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Now Is The Time To Dispel The Untrue Myths About NAMWOLF Minority And Women Owned Law Firms

Posted By Renecca Allen, Friday, July 1, 2016

I have now had the honor of serving as the CEO of NAMWOLF for two years.  While I continue to be excited about more and more in-house legal groups reaching out to our firms and giving them the opportunity to compete for and win the business, I still get frustrated with untrue myths and unreasonable expectations that exist with respect to our minority and women owned firms. 

Some of the more repeated untrue myths that I have heard and combated are set forth below.

Myth #1:  NAMWOLF firms are not of the same caliber as the firms we currently use.

Response:  I find this myth to be one of the most irresponsible and unfair myths I have heard. There is not enough space in this newsletter article to tackle these fallacious comments one by one. Suffice it to say that the lawyers who work at NAMWOLF firms have excellent credentials, worked at “big law” and did very well in “big law” and for a number of reasons, decided to go off on their own.  (Hint – look at the statistics about minorities and women in “big law” including the most recent NAWL report. The legal profession is behind every other profession with respect to the advancement of minorities and women.) Every law firm that is part of NAMWOLF went through an onerous, time-consuming law firm vetting process, primarily controlled by in-house counsel. The barriers are several, including having three very strong corporate references from Fortune 500 legal groups that includes statements that the law firm did a great job for the company, they would recommend using them again and would recommend to other Fortune 500 companies that they use the law firm.  The firms also must be AV rated 4.5 and higher and certified by WBENC or the NMSDC as women or minority owned. The fact that so many Fortune 500 legal groups use our firms easily dispels this myth.

Myth #2:  We can’t use NAMWOLF Firms because we need a firm with a bench?

Response: We have over 150 firms in 40 states that range in size from 3 to more than 300. Most of our firms are in the 15-30 attorney size. While some of the bigger firms have more practice areas they are involved in, many of our smaller firms are involved in fewer practice areas with a razor-like boutique focus. We also have several firms that “partner” with both “big law” and other NAMWOLF firms effectively serving in-house counsel.

Myth #3:  While we will consider using NAMWOLF firms in the labor and employment area, for other areas, we will continue to use “big law.” In addition, we will use NAMWOLF firms in less complex matters but not in complex matters.

Response: While NAMWOLF has firms that practice labor and employment law and do a great job serving the corporations that engage them, we also have numerous firms that practice in a myriad of legal areas including: financial services, transactional, trials, intellectual property, white collar crime, health care, oil and gas regulatory, government contracting, ERISA law to name a few. In addition, our law firms are very capable of handling complex and challenging legal matters. Again, just ask the in-house lawyers who are already using our firms across practice areas and with complex problems where expert legal advice is needed.

In addition to the above Myths, there are certain barriers that NAMWOLF firms have to go through that their counterparts at “big law” do not have to address. These include:

1.       NAMWOLF Firms are held to a higher standard of quality and value than “big law”

Response: While NAMWOLF Firms are very comfortable having to meet your legal group’s quality and value metrics, there is no reason why they should be held to a higher standard than what you hold a “big law” firm to.  In reality, many of our firms are held to a higher standard of care than the big firms.  One example – big firms are often forgiven for imperfections while the slightest imperfection by one of our firms is sometimes used to argue that NAMWOLF firms shouldn’t be doing the work.

2.       NAMWOLF Firms rates must be lower than the rate we are paying today from “big law.”

Response:  NAMWOLF firm owners generally come from the largest, most prestigious law firms. Their rates should reflect their experience, expertise, and the value they bring. NAMWOLF firms’ rates may be somewhat lower because they typically provide more cost-efficient legal services. Work is performed by experienced attorneys, matters are appropriately staffed, and there is generally less overhead. NAMWOLF firms are also typically more open to flexible fee arrangements and fee structures. 

3.       Preferred/Approved Counsel and Panel Lists should not operate as a bar to using NAMWOLF Firms

Response:  Several Fortune 500 companies have recognized there is a clear business benefit to utilizing women or minority owned law firms.

