Chief diversity officer at Ballard Spahr LLP in Philadelphia, Pa., Virginia G. Essandoh sits on the firm-wide management committee and is responsible for developing, overseeing, and implementing diversity-related recruitment, retention, and advancement strategies and executing the firm's diversity initiatives.

Essandoh comments on how Ballard Spahr LLP addresses diversity: "The incremental progress that the profession has made in terms of demographics, to me says that what we've been doing in the past is not working fast enough. So my philosophy at my law firm is to throw out the playbook and do everything different…That's when we start to see results, when we stop following best practices—what everyone else says you must do—and start acting based on our own understanding of the needs of our organization. Instead of doing a blanket diversity training for all your leaders, take time to understand what inhibitors are in certain offices and practice groups...You have to focus on meeting the organization where it is and moving forward."

Essandoh advises, "If you want to go into corporate law—and this is something that I think is important for minority students to understand—you need to know what your options will be and what you have to achieve. Know where you want to end up and make your decisions accordingly."


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