The Managing Partners Diversity Collaborative is a group of 12 major Grand Rapids law firms, in association with the GRBA, working together to promote and achieve greater diversity and inclusion in the West Michigan legal community through education, hiring, retention and promotion.



In June of 2011, The Grand Rapids Bar Association (GRBA) announced the signing of its Managing Partners Diversity Collaborative Agreement, a formal commitment between 12 major Grand Rapids law firms and the GRBA, to work together to promote and achieve greater diversity and inclusion in the West Michigan legal community through education, hiring, retention and promotion.

  • The participating members in the Agreement have committed to develop a 5-year Action Plan to address three initial challenges:
    Increasing the number of attorneys of color;
  • Improving the retention of both female attorneys and attorneys of color;
  • Expanding the pipeline of persons of color entering law school and the profession.

The Action Plan, finalized in 2012, addressed pipeline issues, recruiting, and retention and will include alternatives, targets and time frames against which progress will be measured during the 5-year period.

This effort, the first of its kind in the state of Michigan, was developed by the leadership of the signatory firms with facilitation and guidance from the GRBA and its Diversity Committee, as well as the American Bar Association’s Center for Racial and Ethnic Diversity. Similar agreements in Columbus, OH and Kansas City, MO served as inspiration for the agreement, and the GRBA and the signatory members hope to build on the success of those programs.


In March 2012, the GRBA Managing Partners Diversity Collaborative unveiled the action plan of the Managing Partners Diversity Collaborative to increase diversity in the legal community.

More than 10 months in the making, the action plan details how the GRBA and the Collaborative' s 13 signatory firms will work to “achieve diversity and inclusion in the education, retention and promotion of Michigan’s attorneys.”  The five-year plan, which will be released during a 5 p.m. signing ceremony at the University Club in downtown Grand Rapids, establishes committees that will address three critical issues facing the Bar Association and members firms: 

  • Increasing the number of attorneys of color in West Michigan law firms within five years
  • Improve the rates of retention and advancement of female attorneys and attorneys
  • Expanding the pipeline of persons of color who enter law school and the profession

“Much thoughtfulness and hard work went into developing this action plan, which will provide a five-year roadmap for the Bar Association and area law firms as we work to increase diversity,” said Mark Smith, GRBA President.  “Through many discussions, the managing partners of West Michigan’s leading law firms realize that together we can accomplish much more than we can individually.

“As a legal community, we recognize the importance of collaboration to bring about changes that will increase our diversity and ensure we are open and inclusive.  This action plan is another significant step in that process.”

The Managing Partners Diversity Collaborative was formed in June 2011 after a series of productive discussions on ways that medium and large law firms can improve diversity and inclusion.  The action plan establishes three committees focused on pipeline development, recruitment and retention, then lays out specific steps that each will take.

Some of the actions recommended include:

  • Working with area high school guidance counselors and college pre-law advisors to position the collaborative firms and the GRBA as a resource
  • Developing a mentorship program model for high school and college students to encourage students law as a career
  • Recruiting attorneys and staff to participate in Schools of Hope tutoring programs, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and other programs
  • Pooling resources to provide financial assistance to students of color through scholarship or support in taking LSAT prep courses
  • Expanding opportunities for the Minority Clerkship Program, including development of judicial internships
  • Facilitating introductions of lateral candidates to member firms of the collaborative and developing a mechanism to share information
  • Developing a mentorship program for lateral associates of color to facilitate a connection to the community
  • Ensuring that work environments and work-related social activities are hospitable and inclusive
  • Developing a strategy to increase the number of female attorneys and attorneys of color in leadership positions
  • Instituting an annual training program on diversity and inclusion, sponsored by GRBA and collaborative member firms
  • Developing an annual conference that focuses on business development and leadership development for female attorneys and attorneys of color
  • Developing social media strategies to provide information and resources 


Quick Links

Five-Year Action Plan
grab LAW


Signatory Firms:


  • Barnes & Thornburg
  • Clark Hill
  • Dykema
  • Dickinson Wright PLLC
  • Foster Swift Collins & Smith
  • Miller Canfield
  • Miller Johnson
  • Price Heneveld
  • Rhoades McKee
  • Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge
  • Varnum
  • Warner Norcross & Judd

The agreement is available online here