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Lindgergh Porter

Posted By CMCP, Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Lindbergh Porter, Chair Person of the Board | Littler Mendelson P.C.
by Gagandeep B. Kaur, Associate, Reed Smith LLP

Lindbergh Porter began his career at Littler Mendelson, a premier employment and labor law firm, as a summer associate. At that time, he did not plan to stay at Littler for more than three decades and become the Chairperson of Littler’s Board of Directors. However, one tether to the community after another kept Lindbergh at Littler and in California.

Lindbergh grew up in rural Holmes County, Mississippi, a small farming community of 3000 inhabitants. He attended segregated K-12 schools as various efforts to desegregate schools only started to reach rural Mississippi when Lindbergh was getting ready to graduate from high school and attend the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. In this environment, Lindbergh recalls his parents were undoubtedly his role models. He viewed his father as someone who “could do anything, who could fix anything, who could make anything right.” His mother was “a real independent thinker, planned things and thought three, four steps ahead.” Together his parents provided him and his sibling the security and safe environment they needed.

During his first or second year at the University of Illinois, Lindbergh decided to go to law school. He noted “this was 1968, close to the height of the student movement protests regarding Vietnam, obviously, the civil rights movement, the assassination of Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy. Those were the things that were searing to someone who was 17 or 18 years old.” These events shifted Lindbergh’s attention from math courses and becoming an engineer to social science, political science, history and economic courses and of course, law school.

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Even when Lindbergh was pursuing his undergraduate degree, he stayed involved and in touch with home – Mississippi. He continued to go home during the breaks and participated in a program promoting adult education. After graduating from the University of Illinois, as planned, Lindbergh returned to Mississippi to be close to his family and attend Ole Miss Law School. However, at the last-minute Lindbergh decided to move to California, where he attended business school and got married before attending the University of San Francisco, School of Law.

Lindbergh approached law school with a level of practicality – it was a means to an end. Therefore, he did not focus on the negatives of being in law school. He recalls “whatever occurred in law school, however tough it got or seemed to have been, I knew it was necessary for me to get where I wanted to go. I didn’t have any doubt that I’d become a lawyer and so being in law school was just part of that.” Nevertheless, Lindbergh’s innate interest in diversity and inclusion issues resulted in Lindbergh becoming involved in battles with the law school administration to do more and faster to admit minority and women students, and hire diverse faculty. Lindbergh’s involvement to push the needle on diversity and inclusion continued during his tenure at Littler through his involvement in Littler’s diversity and inclusion program and hiring committee.

Between his second and third year of law school, Lindbergh clerked at Littler and joined the firm as a first-year associate after he graduated from law school. He chose Littler because it offered immediate opportunities to get into court, try cases, prepare witnesses and learn pre-trial discovery. When asked to describe his interest in Labor and Employment law, Lindbergh notes over time, “the cases, the people and the dynamics of human relations capture you” and keep you engaged in the practice.

Nevertheless, the practice of law came with its challenges for Lindbergh including dealing with clients, opposing counsel, and judges who were not accustomed to working with a lawyer of color and questioned his competency. Lindbergh recalls “you would go into a room and the client is there and the judge assumes that the client’s the lawyer and that you’re the client or you’re some other relationship. Or going to a deposition and the opposing counsel assumed that I was a paralegal. And I didn’t say anything. I just said, ok, fine. Let’s swear the witness in. I’ll just ask questions until the real lawyer comes.” In addition to mastering the lawyering skills, Lindbergh noted that as a lawyer of color you had to be thoughtful and strategic about addressing some of the stereotypes and presumptions that were prevalent about minority and women attorneys, and take charge of your own career and success.

Aside from a six to seven-year break to work at Allen Matkins, Lindbergh spent his entire career at Littler. Lindbergh says there are a number of reasons that kept him at Littler. He respects his colleagues and their work and overtime, he became friends with his colleagues and got to know their families and children. Littler has provided him an opportunity to design his own practice and the support he needed for his community engagements.

Lindbergh notes “I was not expecting to be elected Chair. But I was prepared for it and so I stepped into the role and I become the Chair.” Lindbergh looks forward to using this opportunity to expand Littler’s presence on the international front and continue his commitment to advancing lawyers of color and women in the legal industry. As the Chair, he expects to have more direct involvement in Littler’s diversity and inclusion program – to look at statistics, see what is being accomplished and make suggestions on where Littler can make improvements.

He would like to expand and export Littler’s multi-year Career Advocacy Program (CAP) model to other firms. For the past five or six years, CAP has been pairing advocates, senior attorneys who are well-regarded in their practice area and are known for their business acumen with protégées, attorneys who are have been at Littler for some time and exhibited promising potential to become shareholders. In addition, each protégé has a champion, another attorney at a law firm or a general counsel from one of Littler’s clients. In addition to the annual meeting of protégées, champions and advocates, each champion makes time to get to know his or her protégé and focus on a number of discussion topics such as practice development, alternative careers, career advocacy and business development. While CAP is, time-consuming and requires resources, Lindbergh states it very important for the firm and the profession. To that end, Littler makes an effort to recognize those who contribute to CAP.

When it comes to advancing diversity and inclusion efforts, Lindbergh notes that it takes a “menu of things” on the part of a law firm. It includes diversity and inclusion programs; the leadership’s involvement in the hiring committee and diversity programs; accountability for recruiting; hiring and retaining diverse talent; funding for programs; involvement by everyone in diversity and women's leadership programs; and recognition of those who are contributing to the firm’s efforts.

Lindbergh notes that CMCP is a great resource for law firms and institutions interested in advancing diversity. It is a one-stop shop for learning about programs, initiatives, and connecting with minority, women and LGBQT attorneys. For clients interested in promoting diversity and inclusion, Lindbergh’s advice is to have minority and women attorneys interact with law firms, hire and evaluate law firms based on the firm’s efforts to promote diversity, require regular reporting on attorneys who are working on the client’s matters, systematically follow-up with the attorneys working on the matters, and ultimately vote with your feet.

His advice to young attorneys is to do good work and seize whatever opportunity that comes your way. He is firm believer that if you decide what you want to do and go for it, regardless of what somebody says, then people will help you reach your goal.

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