Request an Appointment Client Login SEARCH

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

You Are Valued Here

Pender & Coward believes that we must build a culture of inclusivity that celebrates and develops diversity to better serve our employees, clients, and the communities where we live and work. Diversity includes race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, language, political viewpoints, sexual orientation, and people of all abilities and socioeconomic backgrounds. We value the creative solutions and unique perspectives that people with different backgrounds and varied experiences and viewpoints provide in addressing the wide variety of challenges we face as a law firm and as a broader community. This is critical to our firm’s success and our ability to grow and contribute as a member of our community. We are committed to adding and encouraging new voices that reflect our values and to cultivating a work environment where those voices are heard.

Our firm is focused on “Service. Integrity. Results.” We acknowledge the work ahead and will measure our progress to ensure accountability.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee

The firm has a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee (the “DEI Committee”). The DEI Committee includes a group of attorneys and employees who have joined together to help Pender & Coward more clearly define its path forward to a more diverse and inclusive workplace and to propose new policies and procedures that will help the firm attract and retain individuals from different backgrounds.

The DEI Committee wants to hear all voices and viewpoints. Employees and shareholders are encouraged to contact any committee member or email the DEI committee to provide any insights, concerns, or information that they have regarding the committee’s mission.

DEI Events Hosted by P&C

On October 19, 2021, Pender & Coward hosted a firmwide training session to learn more about unconscious and implicit bias in the workplace. The event was led by Jonathan Zur, President and CEO of Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities. Employees from all levels and offices and 65% of attorneys attended the event, which included interactive sessions to raise awareness and serve as a catalyst for action. The event concluded with a productive discussion about what individual and structural changes can be made to ensure that biases play no part in how Pender & Coward operates. Receiving a positive response to the training session, the firm’s DEI Committee is planning additional firmwide events as we seek to build a more diverse and inclusive workplace.

DEI Commemorations

International Day for Toleranc

In 1995, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) adopted a Declaration of Principles of Tolerance to generate public awareness of the dangers of intolerance.  UNESCO stated,

[T]olerance is neither indulgence nor indifference. It is respect and appreciation of the rich variety of our world's cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. Tolerance recognizes the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of others. People are naturally diverse; only tolerance can ensure the survival of mixed communities in every region of the globe.

Following UNESCO’s lead, the next year the UN General Assembly adopted a Resolution proclaiming November 16th as International Day for Tolerance, and it has been observed annually since that date.

International Day for Tolerance focuses on tolerance behavior and building public awareness about the importance of non-violence for the betterment of society.  Some people choose to observe this day by writing essays or telling stories of how their lives have been affected by intolerance.   Others organize educational activities to promote the acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, forms of expression, and ways of living in our modern society.  Every two years on this day, UNESCO awards the Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence to institutions, organizations, and persons who have made global contributions toward tolerance and non-violence.

As technology brings us into increasing contact with people of different backgrounds, cultures, and faith, tolerance is necessary to ensure that all people feel valued and respected and where harmony can be achieved across communities and workplaces.

NELSON Mandela International Day

July 18 is celebrated as the birthday of one of the most transformational figures of the twentieth century, Nelson Mandela.  Born Rolihlahla Mandela in the village of Mvezo in the Eastern Cape of South Africa in 1918, the name “Nelson” was given to him by an elementary teacher. His mother was Nonqaphi Nosekeni and his father was Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela, principal counsellor to the Acting King of the Thembu people, Jongintaba Dalindyebo.  After the death of his father when he was 12 years old, Mandela became a ward of Jongintaba at the Great Place in Mqhekezweni.

During his university years, Mandela became active in student groups protesting the policy of apartheid, an oppressive system based on separation of the races, a vestige of Dutch colonization that resulted in second-class status for the indigenous peoples of South Africa. After earning his B.A. at the University of South Africa, he helped to form the Youth League of the African National Congress which adopted the Programme of Action in 1949, which called for a more militant approach to protesting apartheid. 

