Born in Bristol, Tenn. to a Cuban mother and raised in Troy, Ala., Olivia Bensinger began her legal career as an associate with the firm in 2017. In June 2019, she joined the firm's Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, and became head of the Latinx Attorney Affinity Group.
Why is diversity important to you?
Diversity in the workplace is something that should happen naturally, but unfortunately that's not always the case, especially in the legal field. Promoting and encouraging diversity in the workplace is important for multiple reasons.
First, everyone should have equal access to learn and grow in their chosen field, and a responsible employer must provide that access. HHR has a long history of giving people that equal opportunity, but we have to put the work in to continue that trend. Second, practically it is important because it brings different perspectives and skills to the workplace. Lawyers are problem solvers so we need people coming at problems from a variety of angles. Third, diversity helps bring in business. You never know where the next client will come from and it's important to have people from a wide range of backgrounds who can access different markets.
For me personally, diversity is important because it's just more interesting. I am interested in learning from and getting to know people who bring a variety of experiences to the table and can speak from that experience. I want to hear stories I haven't heard a thousand times. I want to hear stories I can relate to, even when they're not told by someone with my background.
What challenges have you faced as a diverse lawyer and how did you overcome them?
As a Latina, I have not experienced adversity because I pass. As a woman, I have had a few clients who have not taken me or my advice seriously because they were not previously inclined to listen to women. I had to do good work and earn their trust so that our attorney-client relationship could proceed.
Why did you get involved with the Diversity Committee?
I wanted to be involved in the Diversity Committee because I wanted to connect with other Latinx lawyers throughout the firm and to be in a place to welcome any new Latinx lawyers to the firm. I was taken in and mentored by others Latinas in the New York office when I arrived, and I want to be able to do the same for new associates.
What's the best way for a law firm to increase the number of diverse attorneys?
Retention is key. Our firm has done a great job of recruiting diverse attorneys and we need to make sure we keep them, we give them work, and we promote their growth as they become more senior at the firm. Retention also includes listening to attorneys' needs and adjusting accordingly. When we are unable to promote diverse attorneys from within, we should have that aspect in mind as we recruit lateral placements.
What are the short-term and long-term goals for the group?
Short-term, I'm looking forward to getting to know people in the Latinx Affinity Group in other offices and learning about what groups are doing elsewhere. Long-term, I'd like to put efforts into growing the group at HHR and extending our reach outside the firm, especially as the firm builds its Latin American practice.