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DEI Mission Statement Voices of Excellence Community DEI News & Events

Barclay Damon's approach to diversity and inclusion encourages firm-wide participation in diversity-related work and initiatives by infusing diversity and inclusion principles in business and strategic planning at every level. Barclay Damon's diversity partner, Sheila Gaddis, oversees all diversity initiatives, including the Diversity Partner Committee and the Diversity Leadership Teams resident in each office.

Philosophy 

Barclay Damon embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace through a commitment to education, dialogue, and relationship building. We strive to offer the highest level of client service and recognize that a collaborative, diverse, and inclusive community of legal professionals is vital to our success. We celebrate people of all races, gender identities, ages, ethnic origins, national origins, religions, sexual orientations, and physical abilities.

We understand that varied backgrounds and perspectives result in a diversity of thought and ideas. This helps us achieve superior performance in providing solutions to our clients as well as establishing an environment where people are supported and can excel and meet their full potential.

Black Employees Affinity Network (BEAN)

BEAN serves as a resource for attorneys and staff interested in fostering career success by sponsoring programming and other initiatives that promote business and career development, mentoring and support, recruitment and retention, and networking and relationship building. BEAN aims to cultivate an environment at the firm that encourages participation in activities relevant to the Black legal community. BEAN meets every other month via Microsoft Teams. 
 

Anti-Racism Resources

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Diversity Partner Committee

Diversity Partner Committee Chair
Rochester
Pro Bono At Large
Buffalo
At Large
Buffalo
At Large
Rochester
Partner
Albany
Partner
Syracuse
Partner
Buffalo
Of Counsel
New Haven
Partner
Rochester

Voices of Excellence is Barclay Damon’s quarterly publication celebrating Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiatives across the firm. This edition focuses on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected children and young adults, particularly in their academic lives. By placing a strong focus on the needs of children, the needs of society will continue to be met as children become adults. 

Past Issues:

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2021 Diversity 1L Summer Associate Program
Barclay Damon is pleased to welcome Kaitlynn Chopra (Albany), Qui'Essence Harris (Buffalo), Theresa Oliver (Rochester), and Autumn Burgin (Syracuse) as participants in our annual Diversity 1L Summer Associate Program. Please be sure to say hello and welcome if you see them in the office!

ALBANY
Welcome to Our Spring Intern Syeda Zahra
Through the Albany County Bar Association’s Diversity Internship Program, the Albany Office has a spring intern, Syeda Zahra, who is a 3L at Albany Law School. Syeda has worked with attorneys in multiple practice areas so far, and we are very happy to have her as part of the team.

Justice for All Campaign
Barclay Damon was again a proud sponsor of the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York’s Justice for All Campaign, which raises money to help fund access to legal services to help with unemployment, homelessness prevention, education, disability, and hundreds of other civil legal matters. David Cost is co-chair of the campaign, and many Albany attorneys made generous donations to continue to help support this worthy cause.

Top 40 Under 40 Black Lawyers in New York
Kadeem Wolliaston was selected for inclusion in the National Black Lawyers—Top 40 Under 40 Black Lawyers in New York list. 

BUFFALO
21 Day Diversity Learning Challenge
The Buffalo and Clarence offices participated in the 21 Day Diversity Learning Challenge that was coordinated by the Bar Association of Erie County. Participants were provided with information in various media formats covering a wide range of structural, institutional, and cultural aspects of racial diversity and injustice faced by Black Americans. It was presented through an online format over the course of 21 consecutive days. Though the challenge was intended to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the links are still active and anyone can take the challenge at any time. If you would like to take the challenge, contact Jen Leonardi for the link. 

RCJ Trivia Night
On March 25, 2021, Buffalo and Clarence attorneys participated virtually in Trivia Night to benefit the Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP). The event was coordinated by Rising Champions for Justice (RCJ), which is a group of young professionals dedicated to furthering the VLP’s mission to provide free legal services to low-income people while gaining valuable board experience and professional development. Arianna Kwiatkowski, who was recently appointed to the Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project Rising Champions for Justice Board, coordinated Barclay Damon’s participation in the event.

