Riker Danzig Statement on Diversity and Inclusion
Riker Danzig has a long history of commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. We are proud of our heritage as a leader in promoting women and people of color, including some who broke traditional leadership barriers within law firms, and others who built on their foundation at Riker to break new ground in the courts and government. While the Firm takes pride in its strong tradition, we recognize that persistent vigilance is required to combat the ongoing and pervasive issues of systemic racial bias and other forms of discrimination in many aspects of our society, including several areas of the justice system.
Therefore, the Firm views its commitment to diversity and inclusion as more than a static process. It is not enough to just recognize discrimination and social injustice; instead the Firm will remain focused on doing its part to help change attitudes and behavior through action, both within its workforce and throughout its involvement in the community and halls of justice. To that end, the Firm continuously strives to improve, steadfast in our belief that we serve our clients best by promoting and incorporating the different viewpoints reflected by diverse attorneys and staff.
We have put into place a variety of programs intended to recruit, retain, and promote attorneys of a variety of backgrounds, including those traditionally underrepresented in the legal industry. We endeavor to create a diverse team of attorneys and staff who enrich each other with unique life experiences, backgrounds and perspectives in ways that reflect our clients and our communities. It is our belief that this environment fosters excellence, and best serves our clients’ needs. It is also the right thing to do.
The Firm has an established Diversity Committee that consists of Firm leadership, partners, associates, and professional and administrative staff. The Committee meets regularly to plan and execute the Firm’s strategies and initiatives to maintain and improve its diversity and inclusion. The Committee is charged with educating the Firm on diversity issues, supporting and promoting diverse candidates, and representing the Firm at various diversity-related events throughout the year.
In addition, the Firm is committed to celebrating both the uniqueness and commonality in our diversity.
The Firm’s current key initiatives include:
- Targeted and consistent recruiting efforts
- Paid summer internship each year through the Minority Student Program to a 1L who is a member of a group that is underrepresented in the legal profession
- Career mentoring and development for diverse attorneys and staff
- Active involvement with community and Bar-based organizations that promote diversity and inclusion
- Promotion of understanding and education about diversity and inclusion issues
- Training attorneys and staff on issues unique to recognizing and eliminating bias and prejudice in the workplace
- Planning Firm activities to promote inclusion among attorneys and staff in social and professional settings
Riker Danzig Women
Female attorneys at Riker Danzig have long held positions of leadership in the Firm. Going back to when we were the first major New Jersey law firm to promote a female attorney to partner, we have continued to foster a culture where women advance and excel. When Kelly Crawford was named Firm Co-Chair, she became the first woman to step into that top role among the leading New Jersey firms. Other of our exceptional women attorneys serve on the Management Committee, as practice group chairs, office principal partner, and chairs of Firm committees.
To discuss the unique concerns of our women attorneys and offer opportunities for enhancement of their professional development, the Firm hosts recurring women’s forums. Our women attorneys are consistently singled out by the legal community for distinctive honors, including NJBIZ’s “Power 100” and “Power 50 in Banking,” the New Jersey Law Journal’s “New Jersey Trailblazer,” “Top 40 Women Under 40,” and “Diverse Attorney of the Year,” Best Lawyers’ “Lawyer of the Year,” and Super Lawyers’ “Top 50 Women Attorneys in New Jersey.” See Awards and Honors Methodology.
No aspect of this advertisement has been approved by the Supreme Court of New Jersey.
Recruiting for an Inclusive Community of Diverse Attorneys
Riker Danzig strives to connect with the top diverse law school students, actively participating in partnerships with diverse hiring programs on law school campuses. Some of the specific recruiting initiatives the Firm is involved with include:
New Jersey Law Firm Group: Riker Danzig maintains an active membership in this Group, which promotes the hiring of minority law school students at the major New Jersey law firms. As part of this effort, we meet regularly to explore new state-wide initiatives that foster diverse hiring. We participate in the NJLFG job fair that is held annually at Seton Hall University School of Law or Rutgers University School of Law. We serve as speakers to the New Jersey Law Firm Group and many attorneys regularly serve as mentors to the program.
Minority Student Program: The Minority Student Program (MSP) is a nationally-acclaimed and highly successful post-admissions program that serves students of any race or ethnicity who are members of groups that are underrepresented in the legal profession, and who have faced discrimination or overcome social and economic hardships. The program takes a proactive approach to help students to succeed in law school by offering legal skills development, academic support, alumni mentoring and networking, internships and other opportunities.
Riker Danzig has supported MSP for decades by providing a paid summer internship for a student. The student takes part in all of the activities and programs offered to our other summer associates. Thus, the MSP student experiences the same work, social functions and educational programs as our other summer associates, and is fully integrated into our summer associate program, which is our main recruiting tool. The Firm also supports the MSP annual fundraiser, the Minority Student Program Banquet. A current Riker Danzig partner who participated in the MSP Program is Jorge Sanchez.
