How to Build Culture & Programs to Increase the Use of NAMWOLF Law Firm Members
Gerardo “Jerry” Alcazar
Sheryl L. Axelrod
“Bringing NAMWOLF In-House: How to Build Culture & Programs to Increase the Use of NAMWOLF Law Firm Members” was held in September 2016, and focused primarily on how in-house counsel can use NAMWOLF to hire excellent minority and women owned law firms.
The session was kicked off by its presenting sponsor, Innovative Legal Solutions. Based in Houston, the company was founded by Alicia Smith in 1992, becoming the first woman-owned legal video enterprise in Houston. Innovative provides legal support services including Court Reporting, Legal Video, Record Retrieval, Process Service, Copy Service, Document Management, Electronic Data Discovery (EDD), as well as Foam Board, Banner, and Canvas Printing. Innovative’s mission is to partner with law firms to meet their exact data needs in a way that fits the firm’s budget.
The panelists were introduced by moderators Jerry Alcazar of Blackwell Burke and Sheryl Axelrod of the Axelrod Firm. The panelists included:
●Mike Cammarota, Managing Director & Senior Director of Legal Services, Global Transactions for Accenture
●Raven Moore, Senior Litigation Counsel for McDonald’s Corporation
●Barry Parsons, Associate General Counsel for Freddie Mac
●Barbara Stevens, Vice President & Corporate Counsel for Prudential Financial
●Melford “Mel” Walker, Senior Counsel for Wells Fargo & Company
The panel began with a discussion of how each of the panelists’ companies used NAMWOLF to improve its diverse hiring and inclusivity programs.
Barbara Stevens of Prudential described her company’s history with NAMWOLF. It started more than a decade ago and blossomed after several years into a great arrangement for both sides. Barbara pointed particularly to the usefulness of NAMWOLF’s ability to target potential hires through questions. Companies can pose questions with as much or as little detail as they wish, and NAMWOLF returns the exact information they’re looking for. Barbara said Prudential put out four such requests in 2016 and made three hires, including a primary counsel to replace a much larger firm. Companies can use this service anonymously if they’d rather not put their names out there.
Barry Parsons then discussed Freddie Mac’s Supplier Vendor Academy. Among much else, this program hosts receptions that allow law firm members to get to know more about Freddie Mac’s business and culture to better prepare for work proposals. The program has led to the hiring of 13 different legal providers and has been met with tremendous enthusiasm at Freddie Mac and among prospective firms.
Mel Walker explained that Wells Fargo’s involvement with NAMWOLF is still in the nascent stage of development but that he is pleased with the results so far. Mel said that, over the last six years, Wells Fargo has spent more than one billion dollars in aggregate on diverse law firms, and added that he likes to share this fact with other companies because it creates a culture that encourages diverse hiring.
Raven Moore then shared her experience working with NAMWOLF. While McDonald’s had a strong working relationship with NAMWOLF prior to Raven’s joining the company, she wanted to broaden the partnership, aiming to bring as many talented people together as possible. She added that attorneys risk working too much inside their own bubbles, and need to make the effort to make connections outside of those bubbles.
Next, Mike Cammarota spoke about Accenture’s recent firm selection process focusing on minority and women owned law firms (many of them found through NAMWOLF). This selection process narrowed a pool of 25 firms down to six, and those six firms were brought in to Accenture headquarters to go through an extensive assessment. Each firm was assigned a coach who guided them through the process of setting up successful presentations to the company. This helped both sides, Mike said, because the law firms learned more about Accenture and Accenture learned more about the firms, setting up potentially fruitful future relationships. Mike also pointed out how important it is that companies be deeply and truly committed to diversity, that it cannot be something they do to check a box off from a list.
Several members of the audience then shared their own success stories of working with NAMWOLF. Another audience member asked the panel how their companies got started on their diversity hiring initiatives, and Mel Walker described Wells Fargo’s history with diverse hiring.
Mike Cammarota shared his appreciation for a law firm he met through NAMWOLF and noted how hard that firm worked to get its foot in the door with Accenture. The firm—the Patrick Law Group—went above and beyond to make sure Accenture knew what it was capable of.
Barry Parsons spoke about his work with the PCT Law Group, a firm hired through NAMWOLF. The firm helped Barry win a victory in a complex and fast-moving employment law case, going from discovery to oral argument and through appeals all the way to the Supreme Court. The firm not only did great work but did so in an extremely cost-effective way, which Barry said speaks to how diverse hiring not only is the right thing to do but also makes business sense.
The discussion then turned to the subject of Counsel Lists, also known as Preferred Provider Lists. Raven Moore said that McDonald’s does not use such lists and that she’s happy about this; Counsel Lists run the risk of excluding firms and marginalizing talented people, because it is typically large firms that make these lists, and once they’re on they tend to stay on. Barabara Stevens said Prudential does use Counsel Lists in some areas, but not in minority and women owned law firms. Mike Cammarota said Accenture uses lists for many reasons, but that it is always in need of new talent and that the most important thing is that companies get great results from whatever hiring system they use.
Raven Moore advised that her gold standard rule for how to develop diversity and inclusion efforts is that the effort absolutely must have the buy-in from leadership. Top-down support of diverse hiring makes it far likelier to succeed, and one way Raven builds support is to share widely her stories of past successes working with diverse firms. Mike Cammarota added that he sought guidance from other companies on how to get the support of leadership for diverse hiring programs, because he knew the programs could only succeed with top-down support. Barry Parsons said he gave a presentation on his successful work with a NAMWOLF firm, showing that the work had practical effects—in other words, he said, diverse hiring did more than make the company feel good about itself.
The panel then turned to whether diverse hiring is driven by customer demand. Barry Parsons noted that Freddie Mac’s customers are banks, not individual people, but that it believes in diverse hiring as the right thing to do and as the wise business move. Mel Walker said that, because Wells Fargo is ultimately about customer service, it has to think about doing what is right for its customers, which means being inclusive of all communities.
The discussion concluded with Barbara Stevens saying that she never leaves a NAMWOLF conference without getting a new idea, and she encouraged everyone to engage in dialogue with other attendees to generate discussion and out-of-the-box thinking. “No idea is too small or large,” she said. “Never think that you have a question that’s not really important or that doesn’t have merit. And anything that your company’s doing might trigger or spark something in someone else. I’ve just found it an incredibly valuable and rich resource of information.”