Born and raised in Israel, where he worked as a lawyer in Tel Aviv, Doron Magen moved to New York in 2016. He joined the firm in May 2020 and began assisting HHR Pride in an unofficial capacity the following month. He officially joined the Committee for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in January 2021 when he became co-chair of HHR Pride.
Why is diversity and inclusion important to you?
While diversity demonstrates representation of many identities (genders, races, nationalities, sexual orientations, ages, etc.), it's only a first step in the right direction. It's important to make sure that diverse groups of people are integrated well into an environment, which is where inclusion comes into play.
As a gay, Jewish immigrant, diversity and inclusion are important to me on a personal level. Being part of a minority heightened my attention to, and understanding of, the struggles of other minorities, while also making me realize my privileged position as a cis white man. Diversity and inclusion, to me, means accepting people for who they truly are and making sure that everyone is being valued fairly and given a seat at the table.
What challenges have you faced as a diverse lawyer and how did you overcome them?
As any diverse attorney knows, simply being different is a challenge of its own. People naturally gravitate towards people who are similar to them, in and out of the workplace. Diverse attorneys are forced to balance their need to fit in the office culture with their other identities, while keeping true to themselves. Little things I encounter on a daily basis are a constant reminder of my 'otherness': effectively coming out every time I mention my husband in conversation, being anxious that my accent is too noticeable, not understating American sports references, etc. On top of that, there's the baggage of knowing that some people still hold prejudiced (e.g., anti-Semitic or homophobic) opinions towards social groups I belong to. Trying to fit in is trickier when you belong to a minority. For example, Americans have different sensibilities than Israelis and I constantly try to check myself to make sure my Israeli "chutzpah" is not interpreted as rudeness. Because this self-policing can be personally taxing, I strive to be very upfront about my background and celebrate it as a source of pride.
Why did you get involved with the Diversity Committee and take on a leadership role?
Initially, I was looking for kinship. I joined the firm during lockdown when everyone worked remotely and I searched for ways to meet and get to know my colleagues in a more social setting. I was very lucky to receive a warm welcome from everyone at Hughes Hubbard & Reed, but I believe there is no substitute for connections developed with people with shared life experiences and interests. When I joined HHR Pride, I had many ideas on how we can advance LGBTQ inclusion in the firm and strengthen our community, and I was happy to find colleagues who are passionate and enthusiastic about promoting the LGBTQ community at HHR just as much as I am.
What's the best way for a law firm to not only increase the number of diverse lawyers, but also retain them?
This distinction between hiring and retaining is crucial; I think many firms do a good job at hiring diverse attorneys, but need to improve their retention efforts.
On the hiring side, diverse attorneys should be a part of the interview stage to offset hidden biases in the hiring process. We all have unconscious biases that are almost impossible to overcome. Only by adding diverse attorneys to the interview and hiring process, can we counter unconscious bias by adding more points of view. On the retention front, representation is key. The most important thing firms should do is promote qualified diverse attorneys to key positions. Diverse attorneys that can't identify themselves in the partner ranks will not envision themselves as ever becoming partners themselves, and may eventually leave the firm.
Promoting diverse attorneys also includes encouraging and helping diverse associates to join and take leadership roles in diverse bar associations and boards and earn accolades on such work. Visibility is important both in hiring and retaining diverse associates. Shining a spotlight on diverse attorneys at the firm will not only help retain those lawyers, it may also draw diverse prospective hires to the firm. As a general rule, firms should encourage attorneys to express their otherness, whatever it may be, because at the end of the day everyone benefits from being able to bring their true self to work.
What are your short-term and long-term goals for the group?
I would like to see HHR Pride become a safe space for LGBTQ attorneys and their allies to converse freely on the challenges and triumphs of our community (such as the passage of the Equality Act only a week ago). I hope that HHR Pride can evolve to be a social space, where true bonds are created and mentorship relationships develop organically. On a firm-wide perspective, we already have some exciting initiatives intended to increase inclusivity and visibility at the firm that we will start this year. Long-term, I hope we can turn outwards and help the greater LGBTQ community, through pro bono programs dedicated to LGBTQ individuals, CLE presentations and financial contributions.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.