Our Story of Diversity
Diversity has been part of the firm since 1923, when the first two women were admitted to the Delaware Bar and one of them, Sybil Ursula Ward, joined Potter Anderson & Corroon (then known as Ward, Gray and Ward). She went on to become the first woman elected to the Wilmington City Council. In 1941, when the fifth woman was admitted to practice law in Delaware, she did her required clerkship at Potter Anderson. And our story continues to evolve.
“As chair of the firm’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, I am proud of the firm’s history, continued support and recognition of the importance of diversity in the profession. Potter Anderson is committed to seeking the best legal talent available to serve its diverse client base. This approach includes attracting diverse attorneys and maintaining an inclusive work environment where everyone feels valued and respected. Our strategic plan for diversity and inclusion drives our effort to provide “best in class” service to our clients. To accomplish the goals of our plan, our lawyers and staff must reflect a broad spectrum of cultures, races and ethnicities. The breadth of our approach is captured in the following affirmation:
MISSION STATEMENT At Potter Anderson & Corroon LLP, we are committed to providing and promoting a diverse and inclusive environment for all, within which each person can succeed professionally regardless of race, ethnicity, culture, nationality, gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, age or disability.
“The Diversity and Inclusion Committee plans and implements the firm’s diversity and inclusion activities, consistent with the Mission Statement to ensure that a diverse working environment within the firm is fostered and sustained.” Joshua W. Martin, III
“Our firm is very committed to recruiting and promoting lawyers of color. The firm continually seeks opportunities to attract a racially and ethnically diverse pool of candidates. Examples include:
- Organizing and hosting receptions for minority students at regional law schools to provide the students an opportunity to learn more about Potter Anderson and the Delaware legal market in general
- Participating in the Delaware Minority Job Fair for 1st and 2nd year law students since its inception in the early 1990s
- Hosting the DuPont Minority Job Fair (open to Potter Anderson and approximately 40 other DuPont Legal Model firms)
- Participating in the Lavender Law Career Fair, the Vault/MCCA Minority Job Fair and the Southeastern Minority Job Fair.
In addition, the firm played a key role in the establishment of the Delaware Minority Supplemental Bar Review Course, now coordinated by the Multicultural Judges and Lawyers Section of the Delaware State Bar Association.” Terri Brown-Edwards
“I have the pleasure of chairing the Women’s Initiative at Potter Anderson, one of the firm’s affinity groups. The Women’s Initiative builds an esprit de corps among the women lawyers with meetings and workshops that focus on business development. Three formal events are held annually in the spring, summer and fall. The spring meeting is a training session where we bring in a national speaker or use our own resources to train in a specific facet of business development. In the summer, the Women’s Initiative hosts a teambuilding event where we give back to our community. We have done everything from planting a garden for a local girls’ non-profit organization to hosting a luncheon education series for girls who are aging out of the foster system. For the fall, we host a networking event where the women of the firm entertain our clients, prospective clients and business colleagues. Beyond the expected cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, the event revolves around a topic of interest and includes interactive displays and a well-recognized speaker to spark conversation.
“Each event is planned by associate-partner committees that strive to achieve the most impactful results. The feedback is amazing from all avenues – our lawyers, our clients and our community. The firm has seen bottom-line results from the business development focus of the Women’s Initiative, and our women have enhanced their appreciation of each other’s varied talents.” Barbara Uberti Manerchia
“‘Potter Anderson believes that diversity is an imperative to serve clients at the highest level.’ This is what Josh Martin said to me when I started at Potter Anderson as a first-year associate. I was your quintessentially “diverse” candidate: not just ethnically diverse, but also from the standpoint of geography of origin, religion, age and even education. I was born and grew up in a small town in India and am a follower of a minority faith that no one has generally heard of (Jainism). I was also ten years older than a typical first-year associate, having pursued a doctorate in chemical engineering and working for eight years as a scientist at DuPont before law school. I had arrived in this country to begin my education trek with $16 and a few books. Because it was the Fall term, my wife and I even borrowed winter clothes from the university’s lending closet, a charity that distributes used winter jackets that students leave behind upon graduation. My first success was when I landed a job in the cafeteria cleaning tables and dishes. At the time, becoming a lawyer was not even on my radar. But 14 years later, it happened, and here I was at Potter Anderson in 2005.
“I quickly learned that Potter Anderson approaches diversity in a very practical fashion—treat diversity as a skill to better serve clients, because lawyering is not simply legal advice but is legal advice for a client within a specific business framework. Partners understand this approach and are ready to mentor new associates. From my initial days at the firm, Rich Horwitz, and Josh Martin encouraged me to take advantage of my diverse background. “Who better than Rakesh when it comes to chemical patent work for DuPont, his former employer?” One of the partners said, “If you can handle the work, we will give it to you, but understand that quality cannot be compromised.” And presently, while I am a senior associate, I handle full technology dockets, including patent opinions and strategy sessions with in-house business representatives. The finest advice I got was from a senior partner, who said, ‘We charge clients a substantial rate, and that is justified only because we are available to attend to their needs at any given time, and thus, there can be no room for any excuse or anything short of superb legal work.’
“Early on, partners identified and encouraged my interest in business development and growing my practice. I attended meetings and presentations almost from the beginning (on the third day, I was at a client site, discussing their polymeric films technology) and every year, I attend several conferences to pursue continued growth of my practice and my legal and personal skills. The encouragement I received has now matured to the level of collaboration, as demonstrated by partners Scott Waxman and Janet Reed, who ensure that client leads I generate are followed up personally. Terri Brown-Edwards, an African American partner, and my colleagues on the firm Diversity and Inclusion Committee have encouraged me to assume significant roles in diversity organizations on a local, regional and even national basis. I am an executive committee member of the Multicultural Judges and Lawyers (MJL) Section of the Delaware State Bar Association as well as on the South Asian Bar Association of Delaware (SABA-DE). I also serve as a co-chair of the newsletter committee and member of the planning committee that organizes the annual DuPont Multicultural Counsel Network conference. Don Wolfe, Potter Anderson’s chairman, attended the most recent conference and I was particularly pleased to have the opportunity to be one of the speakers at the event.
“In 2007, Litigation Group Leader Jennifer Brady advised me that a Potter attorney is always a good ‘firm citizen’—which was a cue to get involved in community and pro bono work. I took her advice to heart and since then, I assumed the role of guardian ad litem (GAL) to three children, now in the care of the state. I was involved recently in preparing a brief to the Supreme Court of Delaware as a GAL in a termination of parental rights proceeding. Also, as a part of my community work, I organize three programs during the year to speak with high school children on law as a career.
“As Judge Martin says, ‘While it is your responsibility to develop your career, you cannot do it alone. But make sure your commitment is such that your mentors are proud of you.’ While mentoring has a formal place at Potter Anderson, senior attorneys have serious interest in your career development and your personal growth, which truly institutionalizes mentoring as a part of the firm’s culture.” Rakesh H. Mehta