DEI Email to USLAW Diversity Council Steering Committee Leader
Peter Marlette was recently contacted by Mert Howard, partner at Hanson Bridgett and Steering Committee leader on the USLAW Diversity Council, encouraging the firm to get involved with the USLAW Diversity Council. Peter responded with an email outlining Barclay Damon’s ever-evolving DEI initiatives. 

BOSTON, MA  |  NEW HAVEN, CT  |  NEW YORK, NY
Holiday Giving
During the holiday season, individuals from Barclay Damon’s major markets offices contributed to a number of their favorite charities, such as local food banks and soup kitchens and area legal aid organizations. In lieu of holiday gifts to adult family members, some made donations to the charities the family members selected, such as Feeding America, Wounded Warriors, and Planned Parenthood. 

Galas for LeGaL and LEAP
Barclay Damon was a sponsor of two gala fundraisers for LeGaL and LEAP. Janice Grubin reported that the LeGaL gala was a huge success. Held virtually this year, several members of the firm attended the gala, which raised more money than last year. Penny Mason reported on the LEAP gala, which was held on the same night. LEAP, which stands for Leadership, Education, and Athletics in Partnership, is a program that works with New Haven’s inner-city children in after-school and summer programs and also trains young counselors and mentors. It was likewise virtual this year, with a reception featuring speakers who are founders, leaders, and students. This event also raised a record amount of money for LEAP’s work. Four major markets colleagues attended.

DEI Lunch ‘n’ Learn
On March 4, 2021, the firm held a lunch ‘n’ learn titled “Marriage Equality: From Outlaws to In-Laws” facilitated by Penny Mason and Janice Grubin. The lunch ‘n’ learn featured speakers Christopher R. Riano and Professor William N. Eskridge Jr. and covered same-sex-marriage aspects of topics ranging from the evolution of religion to sexuality, sex, and gender. The speakers are the authors of the book after which the lunch ‘n’ learn was named. 

Celebrating and Supporting Armenian and Lebanese Culture
Natalie Hajinelian, legal secretary, is a daughter and wife of Lebanese Armenian immigrants and was born and raised in Hawaii. She says, “I find it to be my responsibility to proudly represent the cultural diversity of my various origins.” Before the COVID-19 pandemic, she would celebrate her culture by partaking in cultural events and activities, such as dancing the kochari (a traditional Armenian dance), commemorating her Armenian ancestors who were victims of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 during April and especially on April 24, which is Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, and sending care packages back home. Now Natalie focuses on supporting Armenian and Lebanese businesses by purchasing their products, including everyday items like soorj (Armenian coffee), zhourat (a Lebanese herbal tea blend), and arak (a Levantine unsweetened distilled spirit made from anise).

Natalie uses social media to amplify the voices of these businesses. She says, “Social media has become such a powerful tool, and through it, I have obtained the role of a social media activist for the people of Lebanon and Armenia. I report and repost businesses, products, news, petitions, on-ground NGOs, and donation centers. Having volunteered in these countries, I have always made sure to leverage my connections, and continuously work on bridging the gap between the two worlds.” 

ROCHESTER
Senior Capstone Project
Representatives from our Rochester office participated in the senior Capstone Project at the World of Inquiry School #58 (WOI). Each senior has to complete a two-semester process before graduation. During the second part of the process, they explore a topic of interest to them in depth and develop a project around that topic that contributes to the community. Unique to 2021, all Capstone Projects were presented via Zoom. Sanjeev Devabhakthuni, Matthew Paris, and Patrick Burke, office manager, volunteered for the morning panel session where each senior at WOI presented their proposals for review and approval to a committee that included a community member, a teacher, a junior from the high school, and a sixth grader from the middle school. Barclay Damon will be further involved in the Capstone Project as it develops throughout the school year, culminating in a final presentation of each project in May. Our work with WOI is part of our continuing Pipeline Initiative through the DLT. Feel free to contact any member of the Rochester DLT if you have any questions.

SYRACUSE
1L Diversity Mentoring Program
For the fourth consecutive year, the Syracuse office has continued its 1L Diversity Mentoring Program in partnership with the Syracuse University College of Law. This program takes place throughout the spring semester, with 20 mentees participating this year. The program connects firm attorneys with 1Ls from historically underrepresented groups within the legal profession. .

