Tonkon Torp is committed to the learning, hard work, and change necessary to continue our evolution into a firm and a community that is anti-racist, equitable, and inclusive.
As part of this mission, we are committed to a workplace culture that values and promotes equity, diversity, inclusion, equal employment opportunities, and a work environment free of harassment and hostility.
At Tonkon Torp we believe diverse, equitable, and inclusive representation at all levels is fundamental to the success of our firm and our community. We strive to foster a workplace that reflects and represents the perspectives and experiences of our clients, workforce, and community. We have made diversity a priority since forming the Diversity Task Force in 2004. While we are proud of our work over the years, we recognize and honor the need to be more intentional, visible, vocal, and accountable in our efforts.
Tonkon Torp has implemented several firm-wide initiatives in support of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). In addition, we financially support and actively participate in numerous community and nonprofit organizations that fight for better diversity, equity, and inclusion in our community and in the legal profession.
Tonkon Torp is committed to advance diversity, equity and inclusion at our firm. We pledge to:
- Be an organization where all attorneys and members of staff, and the broader community that we serve, feel valued and represented.
- Attract, recruit, retain, engage, support, develop, and advance underrepresented and diverse employees, including women, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and individuals of other underrepresented groups.
- Eliminate racism, racial prejudice, and unfair discrimination in the workplace.
- Produce an anti-racist and rights-based culture, which includes respect for human dignity and diversity through policies, processes, practices, and structures.
- Promote equal opportunity and fair treatment of employees through inclusive policies and practices.
- Create a working climate that acknowledges and appreciates diversity.
DEI Steering Committee:
Tonkon Torp’s original Diversity Task Force has changed into the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. Due to overwhelming interest in participation in 2020, the larger committee convened a Steering Committee to coordinate our DEI initiatives, create and implement an action plan, and lead the larger committee. A representative from the Steering Committee sits on the Managing Board to communicate and implement the DEI Committee’s initiatives to firm leadership and the rest of the organization.
Steering Committee Members:
- Paul Balmer, Associate
- Koren Benish, Director of Human Resources
- Devin Clancy, Marketing Programs & Events Manager
- Stephanie Grant, Partner
- Kurt Ruttum, Managing Partner
- Kimberlee Stafford, Partner
- Amanda Ulrich, Paralegal
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee: The DEI Committee, formed in 2004 (under its original name of Diversity Task Force), is open to all interested firm attorneys and staff. It currently consists of 46 dedicated participants (23 attorneys and 23 staff members), which account for over 30% of the firm. The Committee includes members that self-identify as Black, People of Color, White, immigrants, LGBTQ+, disabled, and fat. Among other things, Committee members work to identify barriers to recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce, educate themselves and the firm on DEI issues, recommend support of or involvement in community organizations, and recommend specific actions the firm can take to improve in being anti-racist, equitable, and inclusive. The Committee meets regularly and manages a budget dedicated to supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at the firm and in the community.
Tonkon Torp actively and regularly reviews internal practices, policies, and procedures through an equity lens and works to implement changes as a result of our reviews. In addition, we have outlined some of our DEI Initiatives below.
Presentations & Events: The DEI Committee hosts regular expert presentations and trainings for all employees on topics related to equity and inclusion. 2021 programs include “Can We Get Along? Examining Our Personal Experiences of Connection and Community” with Chisao Hata, and “Whiteness at Work, Roots of Bias” with Randy Blazak. As a member of Partners in Diversity, Tonkon Torp employees also regularly attend Partners in Diversity educational events and workshops. For example, Tonkon Torp was a sponsor of the inaugural NW Equity Summit, a Partners in Diversity conference focused on helping employers learn how to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace.
Conversations: The DEI Committee also hosts a popular book club/discussion group, encouraging participants to read and discuss books related to anti-racism, the experiences of minorities, and personal growth related to DEI issues. Recent book club selections include How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi and Caste, The Origins of our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson.
Employee Resource Groups: Tonkon Torp hosts an employee resource group, for employees who identify as people of color, and another employee group for “Allies” who do not identify as people of color and are looking to learn and grow in their understanding of DEI issues. These lawyer-led, self-directed groups provide a regular forum and safe space for employees to discuss issues that are sometimes challenging or sensitive issues in larger groups.
Conversation Project: In 2016 we began hosting an ongoing series of Conversation Project lunches for staff and attorneys. Offered by Oregon Humanities, the Conversation Project engages communities throughout the state in thoughtful and challenging conversations on topics and ideas that will shape Oregon’s future. Recent topics have covered issues related to gender, racial diversity in Oregon, understanding disability, and houselessness.
Special Fee Arrangements: We recently developed and launched the Tonkon HUB (Helping Underrepresented Business Owners) Program to support underrepresented small business owners and entrepreneurs by offering fee discounts, flexible payment arrangements, free trainings on relevant business and legal issues, and access to networking opportunities. This program aims to support and help business in our community grow and succeed, and also to dismantle barriers to legal services.