Since its establishment in 1968, MSP has supported almost 3,000 students in their pursuit of a career in the law in New Jersey and nationwide. For more information, please go to https://law.rutgers.edu/minority-student-program.
Minority Recruitment Efforts: The Firm participates in the Black Law Students Association job fairs and requests applicant resumes from law schools with historically large minority enrollments.
Riker Danzig Diversity Luminaries
Riker Danzig is proud of the following Riker Danzig women and diverse attorneys and alumni who serve(d) on the Bench or in public service, and their achievements as “firsts”:
- Kelly S. Crawford, Firm Co-Chair and Chair of our Products Liability, Toxic Tort and Mass Tort Practice, is the First female in a Top 20 New Jersey-based law firm with a woman in the senior role.
- Travis L. Francis, A.J.S.C. (Ret.), Riker Danzig Of Counsel from 2017-Present, was the First African-American appointed as a Judge to the New Jersey Superior Court, Middlesex County, and was the First African-American Assignment Judge and Presiding Judge, General Equity, of that vicinage. Superior Court Assignment Judge, 2007-2017; Superior Court Judge, 1992-2017.
- Judge Zahid N. Quraishi, Riker Danzig Partner from 2016-2019. Judge Quraishi was confirmed June 10, 2021 as a U.S. District Judge for the District of New Jersey, making him the First Muslim American federal judge in U.S. history. Previously, on June 3, 2019, he was appointed as a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the District of New Jersey, making him the First Asian Pacific American to serve on the federal bench in New Jersey history. Prior to his appointment, Judge Quraishi was the Firm’s First Chief Diversity Officer.
- Justice Anne M. Patterson, Riker Danzig Partner from 1992-2011. Associate Justice on the New Jersey Supreme Court, 2011 and reappointed in 2018.
- Tiffany M. Williams, Riker Danzig Associate from 2005-2007. Administrative Law Judge, State of New Jersey, 2010-2016; Chair, New Jersey State Commission of Investigation, 2022.
- Peter C. Harvey, Riker Danzig Partner from 1990-2002. First African-American to serve as New Jersey Attorney General, 2003-2006.
- Susan Scott, former Riker Danzig Partner. Judge of the New Jersey Superior Court, Morris County, 1997-2000.
- Judge Renee M. Bumb, Riker Danzig Associate from 1988–1991. United States District Court Judge nominated by President George W. Bush in 2006.
- Justice Marie Garibaldi, Riker Danzig Partner from 1973-1982. First female Partner in a major New Jersey law firm, First female New Jersey State Bar President, 1982-1983, First female Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, appointed by Thomas Kean, 1982-2000.
Diversity and Inclusion Leadership and Awards
Many Riker Danzig attorneys and alumni hold leadership positions in affinity bar associations, and some have been recognized for their accomplishments.
- Hispanic Bar Association-NJ, Trustee, Counsel Jorge A. Sanchez, 2021
- South Asian Bar Association, Secretary, Associate Nakul Shah, 2021
- New Jersey Law Journal, "Diverse Attorney of the Year," Travis L. Francis, A.J.S.C. (Ret.), 2019
- Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association of New Jersey (APALA-NJ), Award for Professional Achievement, Zahid N. Quraishi, 2019
- Garden State Bar Association, Young Lawyer of the Year 2018 and Executive Board Member, Natalya Johnson
- National Bar Association, "40 Under 40 Nation's Best Advocate," Natalya Johnson, 2019
- Armenian Bar Association, Member of Board of Governors, Partner Scott A. Ohnegian
- Garden State Bar Association, President, Dara Aquila Govan, Riker Danzig Alumni
- Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association of New Jersey (APALA-NJ), President, Jenny Chung, Riker Danzig Alumni
- Hispanic Bar Association-NJ, President, Julia Lopez, Riker Danzig Alumni
- New Jersey Law Journal, “Diverse Attorney of the Year,” Firm Co-Chair Kelly Strange Crawford, 2015
Investing in Diversity and Inclusion Efforts in the Legal Community
Riker Danzig regularly supports events that promote and support diversity within our community, including the following:
- Armenian Bar Association – "20 Under 40 Rising Stars" Banquet and the Annual Public Servants Dinner
- Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association of New Jersey Gala (APALA-NJ)
- Association of Black Law Students, Rutgers University School of Law Annual Jazz for Justice
- Association of Black Women Lawyers-NJ (ABWL-NJ)
- Association of Black Women Attorneys-NY Ruth Whitehead Whaley Scholarship Awards (ABWA)
- Capital Region Minority Chamber of Commerce Golf Classic
- Executive Women of New Jersey
- Garden State Bar Association Anniversary Scholarship and Awards Gala (GSBA)
- Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey – Annual Scholarship Gala (HBA-NJ)
- Jewish Law Symposium
- Jewish Lawyers Guild
- Morris County Bar Association (MCBA)
- National Bar Association's "40 Under 40" Awards Gala
- New Jersey Muslim Lawyers Association Gala (NJMLA)
- New Jersey State Bar Association – Black History Month Program
- New Jersey Women Lawyers Association Annual WILL Platinum Gala (NJWLA)
- NJWLA Intersectionality, Bias and the Practice of Law Program
- NJWLA Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: A Fresh Perspective
- Princeton University Diversity Summit
- Riker Danzig Women in Leadership Receptions
- Rutgers Minority Student Program (MSP) 50th Anniversary Celebration
- Seton Hall Law School’s Annual Diversity Banquet
- South Asian Bar Association of New Jersey – Annual Gala (SABA-NJ)
- Thurgood Marshall College Fund – Annual New Jersey Awards of Excellence
- Women’s Political Caucus Awards Reception
Diversity and Inclusion in Action
On May 11, 2023, Riker Danzig hosted a webinar for alumni, clients and friends concerning “Hot Topics in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.” The webinar addressed key DEI issues in the workplace.