Syracuse Heart (Walk) Challenge
In lieu of an in-person Heart Walk this year, the American Heart Association is instead holding a month-long Heart Challenge. The Barclay Damon Walk Team entered into a friendly competition with the legal department of National Grid, who is also a sponsor and participant in the Syracuse Heart Challenge. The “battle of the companies” was to see who could get more people registered on their teams by March 31, 2021. Barclay Damon met its goal of registering 100 participants and has raised over $3,296! The teams will also compete to see who can get the most steps throughout April. In an email to Brenda Colella, Kristen Thompson Henry, director of the Syracuse Heart Challenge, said, “This challenge is sparking national attention at AHA! We will be highlighted in our next development newsletter nationwide!”
 
Wear Red Day and BD Tower Lit Up Red
On February 5, 2021, attorneys and staff in the Syracuse office supported the American Heart Association by wearing red to increase women’s heart health awareness and serve as a catalyst for change to improve the lives of women globally. Barclay Damon Tower was also lit up red for the occasion.
 

ALBANY

Albany Diversity Mentorship Program
Albany kicked off its Diversity Mentorship Program this year with the highest turnout of students ever and the highest number of attorneys from Albany participating. The meeting was the first-ever virtual kickoff.

Fourth Quarter Lunch ‘n’ Learn
Dena DeFazio gave a presentation called “Understanding Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Expression” as the fourth-quarter lunch ‘n’ learn from the Albany office.

BUFFALO

2020 United Way Campaign
This year our Buffalo and Clarence offices participated virtually in the 2020 Buffalo and Erie County United Way Campaign. Gifts to the United Way help the local community, including helping children reach their full potential, families achieve financial stability, and people live healthier lives. 

“Challenge Disparity, Build Diversity” Pledge
Attorneys in Buffalo and Clarence participated in a joint effort of the Bar Association of Erie County, Minority Bar Association of Western New York, Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York, and University at Buffalo Law Alumni Association to encourage attorneys to prioritize diversity and mitigate COVID-19’s effects in these difficult times. This included a challenge to each member of the legal profession to take a pledge to “challenge disparity, build diversity.” Read the pledge here.

Community Day/Bar Association of Erie County Yuletide Challenge Toy Drive 
The Buffalo and Clarence offices held a Community Day in support of the Legal Aid Bureau’s Attorneys for Children Unit. The Legal Aid lawyers, social workers, child advocates, and staff respond daily to the challenging and often heart-breaking life circumstances of the children they support. The Buffalo and Clarence offices collected toys for children involved in abuse and neglect proceedings in Erie County.

MAJOR MARKETS

Community Servings’ Pie in the Sky
Ben Carroll and Siobhan Tolan teamed up with Community Servings’ Pie in the Sky event to sell pies in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday. Each year, Pie in the Sky uses the proceeds from its annual holiday sale to prepare and deliver home-cooked meals to those in need throughout Massachusetts. Last year, Pie in the Sky raised $850,000, which provided a Thanksgiving meal to tens of thousands of critically and chronically ill Massachusetts residents. This year, Ben and Siobhan raised $1,600 for the Barclay Damon team, which made ours the top law firm team and the 19th team overall in Boston. Ben notes, “Many donated within Barclay Damon, including from the Upstate New York offices.”

ROCHESTER

Bivona Child Advocacy Center’s Holiday Lights Tour
Barclay Damon is sponsoring a holiday event organized by the Bivona Child Advocacy Center, which provides support and services for children experiencing child abuse. Bivona organized the tour with lighted homes in the Rochester area. In addition to the firm’s sponsorship of the event, the Rochester office raised more than $800 to support it. Funds will help children and families in the Rochester community this holiday season.

Foodlink for Community Day
The Rochester office teamed up with Foodlink for their Community Day this year. Foodlink is a regional food hub and the Feeding America food bank serving Allegany, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming, and Yates counties. Their operations target the root causes of hunger and distribute food to a network of human service agencies, serving meals through their commercial kitchen and offering more than 30 food-related programs. The Rochester office donated over 135 pounds of food and more than $2,100.

SYRACUSE

Virtual Food Drive for Food Bank of Central New York
In lieu of its traditional Community Day activities and as part of Giving Tuesday, the Syracuse office hosted a virtual food drive in support of the Food Bank of Central New York. The Food Bank of Central New York partners with 282 emergency food programs in the counties of Cayuga, Chenango, Cortland, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego, and St. Lawrence. It works to eliminate hunger through nutritious food distribution, education, and advocacy in cooperation with the community. The Syracuse office raised $3,301 for the Food Bank of Central New York.