Vendor Diversity Program: We have expanded our preferred vendor list to include a greater number of businesses owned by diverse and historically underrepresented business owners. We track our spending to achieve and set percentage goals for spending on local, diverse vendor products and services.
Tonkon Torp is the only Portland firm to rank in the Top 15 in Vault's 2022 Best Midsize Law Firms for Diversity rankings. Vault’s annual national rankings are based on information submitted by verified associates in the legal industry, and are a well-respected national recruiting reference for the legal community.
Below are some of the ways we are addressing DEI in our recruitment efforts. Please visit our careers page for more information.
Hiring and Recruiting Methodology: As part of the staff and lawyer applicant review process, Tonkon Torp’s Hiring Committee and Human Resources department is working to eliminate bias through improved resume review procedures, interviewer education, and interview methods that seek to avoid inequity and minimize bias. We are incorporating accountability metrics to ensure DEI stays top of mind in the hiring process.
1L Diversity Fellowship Program: The Tonkon Torp Managing Board approved the creation of its 1L Diversity Fellowship in 2003. The fellowship is offered to first-year law students who contribute to the diversity of our firm and the legal profession. It includes a 10-week paid summer associate position at the firm and is followed-up with a $10,000 academic scholarship at the conclusion of the program. Our fellows regularly go on to join our firm as lawyers.
De La Salle North Catholic High School Intern Program (on hiatus during pandemic): From 2005 through 2019, we hired student interns from De La Salle North Catholic High School who contributed to the racial and socioeconomic diversity of our firm. This internship program provides valuable job skills to high school students, and many of our student interns have returned to the firm as temporary or permanent employees. Our involvement with the program has been on hold since the onset of the pandemic but we hope to resume for the 2021-2022 school year. The firm is in the early stages of exploring additional pipeline efforts to engage with younger students and educate them about law school and the legal profession.
Requirements for Staffing Agencies: When engaging staffing/placement agencies for staff hiring, we specifically request a range of diverse applicants for our consideration. We also partner with agencies outside the downtown Portland core to further diversify our recruiting.
Career Fairs: Tonkon Torp attended the 1st Annual Oregon Diversity Legal Job Fair in March 2021 and we plan to continue attending this great event going forward. The Job Fair’s mission is “to bring together Oregon’s Legal community to recruit and retain diverse legal professionals who will reflect the identity and values of the people and clients they serve.”
The firm sponsors and participates annually in the Oregon State Bar’s Opportunity for Law in Oregon (OLIO) program, which focuses on retention of minority lawyers in Oregon. These annual events include the OLIO Orientation (a three-day conference), a Judges’ Reception & Dinner, and an Employment Retreat.
Tonkon Torp is proud to sponsor the following organizations that include diversity and service to underrepresented communities as part of their mission. In the last 20 years, Tonkon Torp has committed over three-quarters of a million dollars in financial contributions and sponsorships to organizations that promote racial equity and equality.
See the full list of our community involvement.
Advancing DEI in the Business and Legal Community
Tonkon Torp attorneys serve on many boards and committees that work to increase diversity and representation in business and the Oregon State Bar. Two notable examples of this service are:
Tonkon Torp partner Parna Mehrbani is a current member and former Chair of the Partners in Diversity (PID) Leadership Council. PID is a program of the Portland Business Alliance Charitable Institute.
Tonkon Torp Partner Owen Blank serves on the Multnomah Bar Association Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Committee. The Committee works to promote equality in the legal profession and justice system, and diversity in the practice of law.
Pro Bono Legal Services
Assisting marginalized adults and youths who have limited access to justice, and righting historical wrongs to promote an equitable justice system is a long-term pro bono passion at Tonkon Torp. We have recently released a series placing the spotlight on work being done in this area and invite you to read about our work with the Ramos Project, Legal Aid, and more.
Tonkon Torp attorneys have received numerous awards in recognition of their efforts to advance inclusion and diversity and to provide access to justice and legal services to communities of color and underrepresented individuals, including those listed below.
- In 2011, seven Tonkon Torp professionals were recognized as Champions of Diversity for their work promoting diversity in the legal profession.
- In 2015, partner Parna Mehrbani was named a Woman of Influence by the Portland Business Journal in part for her work with such community organizations as the Oregon Minority Law Association IMAGE program and Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls.
- In 2015, partner Owen Blank received the Multnomah Bar Association Pro Bono Award of Merit. Owen devotes significant hours each year to providing pro bono counsel to local nonprofits, particularly those serving disadvantaged communities. He has notably served Albina Head Start for decades, which supports families in the historic Black communities of North, Northeast, and Southeast Portland. Owen was also one of the earliest supporters of the Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs.
