Ropes & Gray Honors Hispanic Heritage Month with Panel Discussion
Ropes & Gray marked Hispanic Heritage Month by hosting an Oct. 21 panel in the firm’s New York office that examined the role and contributions of Hispanic/Latinx professionals in the legal industry. While there are 60 million Hispanic/Latinx people in the United States—18.3 percent of the population—Hispanic/Latinx professionals remain disproportionately underrepresented in the legal field, comprising four percent of American Bar Association membership.
After litigation & enforcement partner María González Calvet (Washington, D.C.) delivered opening remarks, e-discovery counsel Shannon Capone Kirk (Boston) moderated a discussion with featured guest speaker Elpidio “PD” Villarreal, senior vice president of litigation at Allergan. Mr. Villarreal also sits on the board of Kids in Need of Defense, a legal organization that represents unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children in deportation proceedings. He previously served on the board of Latino Justice, a nonprofit serving the legal needs of American Latinos.
During the panel, which was videoconferenced to all Ropes & Gray U.S. offices, Mr. Villarreal discussed the challenges and roadblocks facing Latinx students and students of color in law school—and later, at law firms. In addressing diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, he stressed that more progress needs to be made, and noted that client demands for greater diversity in their legal service teams will ultimately drive change in the profession.
Mr. Villarreal also emphasized the importance of seeking legal career mentors with reputations for integrity, imagination and creativity, as he did during his accent from associate to partner while in private practice. Additionally, he advised law firm attorneys not to make a particular role their career goal, recommending instead that they keep a balanced focus on building a strong support network, including family and community, to enhance legal skills and create lasting relationships.
Kia Scipio, Ropes & Gray’s director of diversity and inclusion (Washington, D.C.), closed the discussion by reiterating Mr. Villarreal’s advice to take the time to make connections and build a strong support network.
The Hispanic Heritage Month panel discussion reflects Ropes & Gray’s longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. As part of this commitment, the firm regularly holds events that explore diversity and inclusion issues while encouraging informal discussions about the role identity plays in the workplace and in the legal profession at large.