BUFFALO 

Virtual Food Drive
The Buffalo office held a virtual food drive to benefit FeedMore WNY, doubling its original goal of contributing 250 food items by ending with a total of 501 virtually donated food items.

ROCHESTER 

Monroe County Commission on Racial and Structural Equity
Sheila Gaddis, Diversity Partner Committee chair, served as a Selection Committee member in creating the City of Rochester’s new Commission on Racial and Structural Equity.

SYRACUSE
Volunteer Lawyers Project
The Syracuse office has been working with the Volunteer Lawyers Project of Onondaga County, Inc. and its Small Business Consult program to assist small businesses and not-for-profits impacted by COVID-19. Attorneys have also resumed their participation in its Family Law Clinic and Tenant Rights Clinic, which reopened in July and August, respectively.
 

ALBANY 

Sponsorships
The Albany office sponsored the Albany Law School Black Law Students Association’s annual James Campbell Matthews Banquet in celebration of Black History Month and was a sponsor of the Legal Aid Society for Northeastern New York’s Justice for All Campaign for the provision of legal services to vulnerable and low-income individuals.

Albany Law School Speaking Engagements
Brienna Christiano, associate, spoke on a panel providing students with advice on networking and relationship building. David Cost, partner; Naresh Kannan, counsel; and Jennifer Cruz, former 1L and 2L summer associate, served as panelists discussing the firm’s Diversity 1L Summer Associate Program. Brenda Baddam, associate, was a panelist during the Albany Law School “Minority Women in Law” event. 

Community Day
Albany office attorneys, staff, and their family members went virtual for this year’s Community Day, participating in the United Way of the Greater Capital Region’s 518 Day to raise money for local COVID-19 relief efforts. Activities included virtual 5ks and fitness classes, trivia, a community-wide baby shower drive, and a sidewalk chalk mural competition. Thanks to everyone who participated, and a special thanks to Alexis Clement, counsel; Mary Connolly, associate; David Cost, partner; Paul Powers, senior business advisor; and Melissa Zambri, co-leader of the Health Care and Health & Human Services Providers Teams, for sending in pictures to share on the firm’s social media accounts!

BUFFALO 

Heart Health Red Carnation Drive
In memory of late partner Larry Oppenheimer, the Buffalo office was particularly active in the firm’s Heart Health Red Carnation Drive and National Wear Red Day, with proceeds going to the American Heart Association.

Haven House Adopt-a-Family & Toyland Luncheon
After the Buffalo office donated winter apparel to Haven House for domestic violence survivors and their children during the annual Holiday Drive, Shannon Howley, associate, attended the Haven House Adopt-a-Family & Toyland Luncheon at Child & Family Services in February.

MAJOR MARKETS - Boston,MA | New Haven, CT | New York, NY

Diversity Leadership Team
We’re excited to announce our new Major Markets Diversity Leadership Team. Led by Penny Mason, partner, the team represents the Boston, New Haven, and New York offices. Team members include Boston’s Carolyn Marcotte Crowley, partner; and Todd Huston, legal secretary; New Haven’s Cathy Siegel, legal secretary; and New York’s Sharon Brown, partner; Janice Grubin, Restructuring, Bankruptcy & Creditor’s Rights Practice Area co-chair; and Natalie Hajinelian, receptionist. We can’t wait to see what great ideas they’ll bring to our Diversity & Inclusion initiative!

ROCHESTER 

WOIS Senior Capstone Project
Sanjeev Devabhakthuni, counsel, and Patrick Burke, office manager, volunteered to sit on the morning panel for the World of Inquiry School’s Senior Capstone Project, providing feedback on the students’ proposals for their own community projects connected to a topic of interest. Barclay Damon is involved in the Capstone Project as it develops throughout the school year, culminating in a final presentation of each project in May.

SYRACUSE

Diversity 1L Mentoring Program
In partnership with the Syracuse University College of Law, the Syracuse office continued its third annual Diversity 1L Mentoring Program throughout the spring semester. The program connects firm attorneys with 1Ls from historically underrepresented groups within the legal profession.

