In the June 8th edition of The American Lawyer, there is a thought provoking article entitled: “The Diversity Crises – Are Clients Easing Off?” The article raises several good points and unfortunately continues to share some incredibly bad statistics. For example, out of the 77 AmLaw 100 Firms where there was data, 31 of these firms had no black equity partners last year or just one. It also suggests that corporations may not be as passionate about the diversity crises as they were ten years ago. The article quotes three very passionate General Counsels from Prudential, DuPont and NBC Universal who continue to “fight the fight” and help make change in our profession. Kudos to these three General Counsels and their teams of lawyers who continue to focus on diversity and inclusion in the legal space and do it in such a passionate and professional manner. Diversity and Inclusion counts at these legal groups and it shows. We just need to find more and more corporate legal groups who have this critical item at the top of their agenda and hold both their internal legal groups and outside counsel accountable to their ideals. One of my favorite quotes comes from NBC Universal’s General Counsel, Kimberley Harris, who states: “Diversity is not an issue that is only the responsibility of diverse lawyers. It is the responsibility of everybody in an institution.” This quote resonates very well with me since what I have found is that companies that are really attacking the issue head on and making change are those legal groups where male and female and black, white, hispanics, asian and other minorities at all levels of the legal group are working together to first understand and then solve. It is these legal groups that get it and I hope they continue to share their best practices with other legal groups. In addition, corporate legal groups that are helping to effectuate change are those legal groups that have a holistic approach to diversity and inclusion. They are not only focused on “big firm diversity” but also focused on giving a fair share of their business to top notch minority and women owned law firms around the U.S. In addition, these “best of breed” legal groups are also looking at diversity and inclusion in the legal space from second graders on up knowing how important the pipeline is to making changes at the top.
By Joel Stern