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AND THAT’S A BIG PART OF THE REASON WHY I’VE BEEN SO SUCCESSFUL.” — GRACE SPEIGHTS


“I HAD PARTNERS WHO TOOK AN INTEREST IN ME,


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“It can be very diffi cult for women when you’re talk-


ing about diversity, and then you add color to that—it’s challenging. You’re still one of a few if not the only one at your fi rm,” says Speights, who was recently awarded the Charlotte E. Ray Trailblazer Award by the National Bar Association's Greater Washington Area Chapter. “When I was coming along as an associate, for a long time I was the only African American lawyer in the offi ce, and I often relied on people outside of the fi rm for reality checks. And I was fortunate. I had good mentors within the fi rm. I had partners who took an interest in me, and that’s a big part of the reason why I’ve been so successful. But you look around and there’s not a lot that you have in common with a lot of people. Fortunately, there were some African American partners at other fi rms who I could reach out to and ask questions, and they were a big help to me.”


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MOVING THE FIRM FORWARD Regardless of their race, ethnicity, or gender, managing partners are selected for the skills and expertise they bring to a fi rm, as well as their ability to lead the attorneys who make up their staff . If you ask Anthony Pierce, partner in charge of the Washington, D.C., offi ce of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, there’s a fi ne line between doing it right and getting it all wrong. Although the recognition that comes from such a notable position is enviable, Pierce says managing partners have to balance meeting clients’ expectations with setting a strategic direction within their fi rms, all while producing tangible results. T e challenges they face as partners of color have to take second place to the larger needs of the fi rm. “You should be known for your practice of law, not your


management role,” Pierce says. “Clients don’t hire you to manage; clients hire you to practice law. My view and my goal,


MAY/JUNE 2011 DIVERSITY & THE BAR®


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