Laura Graf became the Ryan Companies’ chief legal officer in 2020 after working in private law firms and focusing on commercial real estate issues for nearly two decades.
“I had worked with Ryan team members for many years before joining the company, and I admired the caliber of the work, the employees and the leadership,” Graf says. “The things that drove me to an in-house position were the chance to be part of the business instead of being an outside consultant.”
Graf came to Ryan after being a partner at Dorsey and Whitney for nearly four years in a career that includes working for Lindquist & Vennum, Barnes & Thornburg LLP and Parsinen Kaplan Rosberg & Gotlieb PA. Part of her focus at Ryan, and in past positions, has been to make the “request for proposal” (RFP) process more inclusive to attract a varied group of legal providers.
Rather than rely on diversity statistics available on law firms’ websites, Graf seeks information on how legal partners would offer Ryan a diverse slate of attorneys through the RFP and interviews. In addition, she wants to learn how senior partners view diversity as a long-term business solution for clients.
“This is top of mind for me,” Graf says. “It’s something that I’ve been striving for. We need more diversity and equity in the practice of law, which is historically and currently still pretty much behind the curve.”
The attorney said she initially had plans to practice law for a few years and then go into teaching it. That didn’t happen because Graf found the work gratifying and interesting, although she might teach in retirement. “I love being engaged with the senior leadership and understanding how they’re making decisions and guiding the business, and I love the variety,” she says.
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