Amandeep Singh Sidhu, the first turbaned Sikh to step into University of Richmond School of Law and later the first turbaned Sikh to join US law firm McDermott Will & Emery, is optimistic about what lies ahead for the United States legal profession.
Sharing his experience from college to being made a partner at his present law firm in an article for The National Law Journal, the co-founder of US-based civil/human rights nonprofit organisation Sikh Coalition said that just as other lawyers of colour had faced challenges before him, ‘getting to this level has not been easy and did not happen by chance’.
“It’s taken a personal commitment and willingness to work twice as hard as my non-diverse peers, mentors to guide me and sponsors who put their credibility on the line to support my success….As I now mentor other lawyers of colour, I am heartened that corporations are embracing the importance of both diversity and inclusion,” he narrated in the article entitled ‘McDermott Partner Recounts His Firsts as a Sikh Lawyer and the Wave of Diversity in the Profession’.
Amandeep is a partner in the litigation practice group with substantial experience representing companies in high stakes disputes, including clients across the health care, life science and pharmaceutical industries. He was recently recognised as a “40 Under 40” by the Washington Business Journal and “DC Rising Star” by The National Law Journal.
“Being the first Sikh at Collegiate was a harbinger of “firsts” ahead of me, a path charted by my parents when they came to Virginia 42 years ago. I was the first turbaned Sikh to attend the University of Richmond School of Law–where I was elected president of the Student Bar Association and student speaker at graduation. I was the first Sikh summer clerk at the Supreme Court of Virginia. Then, I became the first Sikh judicial clerk at the Court of Appeals of Virginia. When I joined McDermott Will & Emery in 2007, I became the first turbaned Sikh there,” he writes.
In the article, Amandeep took the opportunity to underline the importance of diversity in the work place by making reference to the remarks made by 2018 Oscar best actress winner Frances McDormant.
When receiving the award, the actress spoke about inclusion rider, two words that made his ears perk up.
McDormand had urged viewers and the assembled Hollywood luminaries to embrace a legal effort to push for greater on-screen diversity, according to one report.
In a nutshell, the inclusion rider is language that actors, producers, and directors can bake into their contracts, asking that their projects make a concerted effort to cast minorities, LGBTQ actors, and women in supporting and background roles. They can also ask for more diversity in below-the-line positions.
“When I look back on my journey, I could easily have ended up as the token nod to diversity at each step along the way. Instead, I was included—whether by invitation or, more often, through my own personal advocacy—to ensure that I had equal opportunities to excel.
“The term [inclusion rider] was immediately trending and continues to generate buzz. Inclusion riders are a thoughtful, deliberate approach to increase diversity in an industry that has slowly evolved to ‘reflect the world in which we actually live’,” Amandeep said.
He noted that inclusion riders are the latest evolution of the National Football League’s “Rooney Rule” and the current “Mansfield Rule” effort led by 44 law firms (including McDermott) and Diversity Lab.
“Firms that sign on to the Mansfield Rule certify that they will consider at least 30 percent women and minority lawyers for significant leadership roles—including promotions to equity partner, lateral searches, prominent committee membership and leadership,” he said.
As a policy, McDermott says that a diverse, inclusive culture enhances its ability to attract and retain extraordinary people who can bring the best, broadest and most innovative ideas and perspectives to bear on the complex challenges facing its clients.
“Our Firm-wide Diversity & Inclusion Committee comprises several dedicated subcommittees that steer us along the path to an ever more inclusive work environment while (1) ensuring that all of our colleagues understand the value of a diverse workplace and (2) maintaining an atmosphere in which all of our people have an equal opportunity to succeed. We are very proud that our lawyers and staff are deeply committed to extending this ethos of inclusion throughout the broader legal profession and our surrounding communities,” it notes at its website.
In his capacity at Sikh Coalition, he has led lobbying efforts in US Congress regarding hate crimes, profiling and workplace and public accommodation discrimination and serves as lead counsel in a multi-year effort to end the US military’s presumptive ban on the service of observant Sikhs and other religious minorities, according to information at the McDermott website.
While clerking, he was a member of the National Association of Appellate Court Attorneys and was appointed by Supreme Court of Virginia Chief Justice Leroy R. Hassell, Sr., to serve as a task force member of the Commission on Virginia Courts in the 21st Century: To Benefit All, To Exclude None.
Prior to law school, he was a business analyst for the Federal Defense Group of American Management Systems, Inc. While in law school, Aman was an associate editor of the Richmond Journal of Law and the Public Interest, vice president of the Moot Court Board and president of the Student Bar Association.
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