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Behind The Board: Meet the Members of our Equity Advisory Board

Featuring Will Lopez, Deputy General Counsel, Cooley LLP

We recently accelerated our effort to champion equity with the introduction of the new K-12 Equity Advisory Board. Comprised of accomplished experts who excel in areas related to equity and social justice, these board members will engage in discussion and planning of new ideas and business innovations in relation to educational equity in our products and projects. To see what that looks like in action, we’re highlighting our board members in their daily work life.

Today’s Highlight: Will Lopez, Esq

Deputy General Counsel at Cooley LLP, legal ethics, risk management, and conflicts of interest

Will Lopez serves as Cooley’s deputy general counsel. In that role, he advises the firm on legal ethics, risk management, conflicts of interest and other professional responsibility and compliance issues. Prior to joining Cooley, Will served as the deputy general counsel of an AmLaw 100 law firm. Will is a member of the New York City Bar Ethics Committee and is a frequent speaker on issues relating to legal ethics. He also serves on the board of the New York LGBT Bar Association. During law school, Will worked as a judicial extern to The Honorable Ann Claire Williams for the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, was a legal intern with Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund in Chicago, and received the “40 Under 40” award from the Windy City Times in 2011. Will is a graduate of Chicago-Kent College of Law (JD, magna cum laude, 2011), where he was note & comments editor of the Chicago-Kent Law Review. He was inducted into the Order of the Coif and Bar & Gavel Society, and was the recipient of a PILI Scholarship and the LAGBAC Foundation Award. Will studied English literature at the University of Miami (BA, cum laude, 2008).

Can you briefly describe your career path and how you came to be a part of the advisory panel?

I’m an ethics lawyer. Specifically, I focus my practice on legal ethics, which means that I counsel other lawyers on how to practice law ethically and help them manage risk. And while my background in legal ethics certainly influences my work for the Equity Advisory Board, my path to this role actually began well before law school. In fact, McGraw Hill has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My mom started with the company as a per diem sales rep and so my siblings and I would often help her get ready for presentations by tabbing books, listening to her practice presentations, and helping her load and unload boxes of textbooks from her van. I was also fortunate enough to receive a National Merit Scholarship sponsored by McGraw Hill that helped me pay for college, not to mention “modeling” for a math textbook in Texas!

After college, I went to law school and got involved with Lambda Legal, which is the oldest and largest national legal organization whose mission is to achieve full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and everyone living with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work. Working with Lambda opened my eyes to the systemic discrimination and pervasive inequality faced by the LGBT Community, which motivated me to get more involved in LGBT civil rights issues. In law school, I put together the first law school LGBT civil rights conference in the Mid-west and joined the boards of the LGBT Bar Association of Chicago and Equality Illinois — which were instrumental in passing marriage equality in Illinois. When I moved to New York, I remained active in the LGBT civil rights and equity spaces by joining the board of the LGBT Bar Association of New York and chairing its diversity committee. I’ve also been fortunate enough to work for stellar law firms, like Cooley LLP, that emphasize diversity, equity and inclusion — especially through impactful pro bono service.

So when I was asked to join the Equity Advisory Board, I couldn’t think of a better way to blend my passion for social justice, my professional focus on ethics, and my family ties to this great company to help foster equitable and inclusive learning for the next generation.

What do you hope you accomplish or change while being a part of the advisory panel?

The board is made up of incredible educators, researchers, and community leaders. I feel humbled to be included and hope that my focus on ethics and LGBT equality can add a helpful point of view as we guide McGraw Hill in creating products that reflect the full spectrum of students and cultivate generations of thoughtful learners who champion equity, diversity, and inclusion. I also hope that one day, a gay, lesbian, bi or trans kid sitting in a middle school history class will learn about Stonewall or Harvey Milk and not only feel less alone because they finally see someone like them in a textbook, but also feel empowered to continue improving the world.

Why are you passionate about the work that you do?

In terms of my legal practice, I am passionate about my work because lawyers are fundamental to our society, and so helping lawyers practice law in an ethical manner is crucial to ensuring that our societal and civic systems function properly. When it comes to my diversity and LGBT-focused work, I am motivated by wanting to change the systems in our society that exclude or discriminate against LGBT individuals.

Why do you think equity and social justice is critical to all stakeholders in K-12 education?

If we want to live in a society where believing in equity and social justice are synonymous with being a good citizen, then we need to start early and educate students and teachers on these topics. What we learn in school shapes us for the rest of our lives, and by empowering educators with culturally responsive and equitable curricula (along with the necessary support to ensure that our teachers know how to teach those lessons), we can change the world.

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