In fact, according to research conducted by The Hackett Group, companies that focus on supplier diversity generate 133% greater return on investment than companies that do not. See “The Hackett Group: Supplier Diversity Does Not Drive Increased Costs” at: http://www.thehackettgroup.com/about/alerts/alerts_2006/alert_08172006.jsp. NAMWOLF has published an article in the ABA Journal of Litigation, Inside Counsel and DRI on the adverse impact of the panel process on minority and women owned law firms. Please take the time to read it HERE.

For those of you who have panels, there are at least three options to ensure that NAMWOLF firms have the opportunity to compete for your business. First, you can agree that there should be a minimum percentage of NAMWOLF firms on your panel list. Second, you can have a separate list with NAMWOLF firms on it. Third, you can have a bypass process where if a NAMWOLF firm is recommended, there is a pre-approved process for bypassing the list. There are most likely other solutions but these are the three that I have seen successfully used. If you believe in high quality and high value legal services that support your Company’s Supplier Diversity initiative, you can find a solution to the panel issue and find opportunities to use our firms.

In closing, it is time for all of us to combat the unfair myths and unreasonable expectations that exist with respect to our law firms and educate the legal profession on who we are, why we exist, and what our law firms can do.   With the help of our existing law firms and corporate and governmental entities who are already active and passionate about NAMWOLF, we can help change the landscape and increase the awareness of this tremendous organization.  Our firms are amazing both in terms of the quality of their work product and the people who make up the firms. All they want is the opportunity to compete for the business and WOW you. Give them the chance and you will not be disappointed.

Joel

 

This article was created in part from the Guide to Promoting the In-House Legal Department Utilization of NAMWOLF Law Firms at: https://c.ymcdn.com/sites/namwolf.site-ym.com/resource/resmgr/Docs/Guide_to_Promoting_Diversity.pdf that was written by Alan Bryan (Wal-Mart), Gilda Spencer (Allstate), Donna Johnson (Allstate), Shanin Fuller (Ingredion), and Nancy Peterson, with input and oversight by John Murdock (Benton Potter & Murdock, P.C.) and Sheryl L. Axelrod (The Axelrod Firm, PC)


 

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Walmart Legal 10 Year Diversity and Inclusion Event

Posted By Renecca Allen, Friday, April 15, 2016

On April 12, 2016 Joel Stern had the pleasure of speaking at Walmart Legal 10 year Diversity and Inclusion event. The event recognized the value of diversity in the legal profession.

 

          

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Special Moments at the 2015 Annual Meeting

Posted By Renecca Allen, Thursday, September 24, 2015

So many highlights at our NAMWOLF 2015 Annual Meeting, but one of my special moments was spending time with Carla Fields - Johnson's beautiful daughter Kennedy. As we think about diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, we can't ignore pipeline diversity and while that doesn't change things quickly, it is critical to plant the seeds to change things positively and permanently. Spending time with Kennedy truly reinforces my personal goal to continue focusing on pipeline diversity. Kennedy and other children need to be the impetus for change and our Call to Action.

 

 

Joel

 

 

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Viola Davis Makes History at the Emmy Awards

Posted By Renecca Allen, Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Viola Davis makes Emmy history as first black woman to win for Lead Actress and gives an outstanding speech. The message, while very relevant in the tv and movie business, also applies to the legal profession. Like minority and women actors who just want the roles to be written for them and then the  opportunity to win these roles, give MBE and WBE firms the opportunity to compete for your legal needs and they will wow you. And while they may not win an Emmy, they will win your trust, respect and confidence and exceed your expectations. Take a peek at our great firms at www.namwolf.org

  

Joel

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Diversity and Inclusion Round Table Discussion with Walmart Legal

Posted By Renecca Allen, Friday, August 14, 2015
Updated: Friday, August 14, 2015

