your many civic contributions.”

"WSHB was appealing to me because of its diversity," says Rosary Hernandez, WSHB Partner. A first generation Cuban American, Hernandez lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with her two daughters.  Her mother was born in Mexico City and her father was born and raised in Havana, Cuba   Two-thirds of the WSHB women partners are also mothers. Stacy Douglas, another WSHB Partner, recently went back to work in the WSHB Los Angeles office after having her first child. "There's no question the firm is supportive of me and my needs. By helping women lawyers keep their families intact, they retain quality talent."

Hernandez and Douglas both applaud WSHB's founding partners for their leadership spearheading an organic effort focused on recruiting and mentoring high quality, well-rounded women candidates and candidates of color with diverse backgrounds. Said Douglas, "What WSHB's founding partners did early on was recruit talent and place women in positions of decision making. WSHB has been actively working on the diversity of its staff long before it was popular. "

Hernandez is a member of DRI's Executive Diversity Committee and is expected to chair the DRI Diversity Seminar in Chicago next summer.  "America is our land of opportunity. As corny as it sounds, it's true. Neither of my parents was born in the United States. I am a first-born high school graduate, first-born college graduate and first-born law school graduate. And I had absolutely no connections, " says Hernandez.  " When I hire, I look for different backgrounds. I look for the scrapper - someone like me who is persistent, tenacious and determined. Someone who has overcome adversity."

WSHB also recognized up front the importance of diversity and jury selection. Douglas serves on the Executive Board Black Women Lawyer's Association of Los Angeles, Inc. and has published numerous articles regarding diversity in law. In "Diversity and Voir Dire: Why Attorneys Should Use Diversity to Relate to Jurors," Douglas said, "Diversity in a law firm allows a firm to empower its clients. A diverse trial team has many advantages, as not only is there is a visual benefit of the jury seeing a diverse team, but it also allows the trial team to be strategic. A firm with diversity among its attorneys can decide on a moment's notice that is best suited for voir dire based on jury makeup. If jurors believe that an attorney is a relatable figure, they are more likely to be candid in their responses during voir dire, and to trust that attorney more than the opponent throughout the trial."

Both Douglas and Hernandez are proud that WSHB has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to diversity. "Yet we still need to change the way the rest of the legal profession operates," says Hernandez. "More need to be given that important opportunity. More will step through that door when you open it for them."

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