Pullman & Comley Impacts Community, Creates Workforce Pipeline, Supports Diversity
Pullman & Comley has been providing legal services in the New England region for more than 100 years. The firm has offices throughout Connecticut in Bridgeport, Hartford, Stamford, Waterbury, and Westport and in Springfield, MA, White Plains, NY, and Wakefield, RI.
The firm is also committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) and creating an inclusive environment for its employees. Andrew Glassman, Co-Chair of the Business Organizations and Finance practice is a committee member of the Racial Equity and Economic Development (REED) Committee, which was formed by the MetroHartford Alliance (MHA) in 2020.
MHA Content Manager Nan Price spoke with Andrew Glassman, Co-Chair of the Business Organizations and Finance practice and Kelly O’Donnell, member in the Business Organizations and Finance and the Trusts and Estates practice areas to learn more about the firm’s involvement in our region.
NAN PRICE: Tell us about the impact Pullman & Comley is making here in the Hartford Region.
ANDREW GLASSMAN: The firm existed in Hartford in the 1990s, but really expanded in 2001. When several of my partners from our previous firm and I joined the Pullman & Comley that same year, our mission was to impact the community—mostly Hartford—culturally and socially.
We’ve done quite a bit. We joined many arts organizations and nonprofits, including the MHA’s Legislative Affairs Committee. Members of our firm are also on a lot of local boards. That focus hasn’t stopped—in fact, it has expanded.
KELLY O’DONNELL: In terms of community involvement, the health of the firm reflects and impacts the local community. As we’ve grown, we’ve become more involved with the organizations that give back to the community. It’s been rewarding to be part of local growth.
NAN: Your firm is also involved with the MHA.
ANDY: Our team has been a part of the Connecticut Health Council and, for a period of time, we were involved in Italian, British, and Israeli initiatives to bring businesses from these countries to Connecticut, which we tried to influence and energize at the MHA.
We were involved in the Hartford Chamber when it was reorienting its approach to become more of a small business community focused group. So, we’ve been very engaged with the MHA and its initiatives.
The MHA is the forum through which businesses can build community and work together to strengthen the business climate in the Hartford Region and Connecticut as a whole. Being a Strategic Partner enables us to engage in those important efforts.
NAN: Tell us about some the initiatives you’ve been working on.
KELLY: Mark Sommaruga and I co-chair the firm’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which focuses on three areas: education, workforce pipeline, and mentorship.
Our education initiatives are internal and external. We provide information for our attorneys and the clients we serve. We do a lot of service projects in the community, which also provide education opportunities for our staff.
Another focus is our pipeline initiatives. We’ve been focusing very heavily on the pipeline in recent years because it impacts recruitment and retention. And mentorship is a huge part of both of those.
We try to reach folks as early as we can to have an impact. We work with high school and college students. One of our most successful programs has been our 1L program. The summer after your first year of law school, there are a lot of different opportunities for law students. Many students do judicial internships, which is a great opportunity. But getting a paid firm job is next to impossible as a first-year law student.
With our 1L program, we bring in one or two first-year law students who spend their summer with us. During the first half of the summer, they’re in house here. They’ll sit in on meetings, see how the board works, and go to court. During the second half of the summer, they go to work for a client. The longest standing program we’ve had has been with the Yale New Haven Health System.
When the 1L students return from the summer, either to Pullman & Comley or to another firm, not only have they seen what the practice looks like, but they also see what our clients expect. That’s a very unique opportunity, in that very few attorneys will ever get to experience both sides while still in law school.
NAN: Is the overall goal to strengthen the workforce pipeline and ensure that you’re keeping these law students employed here in Connecticut?
KELLY: Definitely. We’ve had three fabulous hires come out of that program. Two are still here and one is on sabbatical at a very prestigious clerkship.
There’s also a secondhand benefit. Even if students don’t stay with Pullman & Comley, they’ve received great training. They see what the opportunities are in Connecticut and they see what Connecticut can offer compared to some of the other legal markets. Historically, the Connecticut legal community has lost a lot of attorneys to New York and Boston; we’re right in the middle. And if we can show them what Connecticut has to offer, it’s much more likely that they’ll stick around and grow the community here.
NAN: Absolutely. You mentioned mentorship, too.
KELLY: We provide mentoring through Connect-Us, which is a program where we work with the local high schools in Bridgeport. We also participate in the Lawyers Collaborative For Diversity (LCD) in the Hartford area. Through that, we have a college student intern with us during the summer. They work with our staff and attorneys and get to experience what working in a law firm really looks like.
NAN: Let’s talk about the firm’s DE&I efforts.
KELLY: In 2020, after the murder of George Floyd and the related events, we hosted a series of virtual conversations led by retired Judge Lynda Munro, who is of counsel at the firm and was co-chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee at the time. She used a lot of her experience from the bench to help lead those conversations.
Because of the pandemic, we couldn’t do our usual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day service event. Instead, as a firm, we did a reading of a letter from Birmingham jail as a firm over Zoom. The participation we had from people across the firm and their families was unbelievable. Immediately after the reading, it was dead silent—like it created a moment of reflection.
Also, last year we had a virtual presentation about gender neutral identifiers and awareness of the gender nonconforming community and how we can make sure we’re not doing things inadvertently to offend anyone or make them feel uncomfortable.
ANDY: We have quite a bit of representation from the LGBTQ community in our firm. We have partners who helped found the Connecticut Bar Association’s LGBT Section and, on a national level, our partner John Stafstrom is chair of the national board of directors of Lambda Legal. We also have attorneys who are members of the Crawford and Connecticut Hispanic Bar Associations. Our inclusion is heartfelt. At Pullman & Comley, we’re friends and family, and we value hearing each other’s perspectives.
When we had virtual conversations, it was a mix of attorneys, staff, associates, and partners all talking frankly about their backgrounds, their upbringing, their attitudes about things, what concerned them, and what didn’t concern them. And then there was follow up afterward. It was a very positive thing.
KELLY: It was challenging for us to bring folks together that way, but everybody embraced having those difficult conversations in 2020 and 2021. And we’ve seen that carry on. We’ve had a lot of conversations as a firm that I’m not sure we would’ve had five or 10 years ago.
Pullman & Comley attorneys participate in the second Connect-Us Academy Summer Institute, a virtual leadership and professional skills development program where CIA graduates drill down on critical professional workplace skills.
Pullman & Comley attorneys and staff volunteer at a local food shelter to help sort, pack, and distribute more than 6,000 pounds of groceries.