CHICAGO & NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sidley Austin LLP is pleased to announce that it has named María D. Meléndez its new chief diversity officer. She will replace Sally Olson who has served as chief diversity officer at Sidley since 2011 and will be retiring from the firm May 1, 2020.
Previously a partner in Sidley’s Commercial Litigation and Disputes practice, María has more than 25 years of experience in the litigation and arbitration of a broad range of high-stakes commercial disputes. From 2017 through 2019, Maria was named one of the “Top 250 Women in Litigation” by Benchmark Litigation. She served as a member of the firm’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, including as New York chair from 2002 to 2016. Additionally, she was a member of the Recruiting of Associates Committee and the New York co-chair of the Summer Associate Program Committee. As chief diversity officer, María will devote all of her time to leading the firm’s efforts to further advance and increase diversity and inclusion at the firm and beyond.
“I am honored to have been chosen to lead Sidley’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, and to continue the firm’s great work in advancing diversity and inclusion at our firm and in the legal profession,” said Ms. Meléndez. “My many years of practice at Sidley have been very rewarding, and I will forever be grateful for the wonderful opportunities to work with extraordinary clients around the world on so many interesting matters. As I pivot to this new role, I am very excited to have the opportunity to continue to work with my Sidley colleagues, clients, and other stakeholders to strengthen and further advance our diversity efforts as we recruit, hire, develop and promote exceptionally talented lawyers from all backgrounds around the globe.”
María’s commitment to diversity and inclusion extends well beyond her work at Sidley. She is chair of the board of directors of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, a national civil rights organization using the power of the law, advocacy and education to advance and protect the rights of Latinos in the U.S. She also serves as the firm’s representative to Her Justice, a provider of legal services on matters of domestic abuse and child custody to disadvantaged women in New York. María is a recipient of the Puerto Rican Bar Association’s Flor de Maga award that is given to trailblazing women who have demonstrated leadership skills in their fields of expertise, who have been models to other women and girls, and who have advocated for a more equitable society.
“Under Sally’s leadership, we have experienced a measurable, sustained increase in the diversity of our partnership and firm overall, and a strengthening of our inclusive culture,” said Mike Schmidtberger, chair of Sidley’s Executive Committee. “We sincerely thank Sally for her tireless work and are confident that María has the passion, vision and resolve to propel our efforts further forward. María is widely respected and known in the legal profession as a diversity and inclusion champion and we are delighted she chose to set aside her active legal practice to accept this important role.”
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