We sat down with Anand Agneshwar, Partner, Co-Chair of the Product Liability practice group and Chair of the D&I Committee at Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, ahead of our panel event ‘Raising the Bar: Collaborating with Outside Counsel to Advance Gender Parity and Race Equity’. Our discussion covered his many achievements in the D&I space, advice he would give to firms and individuals, and his D&I role models. To hear Anand and our other incredible panelists discussing many topics mentioned below and more, register for our upcoming webinar here.
1. What D&I or pro bono achievement are you most proud of?
Working with the Alabama Federal Public Defenders lawyer to fight for the right of death row inmates, many of whom are black Americans, to have a spiritual advisor with them at the time of execution. We ended up winning one case and creating a ripple effect through other jurisdictions. This was a huge win not only for those trying to add some humanity to the relic of capital punishment but also for the numerous people of color and members of minority religions on death row.
2. What has the impact of your D&I work been on your firm?
There are several things that are particularly important to me that I feel I have helped accomplish – highlighting the need for diversity not just in the partnership but in leadership positions; ensuring that relationship partners spotlight attorneys of color, women and LGBTQ lawyers for important roles.
3. What is top of your D&I agenda for 2021?
Prepare more attorneys of color for potential partnership and advancement within the partnership
4. How do you think the D&I landscape will change over the next five years?
I think it will be very difficult for law firms to blame the pipeline for not being able to present diverse teams and diversity in leadership.
5. What was the first D&I project you worked on? How did you find it? Would you have done anything differently, with the benefit of hindsight?
Many years ago, I attended one of the first firm-wide retreats for the Arnold & Porter’s BIPOC affinity group, MAP (Minority Attorneys at Arnold & Porter), currently known as the ACCORD group (Attorney Community Championing Our Racial Diversity). With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had been more involved in those formative years.
6. What have you personally gained from engaging with D&I work?
Most importantly, the value of creating a culture of inclusiveness where all lawyers feel they are part of a team and working together for a common goal and able to share ideas, lean on other team members, and show vulnerability.
7. Do you have a D&I role model within the industry?
Sandy Leung at Bristol-Myers is an amazing role model and has had a major influence on my career.
8. With the Black Lives Matter movement having made waves around the globe, what do you think the role of the legal industry should be in creating a racially equal society?
Lawyers should do what they do best – representing clients in legal proceedings. That said, lawyers are part of society and should make sure diversity is top of mind in creating teams, and should do pro bono work that furthers civil and racial justice.
9. We all know that working in the D&I field can sometimes feel frustrating or involve dealing with sensitive and potentially distressing subject matter. How do you keep motivated when this happens?
It’s very hard. Sometimes progress seems incredibly slow; sometimes you lose out on a matter to a team from another firm that has no diversity. It can really bring you down. You just have to keep your eye on the ball and recognize that progress happens over years and years; it’s not instantaneous.
10. While many firms have begun to engage with conversations around gender, race and sexuality within the law, other areas of D&I can often be left out of these discussions. Is there one area you think is particularly underdiscussed, and how do you try to introduce it into the communal conversation?
I think we sometimes lose sight of the fact that people are not diverse; teams are diverse. So, everyone can be part of a diverse team. I think sometimes what’s missing is a realization that there can be cultural, ethnic, even political diversity.