Yesterday, I spent the entire day with Walmart Legal as part of their yearly Diversity and Inclusion Round Table. One of our board members and Vice Chairs, Carla Fields Johnson joined me. We were there along with representatives from CMCP, NNABA and NAWL (all great organizations) talking about diversity and inclusion in the legal field and what Walmart and we can all do to achieve our collective goals in this critical space. Walmart Legal, including its General Counsel Karen Roberts, dedicated an entire day to presentations and more importantly, open and honest dialogue regarding what’s working and what we can do better. So many companies talk a good game with respect to diversity and inclusion in the legal field. Walmart backs up its words with actions that benefit minorities and women at big firms and MBE/WBE owned firms. And, they want to do more and raise the bar higher. 

 

I commend Walmart Legal not only for what they have accomplished, but for what they want to do in the future and suggest that others emulate what Walmart is doing. As lawyers, we need to be leaders and not followers and if each and everyone of us took steps to enhance diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, we would truly effectuate positive change. It takes time, passion, courage, commitment, a formal program, metrics, accountability and rewards for successful implementation. It also takes top down, bottoms up and everything in between support of the in-house lawyers.  This is the only way it can truly be successful. 

 

Thank you Walmart for everything you are doing. We truly appreciate it.

 

Joel

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Corporations Doing the Right Thing in the Legal and Diversity Space – Two Examples

Posted By Renecca Allen, Friday, June 26, 2015

This past week, I had the good fortune to attend two events in Atlanta, Georgia. The first was The Coca-Cola’s Legal Diversity Link, which Coca-Cola has been holding for several years. The event connects attorneys from The Coca-Cola Company, in-house legal departments and MWBE firms to not only discuss utilization of MWBE firmsbut to celebrate a mutual commitment to diversity and inclusion. The Coca-Cola Company not only expresses the right words in the diversity and inclusion legal space, but their actions back up their words with this being only one example of what Coca-Cola does. Hearing John Lewis talk about how important diversity and inclusion is to The Coca-Cola Company in every aspect of it’s business was great and I hope that other companies that attended take that back to their C-Suite and boards. It was another very classy event where several MWBE firms, including several NAMWOLF firms, had the opportunity to meet with Coca-Cola attorneys and other corporate legal group attorneys. It also provides a great benchmark for other companies that are at different stages of their legal group diversity and inclusion journey. Thank you Coca-Cola for including NAMWOLF in this event and thanks for doing everything you are doing in this critical space. Well done!

The next day I attended the ACC Georgia Chapter’s Inaugural Diversity Summit that The Home Depot hosted. 19 NAMWOLF Firms across the United States were invited to attend and the ACC and The Home Depot did not disappoint. The agenda included a welcome from Rachel Gervin, ACC Georgia Chapter President and Linda Seal, The Home Depot Associate General Counsel. It also spotlighted three of our NAMWOLF firms showcasing the amazing quality legal services that they can provide to global national corporations that have very complex and demanding legal needs. We also heard from Teresa Wynn Roseborough, The Home Depot EVP and General Counsel, who stressed how diversity and inclusion is so incremental to everything The Home Depot does. She also made a very compelling business case for diversity and inclusion not only for The Home Depot, but for all corporations. There was also a panel that featured attorneys from The Home Depot, Sage North America, United Parcel Service and NAMWOLF Advisory Council Member Sloane Peres, General Counsel at The Krystal Company.  Not surprising, everyone stressed the importance of building strong relationships with legal counsel because in-house now can choose not only very smart attorneys, but attorneys they want to do business with. And, relationship building takes time, but in the end it’s the best way to get in the door of these corporate legal groups. The event ended with a Speed Networking event that allowed NAMWOLF firms to meet with several in-house counsel in attendance. Congratulations Wanda Morris, from the Home Depot and the ACC Georgia Chapter for putting on such a tremendous event. We hope it becomes an annual event where additional NAMWOLF firms are invited. We are so very confident that our firms have and will continue to deliver what corporations demand – high quality, and high value legal services in a myriad of legal practice areas. Thank you to The Home Depot and ACC Georgia Chapter for all you do in this space. 

