Partner Jeanne Gills was featured in the Intellectual Property Magazine article, “Diversity in Big Law ‘Has to be Addressed’,” about the paucity of Black, Asian and minority ethnic attorneys in big law firms and the need to address the issue.
Gills, vice chair of Foley’s IP department, stressed that black attorneys “are the most under-represented in big law relative to our general demographics in the US”, and that the percentages of black patent lawyers “are even lower than these numbers of black lawyers in big law generally”.
She emphasized that firms need to resist “just tackling the low hanging fruit”, referencing posting Black Lives Matter messages on their website and hosting firmwide diversity and inclusion seminars, but actively putting in the work to hire, retain, train, develop, pay and promote equality and select black lawyers as leaders “in order to shift the power, change the demographics and economics”.
Gills, who is also a member of Foley’s management committee, further stressed that black women make up less than 1% of equity partners in big law and added that “not seeing someone who looks like you and shares a common experience can be daunting”.
As someone who has overcome obstacles as an engineer, attorney, and a person in management in big law, Gills revealed that this makes her, and others like her, “more resourceful, resilient, creative, and adaptable than many of my colleagues”.
She added, “Being told I can’t win makes me want to win more.”
Alongside her career, Gills told IPM that she is also a single, black mom to a teenage son – alongside her career, practice and management responsibilities.
For those in similar scenarios, she drew attention to the need to multi-task, manage stress, and pivot, emphasizing that these skills that “any company should want in an attorney handling their most complex and challenging (or seemingly no-win) matters”.
“You want an attorney paving a path when none seems possible or likely. Par for the course for many in my shoes.”