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Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

As a core principle on which it was founded, Litchfield Cavo LLP strives to show respect for others in our daily interactions with all individuals. With our Firm’s continued growth and diversification, we are proud of our advancement in this area and recognize the importance of an ongoing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. We strive to create an equitable work environment that appreciates each individual’s contributions to our Firm’s community and fosters a more diverse, as well as inclusive, talent force. Visible examples of our commitment to diversity include: the majority of our Executive Committee is diverse; all of our Firm’s administrative department heads, including marketing, accounting, human resources and billing, are diverse; the majority of our attorneys are diverse; our Firm’s general counsel is diverse; and, our Firm’s assistant managing partner is diverse.

Our Diversity | Approach
Litchfield Cavo broadly defines diversity as differences among people, including race, color, religion, national origin, age, gender, gender identity or expression, marital status, sexual orientation, ancestry, physical or mental disability and veteran status. We continue to make strides with our ongoing diversity initiative, including the following endeavors:

  • Ensuring our Firm’s leadership positions are diverse and inclusive;
  • Advocating for family-friendly policies, including flexible work schedules, remote work options and paid parental leave;
  • Creating a compensation system focused on eliminating subjectivity and possible unconscious bias, thereby promoting pay equity;
  • Recognizing important events, including International Women’s Day and Global Diversity Awareness Month;
  • Participating in, as well as sponsoring, diverse job fairs;
  • Demonstrating an ongoing commitment to improving the hiring, retention and promotion of diverse individuals;
  • Encouraging participation from all offices so that there is geographic representation in promoting and advancing the Firm’s diversity, equity and inclusion goals;
  • Fostering a platform for the Firm’s future leaders to promote and advance the Firm’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion through the Firm’s Associate Subcommittee;
  • Supporting an inclusive culture by participating in diverse membership organizations, community events, bar associations and affinity groups; and,
  • Enhancing awareness and appreciation throughout our Firm’s community through mentorship and educational seminars.

Committee
Our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee meets on a monthly basis and reports directly to the Executive Committee. Our Committee membership includes the current and former General Counsel, our Founding Partners, an Executive Committee member and Local Office Managing Partners. The Committee includes an active Associate Subcommittee that participates in our monthly Committee meetings.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Spotlight: Hope G. Nightingale, Partner

My legal career began in 1976 as a Paralegal at one of Chicago’s well-known firms. I had no intention of going to law school—I simply needed a job as my then-husband was a med student. I took the LSATs on a dare. I prepared with a $5 study book, as at that time I could not afford a prep course. My husband was unhappy about my new career goal so I moved on, alone. When I graduated from the University of Chicago, I was the first lawyer in my family.

I was the first former paralegal to be re-hired at that firm as an associate, and I was elected partner seven years later. It was a different world then. In the ‘80s, female attorneys wore skirts, stockings and heels. I practiced law for a decade before I wore pants to work (… and my legs have not been seen since!) We all had our own secretaries, and computers were not yet used in legal offices. Although there were several highly-regarded female partners there, I cannot recall any of them ever offering to mentor or to counsel any of the younger women.

I was trained to be a litigator. Trials were hard to find in the ’80s and ‘90s, especially for women. Also, as a hearing impaired person (being completely deaf in one ear since childhood), I was discouraged from seeking trial work. In 1994, I moved to Burditt & Radzius and was one of the firm’s few female partners. I began to handle insurance coverage issues under Dan Litchfield’s guidance.  From 1996-1998, I was elected to serve as the firm’s President.

I was one of the founding partners of Litchfield Cavo LLP when it was formed in December 1998. I was the only female partner at first, but Carrie Durkin, Eileen Kavanagh and other women joined as partners before too long. I have occupied the same office since December 1998 (and fully expect it will require a massive dumpster when I leave). I feel lucky to have worked with some of the best minds in the business, including both our insurer clients and our colleagues at Litchfield Cavo. I have had the good fortune to work with Jean Wierzbinski as my assistant for over 25 years—since before we all left Burditt! We are co-dependent of each other and good friends. Together, we filled the role of “Office Mom” for the Chicago office and beyond, as the Firm expanded from a single office with 12 attorneys (plus Rick Cavo in Hartford) to the Firm of more than 250 attorneys it is today.

I have counseled and mentored numerous young women as they forged their own paths in the field of law. In my view, female attorneys often face greater challenges such as struggling with competing demands of clients, colleagues and family (both children and parents). I am awed by the creativity and resilience shown by the women attorneys at Litchfield Cavo during the COVID-19 pandemic. I believe we have succeeded in providing a flexible foundation for their personal and professional development.

I hope I am never accused of pulling up the ladder behind me.

Hope G. Nightingale, Partner

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Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Spotlight: Geralyn M. Passaro, Partner

Even as a young girl, I wanted to be a lawyer fighting for the rights of others. I recall watching a talk show with my mother when I was nine years old and talking about the plight of the mentally ill due to deinstitutionalization. It was then I knew I was going to an attorney.

I was the first in my family with an undergrad degree, no less postgraduate education. I earned my law school degree from University of Miami in 1986 and then joined the Florida Bar. Though, before law school, I had a career in law enforcement and an undergraduate degree in criminal justice. Despite my background, which would have been well-suited for a practice in criminal law, I found myself exposed to insurance defense work as a young lawyer and loved it.

I joined an old-line Miami insurance defense firm, which was founded in 1926, and was trained to be a litigator, which I enjoyed, but it was hard being a young woman in a room full of male lawyers. I was repeatedly mistaken for the court stenographer and called “sweetie” and “honey”.

When I first started practicing, the firm’s lawyers would go to attorney-only lunch at a private Club every Friday. The Club was normally exclusively for men but on Fridays, they would allow women to accompany the male members. During those days, I was one of the few women permitted in the Club.

Despite these obstacles I was promoted to partner after just 5 years, and then shareholder, and ultimately managing partner of a multi-office practice. Because the older partners I worked with were progressive for that era, I was allowed to try my first case within my first two years of practice and tried many more cases thereafter.

While I enjoyed my active litigation practice, I struggled to find the right family balance with being a parent to my two children. I distinctly recall an instance where I was in a courtroom on a large commercial damages case with about 15 male attorneys. I was seeking a continuance of trial due to my anticipated due date of my first daughter when the presiding male judge came in the courtroom and literally said, “I hear one of you is pregnant.” I quickly became the unicorn in the room and all eyes were glaring on me. Although I got a continuance of that trial, it was only a two month extension before having to complete discovery and be ready for trial, allowing me only a three-week maternity leave. To this day I regret having missed the first two months of my daughter’s life.

I stayed with that Miami firm for 14 years, until 2000 when we disbanded and I joined a professional liability defense firm in Fort Lauderdale. I stayed there for 9 years until I was asked to launch Litchfield Cavo LLP’s new Fort Lauderdale office in 2009, where I am currently a capital partner.

I am very appreciative of the support and the mentoring I received throughout my legal career and take great care when mentoring others and the next generation of female litigators.

Geralyn M. Passaro, Partner

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