Akerman Senterfitt Shareholder Develops Florida’s First Minority Legal Pipeline Program

Akerman Senterfitt Shareholder Develops Florida’s First Minority Legal Pipeline Program

Judge Joseph Hatchett Forges Alliance with Florida A&M Law School, Further Aligning Florida with American Bar Association Goals Toward Diversity in the Legal Profession


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MIAMI, May 18 /PRNewswire-HISPANIC PR WIRE/ — Akerman Senterfitt today announced a new partnership with Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University Law School (FAMU), one of Florida’s oldest Historically Black Colleges and Universities, to promote diversity in the legal profession. At the helm of this project is The Honorable Joseph W. Hatchett, former Chief Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, and current Chair of the Appellate Practice Group and Diversity Committee at Akerman.

Recognizing that fewer than 3 percent of lawyers throughout Florida are minorities, the objective of this program is to overcome this disparity and provide the community with a diverse pipeline of legal professionals throughout the state of Florida. In addition to this goal, the program also complements the Florida Bar’s mission of fostering an inclusive environment in which lawyers, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disability are motivated to succeed professionally and contribute to the goals of the legal profession.

The pipeline program is an initiative by the American Bar Association’s Presidential Advisory Council on Diversity in the Profession that seeks to foster diversity in the profession by increasing the number of people of color on track to becoming lawyers. The program focuses on the entire spectrum of education, from kindergarten to law-school and bar admission, looking to encourage diverse candidates toward the legal profession. Akerman’s work with FAMU specifically targets one of the end portions of this pipeline, law school. However, this is with the clear intent that a strong minority law school will serve as a beacon to the entire community, affecting every chain in the pipeline program.

“We believe it is important that Akerman play an active role in helping to enhance diversity in the legal profession, and this program is a clear indication of the firm’s commitment to that goal,” said Judge Hatchett. “A diverse profession benefits clients, the profession itself, and the population that it serves. This partnership will be instrumental in helping Akerman realize its diversity goals in addition to increasing the number of first-year associates, senior partners and of counsel who are minorities across the state.”

Judge Hatchett, a FAMU alumnus who received his Juris Doctorate from the Howard University School of Law, made history in 1975 when Governor Reuben Askew appointed him to the Supreme Court of Florida. He became the first African-American elected to the highest court in the state in 1976. By winning that statewide election, Judge Hatchett became the first African-American elected to the highest court of any state, and the first African-American to be elected to a statewide office in the South since the Reconstruction era.

“Implementing strategies that simultaneously promote progress in both the professional and academic worlds is critical to developing a racially and ethnically diverse legal profession,” said Patrick Christiansen, Akerman Shareholder and member of the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University Law School Advisory Board. “Having worked on both sides, I can say that this program is the result of a truly collaborative effort between the leadership and staff of Akerman and the Florida A&M Law School to create opportunities for traditionally marginalized groups within the legal profession.”

Akerman supports a diverse group of men and women in their professional development as lawyers, fosters a supportive and inclusive environment, and provides opportunities for advancement through partnership and leadership roles within the firm and the communities in which we practice. The firm has been recognized among the Top 25 Law Firms in the U.S. for Hispanics, and among the Top 100 for women by MultiCultural Law magazine, and is a recipient of the Thomas L. Sager Award, presented to the law firm that has demonstrated and sustained the highest commitment to improving the hiring, retention and promotion of minority and women attorneys.

About Akerman Senterfitt

Akerman is ranked among the top 100 law firms in the United States by the National Law Journal NLJ 250 (2008) in number of lawyers and is one of the largest firms in Florida. With more than 500 lawyers and governmental affairs professionals, the firm serves clients in major business centers throughout the United States, including Miami, New York, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles. For additional information, please visit the firm’s Web site at www.akerman.com.

SOURCE Akerman Senterfitt

Akerman Senterfitt Shareholder Develops Florida’s First Minority Legal Pipeline Program