Mandela’s participation in various campaigns of civil disobedience against unjust laws resulted in a sentence of five years of hard labor. After his acquittal in the infamous marathon “Treason Trial of 1956” that lasted four years, Mandela went underground and later secretly left South Africa to travel internationally and gain support to end apartheid and other racially based policies.  Charged with leaving the country without a permit and inciting workers to strike, he was sentenced to prison. At his trial in 1964 he ended his famous “Speech from the Dock” with these lines: “I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination.  I have cherished the ideas of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.  It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve.  But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” Click the following link to read the entire speech https://www.un.org/en/events/mandeladay/court_statement_1964.shtml

Mandela was moved to the notorious prison on Robben Island where he became known by his prisoner number, 46664, which became a powerful symbol used to represent his legacy around the world. Throughout his imprisonment he was offered at least three conditional offers of release, all of which he refused. His commitment to human rights, freedom, and justice influenced an entire generation of young South Africans like Steve Biko, who was martyred in 1976, as well as numerous American civil rights leaders and politicians, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and future President Barack Obama.

In 1990 Mandela was finally released after 27 years in prison.  A mere four years later he voted for the first time in his life in an election that resulted in him becoming the first democratically elected President of a free South Africa.  True to his promise to serve only a single term, he stepped down in 1999 with the words, “It is in your hands.” 

Mandela never wavered in his devotion to democracy, equality, and learning. As a human rights lawyer and prisoner of conscience, he exemplified the power of one individual to transform the world.  This “founding father of peace in South Africa,” insisted that “to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”  In 2014 the UN General Assembly established the Nelson Mandela prize to recognize the achievements of those who have served humanity in an exceptional manner.

Juneteenth

In commemoration of Juneteenth, which in 2022 falls on Sunday, June 19, Pender & Coward will close its offices on Monday, June 20, 2022.  In doing so, Pender & Coward joins with those in America who memorialize the emancipation of African Americans who were enslaved in the United States.  Because one of the goals of Juneteenth is to educate, we’re providing the following links to Virginia House Resolution 56 (adopted in 2007), which officially recognizes Juneteenth in the Commonwealth https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?071+ful+HR56ER+pdf and helpful historical information about this occasion https://www.britannica.com/topic/Juneteenth.

Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month

The month of May is recognized by Congress as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, celebrating the historical and cultural contributions of Asian and Pacific Islanders to the United States.  Representing approximately 7% of the U.S. population, over 20,000,000 people, the Census Bureau classifies individuals of Asian descent as “having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent,” including China, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Korea, India, Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Philippines, and those descended from the islands of Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia, as well as those from Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti, Guam, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea.

First designated as a week-long celebration by President Jimmy Carter in 1978, President George H.W. Bush designated a month-long celebration in 1990.  May was chosen to commemorate the migration of the first immigrants from Japan in May 1843 and the completion of the transcontinental railroad by over 20,000 Asian immigrants in May 1869.

Many contributions have been made to the law and legal community by Asian/Pacific Islanders.  Discrimination defined the experience of early practitioners.  For instance,  Hong Ye Chang became the first Chinese American lawyer in the U.S. in 1888, after graduating with honors from Columbia Law School.  New York allowed him to apply to the bar based on a naturalization certificate, but California never allowed him to practice, and only granted him admission to the state bar posthumously in 2015.  Dalip Singh Saund immigrated from Punjab, India to study agriculture and mathematics, but became very involved in the movement for immigrants of South Asian descent to become naturalized citizens, leading to the Luce-Celler Act of 1946 which allowed for increased immigration and naturalization.  In 1949, after becoming a naturalized citizen himself, Saund became a judge, and in 1955, he became the first Asian American, Indian American, and Sikh American to be elected to Congress.

Prominent attorneys of Asian/Pacific American heritage in recent history include Dale Minami, who led the reopening of the case of Korematsu v. United States in the early 1980s which helped overturn Fred Korematsu’s criminal conviction 40 years after the case closed.  Korematsu had been criminally convicted for refusing to move to a Japanese American internment camp during World War II.  Kamala Harris made history when she was elected in 2020 as the first female Vice President, and the first Asian American and African American Vice President. Harris was also the first woman, African American, and South Asian American,  to serve as California’s Attorney General, before serving as a U.S. Senator.   

