Kerry Shad and Sharita Whitaker Talk Diversity & Inclusion with Lawyers Weekly at Its D&I Awards Ceremony

North Carolina Lawyers Weekly

At its annual Diversity & Inclusion awards ceremony, North Carolina Lawyers Weekly and South Carolina Lawyers Weekly presented Smith Anderson with a Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) award during a virtual awards ceremony on April 29. The award honors law firms, individuals and organizations that are committed to diversity in the workplace, the legal profession and the community at large. Honorees chosen exemplify how law firms can take their aspirations of a more diverse workforce and translate that into effective steps toward reaching that goal. 

“Increasingly, firms are realizing that cultivating diversity and inclusion is not the work of a committee or a team within a firm, but the job of the entire firm, straight up to the very top of the leadership,” said David Donovan, editor-in-chief of North Carolina Lawyers Weekly and South Carolina Lawyers Weekly.

Smith Anderson attorneys Kerry Shad and Sharita Whitaker, who co-chair the firm’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, accepted the award on the firm’s behalf. Kerry and Sharita sat down with Lawyers Weekly general manager Andrea Mounts to chat about what D&I means to Smith Anderson and the importance of it in the legal profession.

Kerry shared with Lawyers Weekly that diversity and inclusion is a pillar of the firm’s strategic plan, and the full weight of the firm's leadership is behind diversity and inclusion - not just driving it, but actively participating in Smith Anderson’s D&I efforts.

“The firm does more than just say diversity and inclusion, Smith Anderson demonstrates its commitment through active and measurable actions," Sharita said. 

Some of these actions include:

  • Actively recruiting and hiring from minority job fairs, including the Southeastern Minority Job Fair and the North Carolina Bar Association Minorities in the Profession (MIP) Committee’s Summer Associate Program, as well as hosting the interview day for the MIP program in 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2018;
  • Establishing firm policies, including an Alternative Schedule Policy, to accommodate lawyers seeking alternative, reduced or flexible work schedules;
  • Partnering with the corporate legal departments of businesses in Raleigh, Durham, and Research Triangle Park to provide mentoring and networking opportunities for our diverse lawyers; 
  • Forming affinity groups for women and diverse lawyers, with a focus on mentoring and networking.

Sharita noted that Smith Anderson reaffirmed its commitment to justice and equality when it released its internal and external statements in 2020 in response to the killings of George Floyd and other Black citizens, and Smith Anderson’s commitment to dismantling racial injustice. Sharita challenged the legal community and others to be “willing to speak up and do what will effect that change. Work to change unfair policies that are affecting diverse people, attorneys or otherwise.”

Kerry and Sharita's full interview with Lawyers Weekly can be viewed here or click on the image below.

North Carolina Lawyers Weekly is the state’s leading weekly legal newspaper reporting news, court opinions, verdicts and settlements and other issues of importance for North Carolina’s legal community.


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