In June 2020, we announced our More Than Words pledge to combat racism and institutional inequities — a reflection of our values and our belief that advancing racial justice and equality must be supported by words and actions. We promised to significantly expand our commitment to advance racial and social justice and bring our resources to bear in the fight for racial equality with a focus on three areas: pro bono, education, and financial support.
As we near the two-year anniversary of our pledge, we wanted to update you on our progress.
We continue to enhance our longstanding record of civil rights advocacy, devoting substantial resources to matters aimed at advancing racial equality, promoting equal opportunity and supporting those affected by institutional racism. In the last two years, we’ve scaled pro bono engagement on many fronts — examples include:
As part of our More Than Words pledge, we launched two training initiatives, designed to educate and spur action: Our DLC Thought Leadership Series features thought leaders who are true experts in various facets of DEI and belonging. Our More Than Words Racial Justice Training Series provides a deeper understanding of the history of systemic racism and inequality in the US, tying it to present-day events and highlighting actionable opportunities to challenge and change the system. In addition, our Staff Affinity Groups seek to expand educational awareness, enhance cultural insight, and inspire action through their ongoing speaker series.
Speakers have included:
- Bryan Stevenson, Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, discussing interconnections among mercy, humanity, and making a difference
- Author and activist Anthony Ray Hinton sharing his experiences as a death row exoneree
- Dr. Halima Begum, Chief Executive of Runnymede Trust, a leading race equality think tank in the UK, and Lord Dr. Michael Hastings CBE, Chancellor of Regents University London, in conversation about racial justice in the UK
- Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, Professor and Founding Director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research, offering guidance for how to be an antiracist, based on his bestselling book
- Heather McGhee, Distinguished Senior Fellow of Demos and author of The Sum of Us, describing the costs of racism to everyone
- Rebecca Cokley, Program Officer for the Ford Foundation’s US Disability Rights Program, outlining allyship strategies for supporting the disabled community
- Ruby Bridges, activist and author, discussing her experiences as one of the first Black children to desegregate New Orleans’ all-white public school system in 1960
- Richard Rothstein, a Distinguished Fellow at the Economic Policy Institute, discussing the history of segregation
- California Assemblywoman Luz Rivas, talking about breaking barriers for underrepresented talent and bridging the gap in race and gender
- Michael Twitty, James Beard Award-winning culinary historian, food writer, and educator, leading a conversation about understanding food as a means of identity and resistance
- Reverend Wheeler Parker, Jr. (cousin of Emmett Till and the last living witness to his kidnapping) and Patrick Weems, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, discussing the importance of preserving civil rights history
To date, nearly 4,000 Latham lawyers, staff, and clients have attended these and other presentations on voting rights, creating a racially just workplace, and unconscious bias.
Supporting Our Public Interest Partners
Recognizing that our public interest partners need financial support in addition to pro bono contributions, our More Than Words pledge was accompanied by a donation matching campaign that raised more than US$2 million to support several of our racial justice nonprofit partners, including NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Mississippi Center for Justice. We subsequently contributed an additional US$1 million in 2021 to a dozen other organizations fighting racial injustice around the globe, including Asian Americans Advancing Justice and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
We also expanded our decades-long partnership with Equal Justice Works to sponsor six new fellows as they embark on careers in public interest at legal aid organizations in the US. Our Fellows focus on such civil rights issues as heirs’ property inheritance, voting rights, education, housing insecurity, and the school-to-prison pipeline.
In March 2022, we unveiled “Just Us,” by Hamilton Glass, in our New York office (the firm’s largest). This striking, multimedia installation — commissioned by the firm — stands as a tangible, visual representation of our More Than Words pledge. Learn more in the video below.
Real change takes more than words. We are proud of what we’ve been able to achieve thanks to your dedication and drive, but we also know our work is not done. We remain committed to continued, deliberate action to advance racial justice.