Katten’s Chief Talent Officer Melanie Priddy spoke to The Glass Hammer about the value of making connections, combining professional development with diversity, and self-advocacy.

Melanie began her law career as a transactional attorney with an Am Law 50 firm after graduating from the University of Virginia School of Law. She soon gravitated towards recruiting attorneys and counseling law students about their career options and later worked for a staffing firm and university, discovering that she loved advising others on how to navigate their careers and achieve their goals.

In 2008, Melanie joined Katten as an attorney recruiting and development manager in the Los Angeles office, where she managed professional development programs. Today, Melanie is the chief talent officer in Katten’s Washington, DC office and oversees human resources, attorney recruitment and retention, professional development, and diversity and inclusion efforts.

“To me, diversity and professional development are closely tied,” Melanie said. “My approach has been that diversity is part of every discussion — when you are talking about recruitment, about development, about choices people are making with regards to business or client development or opportunities around training.”

Taking the initiative at previous firms to expand her role and implement programs to advance diversity and inclusion paved the way for Melanie’s current role at Katten, where she is committed to promoting diversity and offering support at every level.

“One of the things we always talk about is that everyone is responsible for improving diversity in the legal field…When you look at it that way, then you’re really going to make progress,” Melanie said.

Katten has been very successful in embracing greater diversity as a firm, including by participating in the Mansfield Rule, which establishes benchmarks for women, attorneys of color, LGBTQ+ attorneys, and attorneys with disabilities to account for at least 30 percent of candidates who are considered for leadership roles, partner promotions, and senior lateral positions. Katten also recently launched the Kattalyst Sponsorship program to retain and advance diverse associates and partners and increase representation of underrepresented attorneys in its leadership positions.

In addition to diversity, Melanie also described the importance of cultivating relationships and advocating for yourself as an attorney. She recommends networking with various organizations. Melanie is a member of the National Association for Law Placement, previously serving on the board of directors and most recently as chair of the nominating committee.

“As women, often there’s a tendency to downplay your success, your role or your leadership skills, whether with a boss or with a group. But someone else can’t speak up for you on your behalf, if you don’t do it for yourself first,” Melanie said.

Melanie has also led Katten’s efforts to destigmatize mental health issues and draw attention to substance abuse disorders in the legal profession by joining the American Bar Association’s well-being pledge and launching a firm wide wellness program called, “Katten Well-Being 360: Live Well, Work Well, Be Well,” to provide helpful resources, information and training to employees. Melanie also worked with Katten to create a Parent Affinity Group to support working parents at the firm and expand the firm’s parental leave policy to a 12-week gender, neutral paid leave.

In the new remote work environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Melanie has also been tasked with the challenge of recruiting new attorneys virtually and has done so by creating a more elaborate mentoring program to foster a better sense of connection and a coaching program for summer associates and first-year associates who joined Katten during the pandemic.

Read, “Voices of Experience: Melanie Priddy: Chief Talent Officer, Katten,” in its entirety.