Women's History Month

Pender and Coward joins the nation in celebrating Women’s History month in March. In 1975, the United Nations recognized March 8 as International Women’s Day, which had been celebrated in many nations since the early 1900s.  The UN General Assembly cited the following reasons in its resolution: “To recognize the fact that securing peace and social progress and the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms require the active participation, equality and development of women; and to acknowledge the contribution of women to the strengthening of international peace and security.” 

In the United states, Women’s History month grew out of a 1978 school celebration in Sonoma, California of women’s achievements.  In 1980, after other communities had adopted the celebration, President Carter proclaimed the week of March to be Women’s History Week. In 1987, after being petitioned by the National Women's History Project, Congress passed a resolution designating the entire month of March as Women's History Month, and since that time, Presidents have made annual proclamations recognizing the March celebration. 

Women have excelled in every area of American society, including the arts, athletics, entertainment, education, law, and medicine.  The Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 and the subsequent signing of the women’s Declaration of Sentiments are considered the formal beginning of the movement for women’s rights.  As a law firm, Pender & Coward particularly recognizes women who have been at the vanguard of forward progress in the legal field.

As early as 1638, Margaret Brent became the first female to practice law in colonial Maryland and Virginia.  Records indicate her practice included more than 100 court cases.  Following the Civil War, Myra Bradwell published the “Chicago Legal News,” a widely circulated legal newspaper in which she wrote columns on laws related to women.  She appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1873 in what is considered to be the first sexual discrimination case in American jurisprudence.

In the next decade, Lettie Burlingame started The Equity Club at the University of Michigan which was the first professional organization for women lawyers.  Lydia Burton Conley, the first Native American female lawyer, taught herself the law to protect her tribe’s cemetery burial lands.  Although the Supreme Court refused to hear her case, her efforts resulted in a 1912 ban against the cemetery’s desecration.  Genevieve Rose Cline, the first woman federal judge in America, was nominated by President Coolidge to the U.S. Customs Court in 1928 where she served for over two decades while also advocating for consumer protections and a full range of women’s rights.  Sarah Tilghman Hughes, a Texas state district judge from 1935-61, administered the oath of office to President Lyndon Johnson and became the only woman in U.S. history to swear in a U.S. president.  Sarah Weddington, the lead attorney in the Roe v Wade case, became the youngest person ever to argue and win a Supreme Court Case at the of age 26.  In 1981, President Reagan appointed Sandra Day O’Connor as the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 1993, Janet Reno became the first female U.S. Attorney General.  That same year, President Clinton named Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the U.S. Supreme Court.  As one of only eight women in her Harvard Law School class, she witnessed discrimination first-hand and became a strong advocate for gender equality until her death in 2020.  Countless other female attorneys have made invaluable contributions to the field of law in spite of challenging obstacles.  Pender & Coward celebrates these trailblazers for their determination, resilience, and contributions in creating a more just and equitable society and enhancing the legal profession.

Black History Month

In February, Pender & Coward joins the rest of the country in commemorating Black History Month by celebrating the achievements of African Americans. Black History Month, the seeds of which germinated in the 1920s from the efforts of noted historian Carter G. Woodson, has traditionally been celebrated during February to correspond to the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The United States has officially observed Black History Months since 1976 when President Ford called it an opportunity to “honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”  African American history is American history, and their struggles and triumphs are central to the story of our country.

As a firm committed to diversity and inclusion, Pender & Coward particularly wishes to recognize the accomplishments and contributions of African Americans to the field of law. From legal trailblazers, such as Constance Baker Motley, the first African American woman to become a federal judge, and Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to sit on the Supreme Court, to modern leaders and intellectuals, such as Vice President Kamala Harris and former law professor and 44th President Barack Obama, African Americans have left an indelible mark on our jurisprudence and the country.

