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Nilan Johnson Lewis Receives Women-Owned Business Certification

MINNEAPOLIS (February 7, 2022) – Minneapolis-based law firm Nilan Johnson Lewis (NJL) is proud to announce that it has received a Women-Owned Business Certification from the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). The certification is a significant achievement in the firm’s ongoing commitment to being an industry leader in diversity, equity, and inclusion, and makes NJL one of the largest certified women-owned law firms in the U.S.

For more than 25 years, NJL has fostered a diverse workplace with the knowledge that its clients are better served when attorneys and other professionals of varying backgrounds and perspectives work together to overcome challenges. This has led to diversity in the firm’s leadership, setting an example to others of how they can grow and succeed in their careers.

“We view this certification as one proof point in our continued path to achieving authentic diversity,” said Heidi Christianson, president of NJL.

“Our work is not finished. Part of what makes the NJL workplace special to us, and unique from other firms, is our long-standing belief that inclusivity results in better outcomes for our clients,” said Kim Ess, CEO of NJL. “Since our founding, we’ve sought input from all sectors of the firm when it comes to many key, firm-wide decisions. It’s not just the owners or management who have influence, we strive to provide access and input from everyone at all levels through surveys, tasks force assignments, and feedback. This certification demonstrates we are willing to tackle the hard stuff.”

In a historically male-dominated industry, being a women-owned business sets NJL apart from other firms. “When I was applying for a position at NJL, I remember looking through the firm’s biography gallery on the website and seeing so many women and attorneys of color, which was exciting to see because it helped me picture myself succeeding at the firm,” said Alia Abdi, an associate in the Labor and Employment practice group at NJL. “Once I got here, I knew that I had found exactly where I wanted to practice.”

As a certified women-owned business, NJL is enthusiastic about helping its clients meet their diversity, equity, and inclusion goals.

“As we have always been, we remain committed to delivering deep expertise and great service to our clients, including the growing number of clients who insist that their law firms share their values around the importance of working with diverse teams,” said Christianson. “Becoming a certified women-owned business is an example of us striving to better reflect who we have always been and who our clients expect us to be.”

In 2020, women made up 54.1% of law school graduates, according to The American Lawyer; however, that number drastically drops off at the partner level, with women making up only 21% of equity partners at U.S. law firms. While there are many causes for the drop-off in representation, a primary reason is women choosing to leave the private practice of law due to a lack of representation, as well as familial obligations often falling more heavily on them, leading to burnout in such a demanding career.

NJL prides itself on being attuned to the lives and varying priorities its employees have outside of work. The firm’s unique associate compensation policy that allows selection of billable hour expectations, its flexible hybrid workplace, inclusive parental policies for all employees, and having women leaders in sync with these concerns through experience, all help put these priorities at the forefront, which assists in the retention of talent.

“As a shareholder of the firm, I want us to be able to recruit and retain the best talent,” said Mark Girouard, chair of the Labor and Employment practice group at NJL. “Our inclusive policies around leave and hours expectations help us advance that goal and go hand-in-hand with being a women-owned business, where these issues are more highly prioritized than they may be at a more traditional firm.”

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About Nilan Johnson Lewis

Founded in 1996 and proud to be an independent law firm, NJL has earned a reputation for being innovative, forward-thinking, and bringing deep expertise and a total partnership approach to serving clients. The firm is committed to diverse hiring, advancement, and retention of women, people of color, and those with different backgrounds and lifestyles. The firm focuses on five areas of law: labor and employment, product liability/mass tort litigation, business litigation, health care, and corporate and transactional services.

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