The above are two examples of companies and bar associations that back up their words with actions. On behalf of NAMWOLF and the many other associations in the legal profession that focus on enhancing diversity and inclusion in the legal space, we implore companies and bar associations around the U.S. to share best practices and continue doing events like the two above. It’s the best way to meet the many minority and women owned law firms that want the opportunity to compete for your business and win it based on the quality and value metrics that corporations use. 

NAMWOLF salutes The Coca-Cola Company, ACC Georgia Chapter, The Home Depot and all of the other companies that took the time to participate and effectuate positive change in our profession. Diversity and Inclusion should be a celebration of what we have accomplished as well as what we need to accomplish one step at a time. This past week personally reminded me of both. 

Joel

 

 

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Conducting A Member Firm Search On The NAMWOLF Website

Posted By Renecca Allen, Thursday, June 11, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Hello all! As most of you know, my name is Renecca Allen, and I am one-fifth of the NAMWOLF team. I began my journey at NAMWOLF in August 2014. I provide a wide range of administrative support services for the NAMWOLF team.

 

A very important role that I assist the team with is providing detailed listings of our law firms to in-house counsel for their legal needs. There are two ways that I compile this information:

 

1. I conduct a client blind survey request. With this approach, the in-house counsel provides us with specific details of what they are looking for (i.e., practice areas, jurisdiction, expertise levels, etc.) I take this information and send a request for information to the corresponding law firm members. I then compile the data and send the information to the in-house requesting lawyer. Typically, in-house uses this information to explore pursuing further action with member firms that provided a response. We know that in-house has hired NAMWOLF Member Firms through this mechanism. (Click here to read Joel’s blog on law firm solicitations and/or read the June edition of our Newsletter).

 

2. Utilizing the NAMWOLF website to search for NAMWOLF firms. The NAMWOLF website allows in-house counsel and guests to perform a comprehensive search for NAMWOLF Member Firms with specific expertise, geographic locations, practice areas, and sub practice areas. You can search for firms by name, city and state, practice areas, MBE/WBE, firm size, average attorney experience, certification in specific areas of law, specific languages, representative transactions, representative cases, state courts, and federal courts. To search for a firm by name, log on to www.NAMWOLF.org. Click the “Law Firm Members” tab at the top of the home screen. Click “Find a Member Firm.” If you know the name of the firm you want to search, enter it in the “Firm Name” space. To search by location, choose a city and state from the drop drown box. Another search method is to search by practice areas and sub practice areas. To conduct this search, choose a practice area from the drop down menu and select it. Next, go to the sub practice area drop down menu to select the sub practice area(s). Multiple sub practice selections may be made for each practice area.  You can also search for additional practice areas.

 

We are continuously working on improving the search engine capability including practice areas and sub practice areas, so please continue providing me with your recommendations for improvement. Please contact me directly if you have any questions or need any additional information.

 

Renecca


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To Solicit Or Not To Solicit – That Is The Question

Posted By Renecca Allen, Tuesday, June 9, 2015

What I like most about this position is having the opportunity to talk to in-house legal groups around the United States sharing my experiences with NAMWOLF first as in-house and now in this role. While each meeting is a bit different, a recurring question is, “How can I find law firms that can do our work in practice areas and cities where I need legal help?” While there are many answers to this question, what has surprised me a bit is how helpful it is to in-house counsel to have NAMWOLF help find member attorneys through the anonymous solicitation process we have increasingly used over the past year. In this edition of the Newsletter, I would like to explore the anonymous solicitation process and why it has proven beneficial for both our law firms and in-house counsel.

