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.

June 5, 2020

HSE's Message on Racially Motivated Killings of People of Color

The unjustified killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery (as well as numerous other attacks on people of color) are shining a spotlight on historic, structural, and systemic racism. We are seeing and experiencing a nationwide call to action and movement for change. We must acknowledge and address the issues of systemic and structural racism (and police brutality) as we work to heal and improve our communities, together. Neither silence nor complacency is an option.  

To our Black and Brown colleagues, friends, families, and community members: we see you, we hear you, and we stand with you.

We want to make clear that we do not tolerate racism or bigotry in any form and as a law firm that serves and supports people of all backgrounds we are not afraid to speak out against injustice. Our HSE mission of equity and inclusion is a shared commitment to create and maintain an environment where we are all empowered and encouraged. Through this mission we seek to make meaningful and lasting change within our firm and throughout our communities. 

We understand that the recent events – in Rochester, Buffalo, Albany and across the country – are evoking a wide range of emotions, frustrations, and opinions. The firm's Inclusion and Equity Committee is working hard to develop educational opportunities, processes and policies, and a culture driven by principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Today, we encourage everyone to implement these concrete actions to support each other and our mission through this difficult time:

  1. Challenge yourself to have difficult and uncomfortable conversations. The epidemic of racism will not change if we are unwilling to confront our discomfort.  
  2. Speak out if you witness an insensitive, hurtful, or harmful act, or an act of injustice. The obligation of speaking up does not rest alone with those most affected, but is shared by all of us. 
  3. Engage with, support, and donate to organizations that share the mission of combating racism in our communities and profession.
  4. Seek out resources on the issues of racism and implicit bias to learn more about the foundations of these issues and how you can drive change.

This message is not the end of this conversation, but instead the beginning. We will continue to listen, learn, and lead as we work together to root out racism.

United, our community can face any challenge and initiate positive change together. Please… stay safe, vigilant, and connected.

Shimomura Kim 2015 007 HSE Roc 0190HR 8X10 1Kimberly I. Shimomura
Chair, Inclusion and Equity Committee 


Wittlin Craig 2015 075 HSE Roc 1234WebReadyCraig S. Wittlin 
Managing Partner                                     

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.

2021 Diversity Scholarship

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 a first-year student selected based on his or her 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, the applicant must be a full-time currently enrolled 1L law student who is 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 25, 2021.

Education and Awareness

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.

Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Student Essay Contest
The firm sponsors the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Student Essay Contest in the Rochester City School District. Students in the third, fourth and fifth grades are asked to submit essays about what Martin Luther King, Jr. Day means to them. Attorneys and staff at the firm will select the finalists and vote on the winning essays and one winner will be selected in each grade level. Given the current remote learning environment, HSE will not hold the contest in the 2020-2021 academic year. 

Social Responsibility and Community Involvement

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

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:

Shimomura KimKimberly I. Shimomura, Chair
HSE Inclusion and Equity Committee
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



This website presents only general information not intended as legal advice. Although we encourage calls, letters and emails from prospective clients, please keep in mind that merely contacting Harter Secrest & Emery LLP (HSE) does not establish an attorney-client relationship between us. Confidential information should not be sent to HSE until you have been notified in writing by HSE that a formal attorney-client relationship has been established. Information sent to us before then may not be treated as confidential by HSE or the court.

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