Blank Rome Announces 2020 Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Update
Sophia Lee to Continue as Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer in 2020;
Christopher Lewis to Transition to Emeritus Role
Blank Rome LLP is pleased to announce that Sophia Lee will serve as Blank Rome’s Firm-wide Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer and Christopher A. Lewis will transition to an emeritus role, effective January 1, 2020. Sophia and Chris have served as co-chiefs since January 2019, when Sophia joined Chris in this capacity. Chris was appointed to the role in May 2011 and has transformed the Firm’s diversity and inclusion efforts in significant ways.
“Blank Rome’s founders envisioned a Firm where people of diverse backgrounds could practice law together,” said Grant S. Palmer, Blank Rome’s Managing Partner and CEO. “Committed to this guiding vision, Chris has successfully led, advanced, and expanded our Firm’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. Under his leadership, we have received numerous honors and awards for our collective efforts to foster an environment of diversity and inclusion through progressive Firm-wide initiatives. Chris and Sophia have worked side-by-side over the past year to execute on several innovative programs and plan for 2020 and beyond. We are thrilled that Sophia will be leading our efforts and that Chris will continue to provide guidance and support in his emeritus role.”
As Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Sophia will continue to work closely with the Firm’s leadership on strategic initiatives and programming, including recruiting and mentoring; client partnerships, education programs, and special events; general counsel and thought leader roundtables; career development and advancement programs; and ongoing community outreach. She will also continue to chair the Firm’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and work closely with the Firm’s BR Pride, BR United, and Women’s Forum affinity groups.
“I am excited to step into the role of Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, leading the Firm’s charge of increasing diversity, embracing inclusion, and advancing equity as we look to the future of the legal profession—from addressing the concerns of our legal communities to meeting the need of our clients,” said Sophia. “Standing on the shoulders of those who have come before me, the Honorable Nathaniel R. Jones, our Firm’s first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, followed by Chris Lewis, I will be a steadfast advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity who recognizes the legacy of our Firm’s founders, elevates our difficult discussions, and continues to push forward toward our ambitious goals and objectives. On a personal note, I am grateful to Chris for his mentorship, championship, and friendship as we have worked together over the years on the Firm’s diversity and inclusion initiatives and with the broader legal community.”
In addition to her leadership role as Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Sophia is a partner in the Firm’s Energy group, concentrating her successful litigation practice in the energy industry, handling commercial, environmental, products liability, and toxic tort matters. She previously served as chief litigation counsel at Sunoco, Inc., as a litigation attorney at another AmLaw 100 law firm, and as a federal judicial law clerk to the late Honorable James McGirr Kelly, U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. She has also previously held an adjunct assistant professorship at Temple University’s School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, affiliated with the Fox School of Business.
Sophia is a frequent lecturer and author and holds leadership positions for numerous legal, civic, and charitable associations. She currently serves on the boards of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania, Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, the Philadelphia Education Fund, and the Public Health Management Corporation. She is an active member of the Forum of Executive Women, a board member and past president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania, a board member and past president of the Philadelphia Diversity Law Group, a past diversity chair for the Philadelphia Bar Association, and a past vice-chair for the Mayor's Commission on Asian American Affairs.
In acknowledgement of her impressive professional achievements and civic contributions, Sophia has received numerous national and regional recognitions. Most recently, she was named an “Influencer of Law” by The Philadelphia Inquirer, a recognition that honors Philadelphia’s leading lawyers who have “shaped, changed, and transformed the legal industry.”
Blank Rome’s Diversity and Inclusion Successes under Chris Lewis’ Leadership
Mansfield Rule: In June 2017, Blank Rome became one of 30 leading law firms to pilot Diversity Lab’s Mansfield Rule program, which measures whether law firms have affirmatively considered women and attorneys of color—at least 30 percent of the candidate pool—for leadership and governance roles, equity partner promotions, and lateral positions. Blank Rome has since achieved Mansfield Rule Certification for successfully completing the pilot program and signed on to participate in expanded iterations of the initiative, Mansfield Rule 2.0 and Mansfield Rule 3.0.
Perspectives: In December 2017, the Firm launched Perspectives, Blank Rome’s inaugural diversity and inclusion newsletter. Published twice a year, Perspectives proudly highlights the Firm’s latest diversity and inclusion news and events as well as provides thoughtful insight on current diversity and inclusion issues in the legal industry and beyond.
Women’s Leadership Summit: Beginning in October 2017, and each year thereafter, Blank Rome has held its annual Women’s Leadership Summit, an exclusive client event that brings together women leaders in law and business to participate in unique and collaborative learning experiences. Drawing from a stellar lineup of facilitators and the collective experience of attendees, the innovative summit offers meaningful professional connections and fresh leadership and business tactics.
Honorable Nathaniel R. Jones Diversity and Inclusion Award: Inaugurated in 2013, the Honorable Nathaniel R. Jones Diversity and Inclusion Award is presented annually to a Blank Rome attorney or professional who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in promoting diversity and inclusion within the Firm. The award is named in honor of civil rights leader, activist, and retired judge Nathaniel R. Jones, who has been with Blank Rome since 2002 and served as the Firm’s first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.
LCLD Programs: An active member of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (“LCLD”), the Firm nominated its first LCLD Fellow in 2011 and its first LCLD Pathfinder in 2017, and has nominated new Fellows and Pathfinders every year since. The LCLD Fellows and Pathfinder programs aim to help a new and more diverse generation of attorneys ascend to positions of leadership.
Additional Diversity Lab Programs:
- Women in Law Hackathon Alliance: In December 2016, the Firm joined the Women in Law Hackathon Alliance, Phase II of the Women in Law Hackathon initiative, which brought law firms from across the country together to increase gender parity in the legal profession.
- Women in Law Hackathon: In June 2016, the Firm participated in the inaugural Women in Law Hackathon, a Shark Tank-style competition that brought together partners from law firms across the country with industry experts and Stanford Law students to create innovative solutions aimed at advancing and retaining experienced women lawyers in law firms.
- OnRamp Fellowship: In September 2014, the Firm began its partnership with Diversity Lab, through its participation in the OnRamp Fellowship, the largest global re-entry platform promoting experienced women lawyers rejoining the legal profession after a hiatus.
Diversity and Inclusion Recognition:
- Diversity Lab’s Mansfield Rule Certification (2018–2019)
- Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Best Place to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality (2016–2019)
- Working Mother’s Best Law Firms for Women (2015, 2017, 2019)
- LeGaL Foundation’s Community Vision Award (2017)
- Philadelphia Business Journal’s Advancing Women Company Award (2017)
- National Diversity Council’s Multicultural Leadership Award (2015)