How Leading Lawyer Rich Rosalez Is a DEI Advocate

Rich Rosalez leverages his leadership and experience within DEI to help Samsung Electronics America push for equity and belonging

Rich Rosalez’s grandfather sold produce from his garden during retirement. It was a way for him to stay connected to his community, and Rosalez would help his grandfather. The vice president of litigation at Samsung Electronics America vividly remembers how upset he was when he was unable to start a lawnmower.

Rich Rosalez, VP of Litigation, Samsung Electronics America
Portrait by Nhut Tan Tran / https://www.instagram.com/tt_photog

His grandfather walked over calmly and asked him how getting angry was going to solve any problem. It’s a conversation that’s stuck with Rosalez all these years later, and it’s made him a calming leader.

The attorney believes in dreaming big and hustling to get there. As a leader who believes in always bringing your best, Rosalez would rather not show up than bring his B-game. The VP employs sports metaphors at every turn, and it’s clear that his track and cross-country background continue to inform his approach to his work and to his leadership.

But Rosalez also knows that no amount of hustle can make up for fundamental inequalities in business and society at large. He has been a key advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives both at Samsung, as a cofounder and Executive Sponsor of the Hispanic and Latinx Employee Resource Group, and with organizations like the Hispanic National Bar Association.

Rosalez’s colleagues recognize both his excellence as an attorney and his dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“We’re privileged to help Rich and his team with complex litigation,” says Greenberg Traurig Vice-Chairman Richard Edlin. “Rich is aggressive and strategic, working tirelessly for the best outcome,” adds Robert Herrington, cochair of Greenberg’s class-actions practice.

“Throughout his life, Rich has been the first to accomplish many things in his family and community,” says Crowell & Moring partner Juan Arteaga. “But more importantly, he’s always made sure he’s not the last. He has continuously fought to not only keep doors open for others coming after but also kicked those doors off the hinges to ensure that the opportunities he’s been afforded remain open.”

Rosalez spoke with Modern Counsel on his passion for diversity, where he sees the progress of the movement both abroad and within Samsung, and his passion for giving back to his community.

I understand you have been involved in the diversity space for some time. What has that looked like for you?

As a student, my involvement started not long after I left home for MIT. I valued how diverse the student body was and there was so much to learn from others, their journeys, and different cultures and perspectives. I worked for the admissions office and served as a student representative and admissions intern because I wanted to open doors for others. My extensive coursework and my involvement in these activities resulted in an appointment as special assistant to the president for multiculturalism my senior year.

In law school, I founded a student organization whose goal was to improve diversity on campus, with a focus on faculty and initiatives such as hosting a program on the path to becoming a law professor.

I expanded the group’s definition of diversity and transformed it into an umbrella organization for all student affinity groups, which allowed us to gain broad support across the student body. I consistently followed up with the dean, and we experienced positive results. Years later, the law school and university adopted anti-racism initiatives similar to what I introduced more than twenty years ago.

Could you talk about your involvement with Unidos at Samsung as well as some of the other diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives you’ve helped spearhead?

Unidos is Samsung Electronic America’s Hispanic/Latinx employee resource group, and I serve as an executive sponsor. I helped coordinate efforts and provide guidance during the launch, and I continue to lead, participate, and assist in any way I can to support the organization and the leadership team.

Our goals are to promote social and cultural awareness inside and outside of Samsung, foster a sense of community, and empower employees so we can be more connected and better prepared to have successful careers. The group encourages mentoring and networking, and it serves as a platform to connect employees and members that did not exist previously. We aim to give back to the community at large.

We believe this all leads to employees who are more invested, happier, and have a better overall experience at the company, which makes it a win-win for the company and its employees. In terms of other DEI initiatives throughout my career, I helped found and lead an ERG for minority attorneys and allies at one law firm, and I served on the diversity committee at another.

All along the way, I have been heavily involved in recruiting and mentoring—especially among underrepresented groups—and I am very proud of the many people I have helped. I believe both of those are important to pipeline and professional development, and it is more difficult to succeed without the aid of others.

Currently, I serve as a Hispanic National Bar Association deputy regional president and I am leading an effort to roll out a mentoring and networking program, which we believe is desperately needed given how the pandemic disrupted many of those initiatives and the benefits they would have provided. In Unidos, I have similarly introduced and led networking and mentoring initiatives.

What does your diversity experience tell you about the expanding DEI movement? What challenges still exist in the space?

It has been interesting to see diversity training programs and similar endeavors evolve over the years. I’ve been familiar with several programs that focused on diversity training, intersectionality, multiculturalism, implicit bias, and, more recently, DEI. There is an increasing amount of academic research to support the work in these areas, which is helpful to educate about the realities of our society, the different lives people lead, and the issues of power, privilege, and marginalization.

Like many workplaces, we’ve made significant progress at Samsung in recent years. Now, we have numerous ERGs, open forums and discussions, DEI initiatives, training sessions, and concerted focus in our talent acquisition efforts, which were not yet around when I started.

Samsung has come a long way, but we have room for improvement. In the legal profession, I have seen numerous calls to action regarding DEI over the years—some glimmers of hope, little progress, and then the cycle repeats.

It has been very exciting to see the energy and effort that activists, ordinary citizens, nonprofits, and companies have put into DEI, and I hope it is more than a trend. The civil unrest of 2020 was a flashpoint for many, but for some the tragedies were all too familiar. I truly hope we have experienced a collective paradigm shift and we will experience sustained change, which will require perseverance.

You seem to be a continually giving person, willing to reach out and help those others. Where do you find the time? What motivates those efforts? And what do you think this says about your own leadership?

When it comes to giving back and helping others, I once heard someone say, “It isn’t do you have the time, but rather, how do you not have the time?” That is a powerful statement. Of course, there are reasonable limits because you have to focus your energy where and when you can without overextending yourself. In terms of motivation to help others, it is simply the right thing to do.

I do not have to think long to consider how I have had great opportunities, and some of that results from the struggles of those who came before me. Being in the position I am in, I should do what I can to create and enable opportunities, help others, and ease the path of those who will follow.

Perhaps more than anything, I do it because I should. In every step of our respective journeys, we should look for ways to help others and go above and beyond. I am not sure what it says about my leadership, but I hope I lead by example, that I inspire others to follow me, to be willing to sacrifice, and help one another.


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