Manatt is pleased to announce that Michelle Cooke has been named its first-ever Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer (CDIO). This appointment formalizes Cooke’s significant and long-standing contributions in advancing diversity and inclusion initiatives throughout the Manatt and legal communities. An equity partner and member of Manatt’s Board of Directors, she will continue to serve as leader of the firm’s IP Protection and Enforcement practice and chair of the firm’s Committee on Diversity & Inclusion (CD&I).
Nationally recognized as the go-to advisor for companies navigating global market expansion, brand development and multijurisdictional trademark disputes, Cooke will continue to work alongside firm leadership and the CD&I to develop and implement a comprehensive diversity and inclusion strategy that is focused on recruitment, retention and elevation of diverse talent throughout the firm. As CD&I chair, Cooke has been instrumental in advancing key initiatives such as aligning Manatt’s diversity and recruiting objectives, fostering community through the expansion of the firm’s affinity group program, and driving the development of Manatt Cares—a dedicated safe space on the firm’s intranet for professionals to share expressions of support, personal experiences and anti-racist/bias resources.
“At Manatt, we believe that expanding on our diverse and inclusive environment is not only the right thing to do, but it also enhances our ability to serve the ever-evolving needs of our clients,” said Donna L. Wilson, Manatt’s CEO and managing partner, who is a first-generation college graduate and member of the LGBTQIA+ community. “As we continue to build a more inclusive professional services firm through our efforts in promoting diversity at every level of Manatt, we are thrilled that Michelle’s demonstrated leadership will continue in her role as CDIO. Being able to bring one’s true self to work and flourish is a cornerstone of Manatt.”
The CD&I—which will support Cooke in implementing the firm’s diversity and inclusion objectives—includes 16 professionals drawn from all levels of the firm. Manatt has also prioritized advancing diversity among its broader leadership positions, which now consist of over 42 percent women, LGBTQIA+ and/or people of color.
Along with many of her colleagues, Cooke has been a committed mentor to many of the firm’s junior professionals and has engineered programs and events dedicated to supporting young, diverse attorneys, consultants and law students. These programs include interview clinics that focus on how to present life experiences in ways that translate to qualities and skills prized in the business, legal and consulting worlds, as well as facilitated discussions on time and stress management. Additionally, during the pandemic, Cooke utilized technology to knit together the diverse Manatt community by creating groups for dialogue and helped to lead firmwide discussions on race, as well as bringing in outside speakers to advance collective learning on issues ranging from anti-racism to allyship.
“Meeting the challenges of today’s business environment requires contributions from every member of the Manatt team. Our goal is to build a culture where professionals of all backgrounds can come together to fulfill their own personal and professional goals,” said Cooke. “I have been in private law practice my entire career and know first-hand the challenges that many face. Attracting and incubating diverse talent to the firm, as well as realizing opportunities within the legal and professional services industries for diverse communities, is not only the right thing to do, but it enables us to harness diverse insights that create value for the clients we serve. I am particularly excited to partner with our clients who are energized to help advance our collective diversity and inclusion goals, and I view my dual role as both leader of the IP Protection and Enforcement practice and CDIO as a value-add in furthering these conversations.”
To support Cooke in this new role, the firm also is welcoming Gia Altreche as director of diversity and inclusion. Altreche is a national diversity and inclusion leader, having launched and served as co-chair of both the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) Diversity and Inclusion Committee and the LMA Diversity and Inclusion Shared Interest Group.