Volunteer Lawyers Project
The Syracuse office has volunteered to participate in a program being administered by the Volunteer Lawyers Project of Onondaga County, Inc. in conjunction with Centerstate CEO to provide legal assistance for small businesses and not-for-profits impacted by COVID-19.
 

ALBANY

Northeast Black Law Student Association Presentation
Kadeem Wolliaston, associate, served as a panelist at the Northeast Black Law Student Association Upstate Academic Retreat in October, where he discussed his post-law-school career. 

Equinox Annual Thanksgiving Day Community Dinner
Many thanks to the Albany attorneys and staff who volunteered to help Equinox sort and organize ingredients for thousands of meals for its annual Thanksgiving Day community dinner. A special shout out goes to Jan Smith, paralegal, for organizing the event!

Diversity Mentoring Program
In conjunction with Albany Law School students, the Albany office kicked off its Diversity Mentoring Program with a November 14 reception. Thanks to Melissa Bennett, David Cost, Brian Culnan, Bob Hussar, Oksana Ludd, and George Pond, all partners; Brad Gallagher and Naresh Kannan, both counsel; and Eric Brenner, Dena DeFazio, Amanda Mirabito, Shali Natesan, and Kadeem Wolliaston, all associates; for serving as mentors this year!

Albany Law School Community Development Clinic
Through the Albany Law School Community Development Clinic, Connie Cahill, deputy managing partner and Public Finance Practice Area chair; Brian Culnan and Oksana Ludd, both partners; Margaret Surowka, counsel; and Amanda Mirabito, associate, donated pro bono legal services to individuals looking for advice on starting or expanding small businesses.

Black and Latin American Law Students Associations Presentation
David Cost and Oksana Ludd, both partners; Naresh Kannan, counsel; and Brenda Baddam and Kadeem Wolliaston, both associates, presented to the Albany Law School Black and Latin American Law Students Associations about their legal practices during a joint meeting hosted at the Albany office for members.

BUFFALO

Champions for Justice Bash
The Bar Association of Erie County Volunteer Lawyers Project held its annual Champions for Justice Bash in November, with Bob Heary, Labor & Employment Practice Area chair, and Bridget Steele, associate, attending. Bob is a board of directors member, and Bridget is a Rising Champions for Justice board member. The Buffalo and Clarence offices regularly partner with the VLP on pro bono work.

Project Warm Your Heart 
The Buffalo and Clarence offices held their seventh annual mitten, glove, hat, and scarf drive, donating warm winter accessories to Haven House, which serves domestic violence survivors, and Journey’s End Refugee Services, which supports and provides resources to refugees in the WNY community.

Bar Association of Erie County Yuletide Challenge Toy Drive 
The Buffalo and Clarence offices supported the Bar Association of Erie County Young Lawyers Committee’s annual toy drive, which benefits the Legal Aid Bureau’s Attorneys for Children Unit. More than 800 toys were collected during the drive for kids involved in abuse and neglect proceedings.

ROCHESTER

Adopt-a-Family Program
The Rochester office participated in Cameron Ministries’ Adopt-a-Family program during the holiday season, donating gifts for families living in poverty.

Community Day
The Rochester office annual Community Day took place at Washington Grove, with attorneys and staff helping with trail maintenance and removing invasive species such as lily of the valley, honeysuckle, and Norway maples. Andrew Seager, Friends of Washington Grove president, also led volunteers on a tour of the grove and up to the top of Cobbs Hill Reservoir.

SYRACUSE

United Way of CNY Emerging Leaders United Reception
The Syracuse office hosted a reception on the Barclay Damon Rooftop Terrace on September 25 for the launch of the United Way of CNY Emerging Leaders United group, which is comprised of young professionals committed to getting involved with and giving back to the CNY community. 

Diversity 1L Mentoring Program
In partnership with the Syracuse University College of Law, the Syracuse office launched its third annual Diversity 1L Mentoring Program. The program connects firm attorneys with 1Ls from historically underrepresented groups within the legal profession.

Share the Warmth From Head to Toe 
The Syracuse office held its 2019 Share the Warmth From Head to Toe holiday drive, collecting winter hats, gloves, and socks in December for the Samaritan Center, a local not-for-profit that serves the hungry and those in need in order to promote their welfare, dignity, and self-sufficiency. 
 

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