While we are acknowledging the contributions of African Americans, we should also take the time to focus on creating a society that cultivates African American leaders and a more equitable future.

There are many public events and gatherings taking place in Hampton Roads for those who want more information about the legacy of trailblazing African Americans or who wish to celebrate their accomplishments with others.  The following link contains information related to those events: https://www.wavy.com/black-history-month/black-history-month-2022-local-events-and-gatherings/

MLK day

On January 12, 2022, we will once again celebrate the birth and legacy of the influential civil rights leader and orator Martin Luther King Jr.   In 1983, Congress established that the third Monday in January would be recognized as Martin Luther King Day, or MLK Day.  All 50 states have also observed MLK Day since 2000.

Born in 1929, Martin Luther King Jr. became a Baptist minister and activist who advocated the use of nonviolent means to end racial segregation in the United States.  Through his leadership and tireless efforts for racial justice, Dr. King became the voice of the growing Civil Rights Movement in the United States. beginning in 1955, when he helped organize the nonviolent bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, which led to the prohibition of racial segregation of buses in that city.

On August 26, Dr. King notably participated in the 1963 March on Washington (“March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”) in which the participants demanded an end to racial segregation and discrimination in employment and passage of meaningful civil rights legislation.

During the march, Dr. King delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech to over 250,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where he called for civil and economic rights and an end to racism in the United States. To watch this defining moment of the civil rights movement in American history, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vP4iY1TtS3s.

Dr. King’s voice and moral standing were instrumental in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed racial discrimination in public accommodations and employment. At the age of 35, he received the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize for his leadership of the Civil Rights movement and his commitment to racial justice, making him the youngest person to have received the award.  He continued fighting for racial justice until his assassination on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.

Human Rights Day

December 10 is celebrated as Human Rights Day (HRD) each year and around the world in countries that are members of the United Nations.  HRD recognizes the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on December 10, 1948.

The UDHR followed the Second World War, the creation of the UN, and the international community’s determination to never again allow the atrocities seen in that war to reoccur.  The UDHR recognizes that “the inherent dignity of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,” and declares that human rights are universal, to be enjoyed by all, no matter who they are or where they live.  The 30 rights and freedoms include, among others, the right to asylum, the right to freedom from torture, the right to free speech, the right to education, and the right to social security, health, and education.  Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and women from many nations deserve much of the credit for the creation of the UDHR.

The UDHR is not a treaty, so it does not directly create legal obligations; however, because countries have consistently invoked its precepts for more than 70 years it has become “binding as a part of customary international law.”  The UDHR is available in more than 500 languages and is the most translated document in the world.  This year’s HRD theme relates to equality, as expressed in Article 1 of the UDHR, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

To read the UDHR or to learn more about its adoption and application to contemporary conflicts, visit https://un.org/en/about-us/universal-declaration-of-human-rights.  To learn more about HRD around the world, visit https://un.org/en/observance/human-rights-day

National Hispanic & Latino Heritage Month

In commemoration of National Hispanic & Latino Heritage Month, Pender & Coward recognizes and celebrates the many contributions, diverse cultures, and extensive histories of the American Latino communities.  Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic & Latino Heritage Month between September 15th and October 15th, significant dates because the independence days of several Latin American countries are celebrated during that time.  As one of our DEI goals this month is to educate, we’re providing this link to helpful historical information, resources, and nationwide celebrations for this important commemoration: https://www.hispanicheritagemonth.gov/about/.

Juneteenth

In commemoration of Juneteenth, which in 2021 falls on Saturday, June 19, Pender & Coward will close its offices on Friday, June 18, 2021.  In doing so, Pender & Coward joins with those in Virginia and other states around the country who honor the emancipation of persons who were enslaved in the United States. As one of the goals of Juneteenth is to educate, we’re providing the following links to Virginia House Resolution 56 (adopted in 2007), which officially recognizes Juneteenth in the Commonwealth https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?071+ful+HR56ER+pdf and helpful historical information about this occasion https://www.britannica.com/topic/Juneteenth.