Kellie Lerner

Kellie Lerner
Partner and Co-Chair, Diversity Committee

Robins Kaplan LLP
Headquarters: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Business: Legal Services
CEO: Martin Lueck, Chairperson


“While research consistently demonstrates that diversity improves team performance and problem-solving, law firms have been slower to diversify than other professional organizations. In a law-firm setting, the biggest casualties of this lack of progress are clients…. As our D&I initiatives continue to take hold and become even more ingrained in our culture, I expect to see tangible impact in the level of service we provide to our clients.”

My Changing Role

“When I first became co-chair of the firm’s Diversity Committee, my focus was on maintaining existing programming and identifying new ways to increase diversity at the firm. Through LEAD and other initiatives, we are starting to see the fruits of that labor. But I am now far more aware of the importance of the inclusion aspect of our work. Even the best and most well-thought-out diversity initiatives will fail if an organization cannot foster inclusion.”

Taking the LEAD in 2017

“The successes of our LEAD program include 1) A new hiring initiative, modeled on the NFL’s “Rooney Rule,” requiring the firm to interview diverse candidates for lateral associate positions, increased the hiring of associates of color by 20 percent and those identifying as LGBTQ by 13 percent; 2) The firm is using metrics related to work allocation, to address potential unconscious bias in the way work is distributed; and 3) Our parental leave policy provides 10 weeks of paid parental leave for all firm members, a parental leave mentoring program, alternative work arrangement options, and a return-to- work protocol allowing parents to transition at a reasonable pace.”

What’s Ahead for 2018

“Robins Kaplan will continue to recruit and retain diverse, young talent through the LEAD program. We will also continue to focus on increasing diversity in lateral hiring at the partner level. A key goal is to foster an environment where women, attorneys of color and members of the LGBTQ community feel valued and included, particularly when national incidents of hate or discrimination take place. We are working on developing tools to have an honest dialogue about race and inclusion to break past barriers that have prevented those conversations from taking place in the past. I am confident that this dialogue will help us create an environment that is truly as inclusive as we strive to be as a law firm.”