Alumni | Profile
Melique Jones ’98
Driving Diversity at Skadden
Melique Jones ’98

“ENSURING THAT PEOPLE HAVE OPPORTUNITIES to feel empowered and heard is one of the most important things we can do to foster inclusion,” said Melique Jones ’98. “We often speak proudly about our firm’s culture and history, but I think it’s important to explore the possibility that different people, especially people from underrepresented backgrounds, might be experiencing things differently within your organization.”

Jones has been the head of diversity and inclusion at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom since 2011. She grew up in Harlem and attended St. Aloysius School, which was founded by one of the first orders of all-black nuns in the United States. It was there, she said, around the age of 8 or 9, that she decided to become a lawyer.

“Learning about people like Thurgood Marshall and Charles Hamilton Houston from an early age,” she said, “is what I think initially stoked my interest in the power of law and of individuals who make a difference as lawyers.”

After graduating with a degree in journalism from New York University, Jones worked at the Wall Street Journal for several years, but still wanted to fulfill her dream of attending law school. She enrolled at Brooklyn Law School as a part-time student, feeling vulnerable as a first-generation law student and as someone from an underrepresented background.

“But the thing that sticks with me to this day about my experience at Brooklyn Law School was the community of students I met,” said Jones. “Everyone was very welcoming and focused around being supportive of each other. While it initially felt like there weren’t many people of color, I soon connected with the Black Law Students Association, and some members became like my family.”

After graduating from law school, the first in her family to do so, Jones returned to her passion for communications at Dow Jones, then the parent company of the Journal. After just a year, American Lawyer Media (now ALM) recruited her, and from there she moved on to a marketing and communications position at Skadden, where she’s worked for nearly 20 years.

Since 2006, Jones has built a successful career in corporate diversity and inclusion. Today, she leads the firm’s efforts in increasing diversity, particularly in the attorney ranks. She and her team support the firm’s hiring and recruitment efforts, including associate development and retention and leadership coaching. Her work involves developing large-scale programs, focusing on accelerating the growth and development of women and other lawyers from diverse backgrounds. She also develops inclusive leadership training for senior professionals managing diverse teams, reinforcing the best practices related to engaging all of their team members and making sure that everyone feels that they have a space and a voice at the table.

“Once these wonderful, brilliant people we’ve hired are here,” she explained, “we want to help ensure that the environment feels welcoming and inclusive so that all of our lawyers can do their best and be their best.”

Jones also collaborates with other team members on the firm’s systemic functions and processes related to diversity and inclusion, including feedback, mentorship and sponsorship, and work allocation.

“My team and I are thought leaders and thought partners with our stakeholders,” she said. “We generate and implement the ideas, but what we’re really hoping to do is empower others to lead and collaborate inclusively, enhancing the culture in which we all feel a strong sense of pride.”

Any organization, of any size, can improve its diversity and inclusion efforts just by taking the time to talk to employees and find out what they are thinking, Jones said. Whether conducting formal surveys or engaging with people one-on-one to understand their experiences, encouraging honest conversations is a step in the right direction.

“Pay attention to the people who may seem to be the quietest and try to elicit their input,” Jones said. “At the end of the day, what we’re trying to do is make sure that our goals around increasing diversity and fostering inclusion really permeate everything we do.”

—by Jen Swetzoff