Our panel of impressive leaders from business and not-for-profits were:
- Sobande F. Afolabi, Esq., Director and Senior Negotiator, Girl Scouts of the USA
- Rippi Karda, Esq., Associate General Counsel, Verizon, President, South Asian Bar Association of New Jersey, and Co-Chair, Punjabi Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey
- Akil Roper, Esq., Senior Vice President, Legal Services of New Jersey
Riker Danzig partner Edwin F. Chociey, Jr. moderated the lively panel discussion, with program coordination and panel participation by Riker Danzig associate Opeyemi D. Akinde. The panel covered the following specific topics:
- Challenges for employers in recruiting and retaining diverse employees;
- Ensuring professional growth and promotion of diverse employees;
- How employers address employees’ racial and social equity concerns;
- Challenges presently facing diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at businesses and not-for-profits.
In June 2021, Riker Danzig hosted a webinar for alumni, clients and friends on current issues concerning Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, including health equity and COVID-19's impact on communities of color. Joining our panel were:
- Dr. Meg Fisher, Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist and Special Advisor, New Jersey Department of Health;
- Lora L. Fong, Assistant Attorney General, COVID-19 Ombudsperson and Chief Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Officer for the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General;
- Amanda Medina Forrester, Executive Director for the Office of Minority and Multicultural Health, New Jersey Department of Health;
- Philip L. Harris, Chief Legal Counsel, Surterra Holdings; and
- Kiran K. Nagulapalli, Assistant General Counsel, SGS North America Inc.
In April 2019, Riker Danzig co-sponsored and hosted a CLE legal community event that addressed implicit bias in the workplace for corporate counsel, attorneys in private practice and those in the public sector. Our event was supported by many affinity bar associations, including the Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association of New Jersey (APALA-NJ), Association of Black Women Lawyers-NJ (ABWL-NJ), Garden State Bar Association (GSBA), Hispanic Bar Association - New Jersey (HBA-NJ), Morris County Bar Association (MCBA), New Jersey Muslim Lawyers Association (NJMLA), and the South Asian Bar Association of New Jersey (SABA-NJ).
Diversity and Inclusion Committee
Ronald Z. Ahrens, Counsel
Edwin F. Chociey, Jr., Partner
Richelle J. Delavan, Director of Practice Development
Stephanie D. Edelson, Partner
Travis L. Francis, A.J.S.C. (Ret.), Of Counsel
Jennifer Gonzales-Frisbie, Director of Business Development
Sarah Heba-Escobar, Associate
Maha M. Kabbash, Partner
Lance J. Kalik, Co-Managing Partner and Executive Committee Member
Khaled J. Klele, Partner
Corey L. LaBrutto, Associate
Desiree McDonald, Associate
Jorge A. Sanchez, Partner, former Summer Associate and MSP Student
Nakul Y. Shah, Associate
Alison M. Feldman Walsh, Chief Human Resources Officer
Eileen Zhu, Chief Financial Officer
Our Diversity and Inclusion Committee disseminates informative emails to all employees throughout the year, bringing light to dozens of significant days/months of remembrance or celebratory days related to various ethnic or religious traditions and history. We invite you to enjoy some of the fascinating content from our Black History Month communications at the following links:
The History of Black History Month
The Pullman Porters
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)
African American Greeks
What’s Inside the Green Book?
The Tulsa Race Massacre (“Black Wall Street”)
The African American Press
The Power of “Place” About Martha’s Vineyard
The African American Church
The Harlem Renaissance
The National Museum of African-American History and Culture (N.M.A.A.H.C.)