At Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell, we value the differences in people and believe that diversity enhances our ability to succeed and to serve our clients well.

Innovative Best Practices
WTO has long demonstrated its commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion (D&I) within the firm and the legal community. Most recently, WTO partnered with the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS) to survey the firm's partners on the traits most necessary for a young lawyer to be successful at WTO. The survey results differed significantly from national trends—IAALS surveyed 24,000 partners nationwide—and led us to change our recruiting, interviewing, and hiring approach, which has in turn increased diversity at WTO. Since implementing these changes, 50% of new hires have been women and 23% are otherwise diverse. Those numbers are materially higher than they were in 2017.

In 2019, WTO joined the Colorado Pledge to Diversity, which is known for its flagship summer law clerk program. Our first summer law clerk worked with the firm in 2019. Beginning in 2020, WTO will launch a full summer law clerk program—a first for our firm, which has always hired out of clerkships or brought on experienced associates as lateral hires.

Also in 2019, WTO is joining the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD), a national organization that creates networking, professional development, and leadership opportunities for diverse junior and mid-level attorneys. LCLD requires significant participation from firm leadership. WTO's co-managing partner, Mike Williams, represents the management committee to LCLD.

These and other developments reflect the firm’s commitment to and intentionality toward genuine D&I advancement. In January 2019, WTO appointed partner Michele Choe as the Chair of D&I Initiatives at the firm. Michele has been instrumental in driving D&I efforts forward at the firm, including the above and other initiatives.

Mentorship & Professional Development
Recognizing that the “I” in D&I is meaningless if the firm does not retain and promote diverse attorneys, WTO has also established a manager role dedicated to professional development and facilitating mentorship relationships among attorneys across the firm. This practicing litigator helps young and developing lawyers hone their skills in order to meet the rigors of complex civil litigation and trial work

We encourage and support our diverse attorneys' interests in specialty bar associations, programs, and networking. In addition to our ongoing efforts aimed at increasing and retaining the diversity among our lawyers, WTO is committed to building a pipeline of diverse lawyers and helping them develop professionally. For example, the firm  financially sponsors and pays for attorneys’ memberships in various diversity bar associations.

A History of D&I Success
In addition to the new initiatives we have implemented above, WTO has a long history of investment in and success realizing meaningful D&I efforts.

Residency Program
For several years, WTO partnered with local law schools to provide a one-year legal residency training to highly qualified and motivated candidates following completion of law school. The program ended in 2016, and the results were meaningful. Two women attorneys who went through the program have become regular lawyer-employees at the firm, and WTO provided training and substantive work experience to several other male, female, and diverse lawyers who went on to thrive in other law firms.

Other efforts include the following:

  • The firm is a founding sponsor of a National Institute of Trial Advocacy scholarship program for public service lawyers.
  • The firm is a member of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association and was a founding sponsor of the MCCA diversity scholarship program.
  • The WTO Foundation supports nonprofit organizations such as Denver Urban Debate League, Denver Public Schools TutorMate, and Denver Kids, Inc. with volunteer time and donations. These programs provide mentoring and support to underserved youth to encourage them to complete high school and pursue post-secondary education.
  • WTO financially sponsors and volunteers with the Center for Legal Inclusiveness, a national organization based in Denver.
  • WTO attorneys serve on the board of directors of the Deans' Diversity Council led by the deans of the University of Colorado and the University of Denver law schools, and on the Council’s pipeline and retention committees.
  • WTO's Executive Director is a member of the Pipeline Team for the Colorado Board Association's Diversity and Inclusivity Steering Committee.

Recognition for WTO
WTO is a member of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association and has participated in and won multiple national awards, including the Vashon Innovator Award for Diversity Initiatives (2014). Two WTO attorneys—co-managing partner Carolyn Fairless (2017) and partner Habib Nasrullah (2011)—have been named to the MCCA's annual Rainmakers Award list, which honors 10 diverse rainmakers nationwide each year.

Furthermore, twice in three years Vault named WTO to the Nationwide Top 10 Best Midsize Law Firms to Work For based on its annual associate survey (2019, 2017). The Denver Business Journal named WTO the #1 Best Place to Work in Denver in the extra-large company category in 2018, and the firm has finished in the Top 3 for each of the past five years. Both of these surveys ask about diversity and inclusion as part of the firm’s culture, and the recognitions reinforce and help the firm to add to and improve upon its recruiting and diversity and inclusion efforts.