More than 200 people attended Pepper Hamilton’s Ninth Annual Celebrate Diversity event last week at the Stotesbury Mansion in Philadelphia. Members of the legal community, Pepper attorneys and staff, clients, and friends of the firm came together on July 22 to honor the efforts of Pepper’s Diversity Committee in promoting greater diversity and inclusion in the firm, in the legal profession and in our communities.
The evening kicked off with a presentation by Pepper’s 2014 Champion of Diversity Award winner Brian W. Ellis, vice president of restorative therapies group counsel, and chief counsel for Medtronic Spinal in Memphis, Tenn.
Ellis joined Medtronic in 2010, where he has worked to develop diverse legal talent within the company, and to set and achieve diversity and inclusion goals. Before joining Medtronic, Ellis was general counsel for the Monitoring Solutions and Services businesses at General Electric Healthcare. He also served as global compliance officer for GE Healthcare, where he was responsible for enforcing GE’s integrity policies, monitoring and mitigating legal and compliance risks, and conducting internal integrity, FCPA, and anti-kickback investigations. Ellis began his legal career in 1991 as a litigator in Chicago. From 1997 to 2001, he served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the criminal division of the Chicago office.
In accepting the Champion of Diversity award, Ellis announced that he will donate the monetary portion of the award to Paul Quinn College in Dallas, one of the nation’s 106 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Paul Quinn College President Michael J. Sorrell is Ellis’ childhood friend, and is working to transform the school into an elite institution.
In his remarks at the Celebrate Diversity event, Pepper’s CEO Scott Green spoke about how diversity contributes to Pepper’s overall success as a firm.
“Our success as a national law firm is dependent upon diversity and inclusion. At Pepper, we go beyond demographic diversity, and consider the diversity of viewpoints, talents, and experiences in our efforts to recruit and retain top talent, to be an employer of choice, and to assist clients in reaching their diversity and inclusion goals,” Green said.
Former U.S. District Court Judge and current of counsel, Honorable James T. Giles, the first African-American lawyer to join Pepper Hamilton and the first person of color to be elected to the firm’s partnership, announced the winners of a firm-sponsored essay contest.
Now in its fourth year, the Honorable James T. Giles High School Essay Contest introduces Philadelphia high school students to laws and legal decisions that have a broad impact on our society, and recognizes them for their work. The experience may spark an interest in some participants to think about a career in law, potentially leading to a more diverse legal profession down the road.
This year, the contest focused on separation of church and state, and a case involving a New York town in which residents challenged the right of the town government to begin official town meetings with a prayer. Students were asked to argue one of three positions in their essays: such prayers can be specific to a religion as long as they do not disparage others’ beliefs; prayers should be general enough to be inclusive of all faiths; or prayers should not be allowed before government meetings.
Giles also acknowledged Pepper’s summer associates for organizing a successful toy and game drive to benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Philadelphia.