Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
At Kostelanetz LLP, we believe that diversity, equity, and inclusion contribute to a safe and welcoming environment for our employees and strengthen our firm. We welcome employment applications from women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, persons with disabilities, people from low-income backgrounds, and veterans. Applications from people who are members of underrepresented and/or marginalized communities are highly encouraged.
In 2022, at the suggestion of Kostelanetz partner, Sharon McCarthy, and paralegal, Michael Gelb, we engaged Blue Level Diversity and Inclusion Training to provide all partners and employees with training on issues relating to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
After the training was conducted, the firm followed up by forming a firm DEI Committee consisting of one staff member, one paralegal, one associate or counsel, and one partner. Our employees are encouraged to approach any of these committee members to speak openly and offer suggestions. The committee, which was organized by Kostelanetz partner, Caroline Rule, is expected to meet periodically to review issues that have come up and discuss possible responses.
We further support DEI through our personnel policies. For example, Kostelanetz LLP offers a parental leave policy for full-time lawyers, which includes an 18-week period of leave as well as a Ramp Up/Down Program. The firm’s Ramp Up/Down Program can ease an attorney’s transition to and from an 18-week Paid Parental Leave (PPL). PPL provides a wage replacement benefit of up to 18 weeks’ salary while on leave after the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child. The firm also maintains an anonymous suggestion box for its employees.
Kostelanetz has been a leader in promoting DEI:
For example, in June 2021, the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Section of Taxation selected Kostelanetz partner, Caroline D. Ciraolo, as the section’s first Vice Chair of Membership, Diversity, and Inclusion. As Vice Chair, she was tasked with leading “efforts to actively support the growth of Section membership, ensure the Section meets member needs, broaden Section diversity, and include diverse persons in all Section activities.” Caroline, who was quoted in the media on DEI issues several years before, noted her commitment to diversity in the tax bar, saying, “Bringing more diversity to the tax bar is essential to eliminating lingering implicit and institutional biases and making the tax bar inclusive of a wider variety of opinions and experiences. That’s why I am honored to serve in this new role and grateful for the opportunity to work with my colleagues throughout the tax bar to prioritize and enhance diversity and inclusion in the Section and the tax profession as a whole.”
In July 2020, at the suggestion of Kostelanetz partner, Sharon McCarthy, we joined forces with other law firms across the country to combat systemic racism as part of the new Law Firm Anti-Racism Alliance (LFAA), provides pro bono counsel in concert with legal services organizations and other stakeholders focused on identifying and combating systemic racism. The new alliance’s stated purpose is to “leverage the resources of the private bar in partnership with legal services organizations to amplify the voices of the communities and individuals oppressed by racism, to better use the law as a vehicle for change that benefits communities of color and to promote racial equity in the law.” Our firm has long been committed to pro bono work and views the alliance as an opportunity to contribute the litigation and tax skills of its attorneys in order to make a significant impact on breaking the cycle of racism that causes profound inequality and injustice throughout our society.
In September 2022, as part of our role in the Law Firm Anti-Racism Reliance, Kostelanetz lawyer, Stephen A. Josey, participated in an American Bar Association panel entitled “Tax System Working Group Discussion Series: Diversity in the Tax Bar.”
In March 2002, Kostelanetz partner, Bryan Skarlatos, established the Angelo Skarlatos Scholarship to Promote Diversity and Inclusion at Penn State Dickinson Law. First preference for the scholarship is given to eligible recipients who contribute to the diversity of the student body.
In January 2021, the firm expanded its Pre-Law Paralegal Program for high-achieving college graduates with the inauguration of an internship for pre-law undergraduates at Spelman College. Spelman College is a historically Black liberal arts college for women located in Atlanta, Georgia, known for its academic rigor and rich history as the No. 1 ranked Historically Black College and University (HBCU). Kostelanetz wanted to support a pipeline of Spelman graduates into the bar and introduce Spelman students to our firm’s particular practice areas. While Black American women make up roughly 7% of the U.S. population, according to the National Association of Law Placement, in 2020, only 3% of law firm associates and less than 1% of law firm partners were Black women. More broadly, Black Americans continue to be underrepresented in the legal profession overall, making up about 13.4% of the U.S. population, but only 4.5% of lawyers in 2022. Our first Spelman intern, Destiny Reese, reached the following conclusion in an article for Federal Lawyer: “What this means for tax law is that white males are at the forefront of decision-making, policy-reforming, and the overall-representation of U.S. taxpayers. Implicit biases affect their ability to effectively represent members of diverse demographics. As millions of taxpayers continue to face systemic racism and classism, the lack of representation exacerbates their oppression.” The benefits of the program are further described in a conversation involving our first three interns, who now attend Harvard, UVA, and Emory law schools.
After launching our Spelman internship program, our firm began sponsoring the Morehouse-Spelman Pre-Law Society (MSPLS). As a sponsor, Kostelanetz connects directly with the student leaders of MSPLS to co-create events and panels that align with our goals as well as students’ interests. Past programs include “LSAT 101,” “Tax Law and Racial Justice,” and “Exploring Careers in Tax Law.” In 2022, the firm hosted a panel for MSPLS students entitled “From Spelman to Law School: A Conversation with Kennedy Mackey, Destiny Reese, and Grace Hall.” Our lawyers also assisted MSPLS students by conducting mock interviews to help them prepare them for employment and law school applications.
Kostelanetz also supports the American Bar Association Tax Section’s Loretta Collins Argrett Fellowship program. The fellowship seeks to create a more accessible and equitable pipeline into the tax bar by identifying, engaging, and infusing historically underrepresented individuals into the ABA Tax Section membership to support the expansion, diversification, and inclusiveness of the profession. Kostelanetz lawyer, Garrett Brodeur, serves as a mentor for participants in the program.