Joel Voran

Joel Voran
Chief Executive Officer, Lathrop & Gage LLP

Headquarters: Kansas City, Missouri
Primary Business: Law firm
Revenues: $122.5 million
Employees: 666

Developing a Meaningful Diversity Program

In my first address to our partners after becoming CEO of Lathrop & Gage LLP a little more than four years ago, I listed developing a meaningful diversity program to attract and keep diverse attorneys as one of my top priorities. I said that “rather than giving lip service to the diversity issue, we need to find practical ways to work towards practical solutions.” Adding more women to management roles and looking to hire an outside consultant to help our firm develop a successful diversity program were also pledges I initially made.

These pledges have been fulfilled by increasing gender diversity on our Executive Committee–18 percent of members are women, including Allison Bergman, who chairs the firm’s Diversity Committee and reports to the Executive Committee on progress we are making in our diversity programs–and hiring Dionne King, a full-time Diversity and Associate Development Manager. Additionally, we have taken steps to change the attorney performance evaluation process to remove hidden biases and incorporate a more competency-based process with year-to-year benchmarks; presented a formal diversity inclusive education program with “road shows” to all of our 11 national offices; developed an online Diversity Resource Center; and formed affinity groups including the Minority Attorney Association, Women’s Affinity Group and Parent Lawyers Affinity Group to foster informal mentoring opportunities and create opportunities for professional development.

A key to retention for all of our associates is developing strong relationships with other attorneys in the firm. To that end, we have implemented a mentoring program that matches senior associates and partners with younger associates to help develop professional skills; and on a quarterly basis I have an informal lunch with our diversity attorneys in order to get to know those attorneys better and receive feedback from them.

At the end of the day our law firm will only be successful if we can attract and keep clients through high-quality work, and our diversity program will only be successful if our diverse attorneys develop professional relationships with our clients. We have reached out to clients regarding our diversity commitment and offered them opportunities for Lathrop & Gage to help further their diversity goals. These efforts have already attracted new business for one of our diverse partners. By continuing the increased management emphasis our firm began four years ago I am sure that many more success stories like this will be forthcoming in the future.

Education: BS, University of Kansas; JD, University of Texas
First Job: French Milling Company—an alfalfa mill
What I’m Reading: Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand
My Philosophy: Hard work never hurt anyone.
Best Advice: “Vision without execution is hallucination”—Albert Einstein
Family: Wife, Marsha; Children, Erica, Ben, and Ashley
Interests: Civic and charitable endeavors, travel, golf
Favorite Charities: Those that serve the hungry and educational needs.