- Partner Darcy Norville was named a Woman of Influence by the Portland Business Journal in 2019. In 2015, Darcy was the first woman elected to the role of Managing Partner at Tonkon Torp. She formed the firm's Diversity Task Force in 2004 and served as Chair of that Task Force, and the succeeding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee
,for 15 years.
- In 2019, associate Sadie Concepción received the Oregon State Bar’s New Lawyers Division Pro Bono Challenge Award by logging an impressive 277 hours of direct legal services.
- In 2019, Tonkon Torp presented the inaugural Don H. Marmaduke Pro Bono Service Award to partner Steven Wilker. Since he began working on ACLU matters in the early 2000s, Steven has committed well over 3,000 hours of pro bono service to ACLU clients as a cooperating attorney, and in connection with his service on the ACLU of Oregon Board and Lawyers Committee.
- In 2020, partner James Hein was honored with the Multnomah Bar Association Pro Bono Award of Merit. James is Chair of Tonkon Torp’s Pro Bono Committee and has provided significant pro bono service for Legal Aid Services of Oregon and the Oregon Law Center. He also shares his business law acumen as a pro bono volunteer for the Small Business Legal Clinic at Lewis & Clark Law School.
- In 2021, partner Parna Mehrbani was honored with the Multnomah Bar Association Diversity Award in recognition of her commitment to fostering and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the legal profession.
To honor our commitment to transparency and accountability, we are proud to share progress on goals we have included in our DEI Committee’s Strategic Plan. What follows is a list of action items we commit to implementing and discussing internally.
- Develop an action plan that focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion in our efforts to recruit, develop, and advance lawyers and staff
- Review involvement and sponsorship of affinity bar associations and nonprofit organizations. Increase participation in additional groups based on findings and recommendations.
- Increase diversity and number of people of color in leadership positions and partner ranks, and create a Managing Board “Seat at the Table.”
- Review opportunities given to diverse lawyers in comparison with their counterparts in the majority and ensure diverse lawyers are given opportunities to originate new work and serve on and lead client teams.
- Update evaluation processes at every level of the firm, recognizing and rewarding contributions to diversity and inclusion.
- Provide education, diversity training, and leadership training at every level of the firm.
- Improve mentorship for diverse associates.
- Review firm policies through an equity lens and revise or add to policies based on findings and recommendations.
- Launch special fee program to support underrepresented business owners.
- Support the creation of internal affinity groups for attorneys and staff (including Allies, POC, and Queer Caucuses).
Helping Underrepresented Business Owners Program
The Tonkon HUB Program provides owners of small and emerging businesses with the vital legal services they need for success – services to which they may not otherwise have access. Our experienced lawyers can advise on a breadth of issues, including, for example, setting up your company, choosing the right entity and structure, equity and debt funding, intellectual property rights, leases and other real estate issues, employment matters, and contracting matters.
The goals of the Tonkon HUB Program are to offer legal services to small businesses owned and operated by those historically marginalized in our community, such as those who identify as Black, Indigenous, immigrants, from other communities of color, LGBTQ+, or with visible or invisible disabilities; to dismantle real and perceived barriers of access to a full-service business law firm; and to help grow a racially diverse and robust business community. Tonkon HUB is not a legal aid or pro bono program – it’s a collaboration.
Tonkon HUB Benefits
Business owners who are accepted into the Tonkon HUB Program will receive the benefit of:
- A free one hour initial consultation with a Tonkon Torp lawyer
- Discounts on our standard rates for most matters
- Up to 50% discount for the first six months of our representation
- Up to 25% discount for the next six months of our representation
- Access to free networking events, educational webinars and other resources on relevant issues impacting businesses
*Please note that these discounts may be modified based on your particular circumstances. We will discuss with you once we know more about your business and your legal needs.
How Do I Qualify?
Applicants must have 51% (individually or in the aggregate) of their senior leadership, executives, or owners who identify as racially diverse or otherwise from historically marginalized communities, as well as a financial need for discounted services.
*Our existing clients may be eligible and are encouraged to contact us about the Tonkon HUB Program to discuss eligibility.
How Do I Apply?
Interested applicants will be asked to submit:
- A summary of your business, a formal business plan (if available), an executive summary, a pitch deck, or other similar information so we can understand your business (drafts are acceptable)
- A short questionnaire
If you would like to apply for the Tonkon HUB program, please fill out and submit this form. Our team will review your submission and be in touch with follow-up steps. Please contact us if you have any questions.
We will review the information you provide to determine if you qualify for the Tonkon HUB Program, if we can assist with your legal needs, and if our lawyers with the appropriate expertise are able to take on your project. Qualifying and applying does not guarantee acceptance into the program. Other factors may be considered to determine Tonkon’s fit for the project and your legal needs, and acceptance into the program is at the sole discretion of Tonkon. As with all who contact us, we cannot represent you until we know that doing so will not create a conflict of interest. Your application does not create an attorney-client relationship with Tonkon Torp. We will review your submission and reach out to you as soon as we can.