Inclusion and Equity

Our Mission

Our firm is at its best when each of our individuals is included, empowered, and valued. We strategically seek ways to integrate adaptive diversity, equity and inclusion values in every aspect of our work. With unwavering commitments to growth and evolution, we will foster a better future together.

Our Focus

Our Inclusion and Equity Committee helps the firm achieve and maintain a level of diversity that reflects the demographics of the communities we serve, while encouraging an inclusive environment of appreciation and respect. The Committee meets monthly to review opportunities, plan and coordinate diversity-related events, and act as advocates for our diverse colleagues.

HSE is a proud member of the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance (LFAA). 

Established in 2005, this scholarship includes a $7,500 award to be applied to the recipient’s law school tuition, together with a paid summer associate position at the firm. The scholarship is awarded annually to two first-year students selected based on their academic record, professional accomplishments and other factors that indicate promise for a successful career in the legal profession.

Eligibility: To be eligible for the Diversity Scholarship, applicants must be full-time currently enrolled 1L law students who are in good standing at an accredited law school. First-year students who are members of populations historically underrepresented in the legal profession are encouraged to apply. The Diversity Scholarship application must be received by Harter Secrest & Emery LLP on or before Monday, January 23, 2023

Download the 2023 Diversity Scholarship Application and FAQs

Throughout the year, the firm hosts speakers and presentations that provide insight and awareness on a range of topics including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights, LGBTQ rights, racism, and other important issues.

We have decades of involvement and financial support for organizations that serve our diverse communities including these initiatives:

YWCA Empowering Women Luncheon

We sponsor tables at the annual YWCA’s Empowering Women Luncheon, which features keynote speakers sharing stories of the strength and achievement of women. The funds raised through the luncheon help the YWCA provide housing and support services for over 1000 women and families each year.

Stand Against Racism Campaign

HSE has participated in the YWCA’s Stand Against Racism for the past several years. Stand Against Racism is a signature campaign of YWCA USA to build community among those who work for racial justice and to raise awareness about the negative impact of institutional and structural racism in our communities.

Spread the Word to End the Word Awareness Program

We have joined organizations such as Special Olympics and Best Buddies to “Spread the Word to End the Word”, a program which raises awareness about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the word “retard(ed).” The Spread the Word movement asks people to stop saying the R-word as a starting point toward creating more accepting attitudes and communities for all people.

Commitment to Community

HSE encourages and supports attorney involvement in professional and community-based diversity organizations. Below are just a few examples of the many organizations the firm and our attorneys support, both financially and with service.

  • Minority Bar Foundation of Western New York
  • Buffalo Urban League Membership and Annual Awards Dinner

  • Empire Justice Center

  • Human Rights Campaign

  • National Federation for Just Communities of Western New York

  • Seneca Nation Athletic Dinner (Hall of Fame)

  • The Minority Bar Association of Western New York Annual Scholarship Dinner

  • The Minority Corporate Counsel Association Annual Conference

  • The National Bar Association

  • Western New York Black MBA Association Annual Meeting

Sheldon K. Smith, a Litigation partner in the Buffalo office (who also frequently works out of the Corning and New York City offices), was selected for inclusion into The National Black Lawyers Top 100 Lawyers in New York. The National Black Lawyers is a professional and educational organization comprised of the nation’s premier African American attorneys. The selection for this high honor is based on a multi-phase process that includes peer nominations and third-party research. The result is a credible and comprehensive list of the most outstanding African American lawyers in the country.
Click here to view the The National Black Lawyers Names Sheldon K. Smith to its List of Top 100 Lawyers in New York press release.

John G. Horn, a Litigation partner and Partner in Charge of the firm’s Buffalo office, was elected in early 2020 by the Minority Bar Foundation of Western New York to serve on its board of directors. The Minority Bar Foundation of Western New York was formed in 2004 to advance education and scholarship in the field of law. The Foundation works to ensure continued minority representation in the profession and empower these future leaders to help shape the justice system in Western New York and throughout New York State. The Foundation provides professional guidance, educational programs and financial assistance through grants to students beginning in college through law school.
Click here to view the John G. Horn Elected as a Minority Bar Foundation Director press release.

In 2017, HSE was awarded the Diversity Award by the Western New York Chapter of the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York during the association’s annual awards ceremony. We were the first recipient of the Award that recognizes individuals or organizations who have demonstrated a commitment to promoting full and equal participation in the legal profession through the encouragement and involvement of women, minorities, persons with disabilities, and/or persons of differing sexual orientations and gender identities. 
Click here to view the Harter Secrest & Emery Receives Diversity Award from WNY Chapter of Women’s Bar Association press release.

Nurturing Diversity

MR IdentityMidsize Mansfield Rule Certification
The Midsize Mansfield Rule is a certification administered by Diversity Lab that is designed to increase the number of attorneys from historically underrepresented groups working in and leading law firms with 25 to 150 US attorneys. Historically underrepresented groups for purposes of the Midsize Mansfield Rule include racial/ethnic minority attorneys, female attorneys, LGBTQ+ attorneys, and attorneys with disabilities. The certification will require HSE to consider at least 30% historically underrepresented lawyers for 60% or more of all hiring searches and openings, equity partner promotions, firm governance and managing partner roles, and formal client meetings and presentations over the 18-month certification period beginning in March 2022. 

Press Release | Harter Secrest & Emery Joins the Midsize Mansfield Rule Certification Initiative – April 7, 2022

Workforce Diversity Network
HSE is a member of the Workforce Diversity Network, which is a network of professionals and organizations dedicated to being a catalyst to enhance professional development, understanding, promotion and management of diversity and inclusion as an essential part of business success. The WDN states as its primary focus, the creation of a learning community in the business world to address diversity and its benefits. As a member company, HSE partners with WDN by hosting meetings and participating as sponsors of signature events.

For questions or to learn more about our Inclusion and Equity Committee, please contact:


Craig S. Wittlin, Managing Partner