From Music to Law
Before becoming a lawyer and vital member of Seyfarth Shaw LLP, Laura Maechtlen began her career in music. At college, she studied violin performance and education, working hard to excel in an extremely competitive field. After completing college, she decided to retire from her music career and pursue something a little “less competitive” – law school. It was during this time she discovered the LGBT Bar by attending the annual Lavender Law® Conferences. Following the completion of her law degree, Maechtlen was encouraged by a close friend on the LGBT Bar’s Board of Directors to run for a position to become more involved. After taking their advice, she became an affiliate representative for the LGBT Bar on behalf of Sacramento, California, and in 2006 was appointed President of the Board, serving for two years. Today, Maechtlen serves as Chair of the Labor and Employment Department for Seyfarth Shaw and has been a member of the Executive Committee since September, overseeing 425 labor and employment lawyers and managing the business of the firm.
The Belonging Project
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Maechtlen and Seyfarth launched “The Belonging Project,” an initiative aimed at bringing together diverse legal professionals and law students from across the country to maintain a strong foundation of diversity and inclusion within the law profession. Maechtlen is especially passionate about this project. She describes how the movement to increase diversity and inclusion efforts has made significant strides, which are now at risk during this pandemic. With firms experiencing budgetary changes and cuts, many programs such as in-person networking and conferences for underrepresented individuals have taken a back seat. For Maechtlen, this has made diversity and inclusion a priority more than ever before. She describes what Seyfarth aimed to do with The Belonging Project to help alleviate these effects of the pandemic: “What we wanted was to create a place where there is opportunity and possibility for people who are diverse right now.” The opportunities and possibilities she envisions are “if people need assistance… whether it be from a health and wellness perspective, or professional development, or finding a job, or getting experience, we felt like it would be helpful to just have one place to go… a repository for everything you could access in order to get resources.”
The touchstone of the Project – beyond access to resources – is national community-building. Maechtlen says that its existence primarily serves as “an industry collaboration that brings all of our best resources together in one place to help diverse law students, lawyers, and their allies”. The Project emphasizes how vital a collective voice is to maintaining diversity and inclusion efforts within the legal workplace and educational institutions. She expressed her desire for many types of organizations and coalitions to get involved in this community-building movement: “We want this to include other law firms, we want it to include in-house legal departments and corporations, and other bar associations and diversity groups.” The more groups that join, she says, the better. Large numbers of underrepresented professionals and students coming together ensures “that we can collectively become a loud voice to be a reminder to the profession that we have to focus on these issues… if we can come together and talk as one voice to remind the profession in general that this is imperative, we cannot lose ground.” She is happy that the LGBT Bar, along with countless other partners, have signed on to be a part of the growing Project to assist with diversity and inclusion efforts amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
More details on The Belonging Project can be found here.