Ballard Spahr LLP
Organization Type: Law Firm
Position/Title: Chief Diversity Officer
Functional Area: Management, Diversity, Inclusion
Year of Induction: 2014
1734 Market St., 51st Flr.
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Virginia G. Essandoh serves as the firm’s Chief Diversity Officer. In this role as a senior firm administrator, she sits on the firmwide Management Committee and is responsible for overseeing, implementing, and providing strategic leadership to Ballard Spahr’s diversity initiatives. She also provides strategic guidance and tactical support to the Ballard Women affinity group, helping to develop business and encouraging the development and advancement of female lawyers.
Working closely with the Diversity Council, Ms. Essandoh advises firm constituencies on best practices for ensuring diversity among lawyers and staff. This ranges from high-level development of diversity-related recruitment, retention, and advancement strategies to tactical implementation and execution of such strategies for lawyers at all levels.
Ms. Essandoh meets regularly with diverse attorneys to discuss development and advancement strategies and remains aware of issues that affect diverse attorneys. She serves as the public voice for Ballard Spahr’s diversity-related outreach efforts, coordinates the firm’s participation in external diversity events, and is a liaison to clients and other external constituencies regarding diversity initiatives.
Before joining the firm, Ms. Essandoh was senior consultant at Altman Weil, Inc. In this capacity, she assisted in developing and implementing diversity and gender initiatives and strategies in private law firms and corporate legal departments; advised on organizational and management structures for law firms and corporate legal departments; and facilitated law firm strategic planning, client satisfaction, strategic marketing, and management structure analysis for her clients.
Ms. Essandoh is a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin and the Association of Law Firm Diversity Professionals. She is a Class of 2008 graduate of LEADERSHIP Philadelphia, a program that trains executives and business people to serve in board or leadership positions with organizations in the Greater Philadelphia region. She is also a member of the Philadelphia Diversity Law Group and the Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia.
Ms. Essandoh serves on the Board of Trustees for the Country Day School of the Sacred Heart and is Vice President of its Executive Committee. She is a board member of the Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse. She also serves on Ballard Spahr’s Diversity Council.
In October 2013, Ms. Essandoh received a National Diversity Council Special Award recognizing women leaders in Pennsylvania.
Ms. Essandoh received her B.A. in political science, cum laude, from Wilberforce University in 1994 and her J.D. from The John Marshall Law School in 1999.
CITATION UPON INDUCTION INTO THE COLLEGE
As Chief Diversity Officer for one of the top firms in the country, Virginia Essandoh will tell you that she is the chief advocate for the success of all lawyers. Early in her career, almost 15 years ago, Virginia wanted to make sure that women- and minority-owned law firms had access to the consultants that could improve the operation of their businesses. She herself became a consultant and trusted advisor to many of those firms. She also helped a number of large law firms with their diversity efforts. As the business and legal market evolves, Virginia’s consultant background allows her to use her unique understanding of the external factors and of the internal opportunities that drive the advancement of diversity and inclusion. In her role, she manages complex and sensitive matters and acts as a voice for perspectives, levels, and cultures that are not otherwise represented. She has become a valuable source for advice and she embraces, celebrates and applies inclusion and participation of all.