Whether an in-house attorney is active with NAMWOLF or not, almost all are interested in better understanding whether our law firms can meet their specific needs either by practice area or city.  There are several ways for in-house counsel to get information about our firms including looking at our Corporate Counsel Guide, using the Member Firm search feature on the website, asking other in-house lawyers for references, asking other NAMWOLF law firms for recommendations, and attending our meetings and Expo. In addition, in-house counsel are increasingly utilizing the NAMWOLF Team to help perform due diligence for in-house via solicitations.  In this process, we either reach out to all of our firms, firms located in specified cities or use the Practice Area Committees to identify potentially appropriate firms.

In-house counsel have repeatedly told us that they like the solicitation process since it saves them time when NAMWOLF staff conduct preliminary due diligence to help “sort” firms that can do what in-house wants. This is true for both our active in-house counsel and for legal groups who are not involved with us but are interested in learning more about us. They often like the anonymity of the process since they can get the information they are looking for without announcing it to the world. In-house attorneys ask for these types of solicitations typically under two circumstances: (1) They have an urgent need for legal help and want to see who within NAMWOLF can do the work or, (2) They are looking at opportunities to use NAMWOLF firms and want to do more casual exploring of the firms so they have the information ready when a need arises.

We have been doing an increasing number of solicitations over the past year precisely because of the positive feedback on the process.  We try to make it easy for our law firms by only asking for the minimum information necessary for in-house to get what they want. These are not requests for voluminous amounts of information. Typically, we will only ask if the law firm has the requisite expertise necessary in a specific practice area in a particular city.

One of the questions our law firms ask most frequently is, “Do these solicitations work?” The first question that needs to be addressed is how are we defining “work?”  From the in-house counsel perspective, the answer is an unequivocal “yes.”  They get useful information from NAMWOLF quickly and efficiently in a usable format which they can then disseminate to others in their legal group.  It helps them either with an urgent need, or more long term need. Many of these companies are doing their best to find opportunities to use our firms and this information makes it easy for them to do this. 

From a macro law firm perspective, the answer is also “yes.” Every time we identify qualified firms we are putting these firms on the in-house radar when prior to that, they most likely were not. The time and effort to complete the request is not material and the benefits could be great, either in real time or in the future.  However, the real question law firms are asking is, “Do these solicitations lead to work for our member firms?”  The answer to this question is also a clear “yes.”  Renecca Allen tracks all solicitations and follows up with the requesting party. We ask whether the information was useful, whether they have interviewed any of our firms and whether they have engaged any of our firms. We know that many of these solicitations have led to both interviewing and hiring.  As a matter of fact, a company contacted me as I was writing this article to let me know it had engaged one of our firms to defend a significant product liability matter. Also, sometimes the information gathered is reviewed by in-house and stored for future reference.  In these instances, the decision to interview and/or engage is months away from the original request. Finally, we know that some of the requestors have reviewed the information and used that information to set up interviews at the Expo or other parts of our Annual and Business Meetings.

In addition, NAMWOLF firms have started using the solicitation process to find other NAMWOLF firms to refer business to and we hope this trend continues. Business to our firms comes from many sources and one of the most important sources is the member firm to member firm reference. We need to continue to focus on cross-marketing efforts and use mechanisms like this.

In closing, the NAMWOLF team is focused on doing anything we can do to make it easy for in-house attorneys to consider and ideally hire our firms. The solicitations fulfill a very real in-house need. We are seeing this both from our very active in-house members as well as legal groups that are just taking a peek at our organization and its firms. If you are in-house and want to use the solicitation process, please let me know and we will get you connected to a network of enormously talented attorneys. If you are a law firm and need a law firm reference, please work with us and we will get you a list of firms that meet your needs.

Joel

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Joel Stern Blogs About His Recent Trip To San Diego and Los Angeles

Posted By Renecca Allen, Monday, April 27, 2015
Updated: Monday, April 27, 2015

I just got back from a great trip to both San Diego and Los Angeles. I met with In-House legal groups and worked with Jane and our two co-chairs, Mark Tarango and Will Delgado, on the Annual Meeting to be held in Hollywood on September 16-19. Great progress is being made and we hope to have registration up in early May so stay tuned. I want to thank City National Bank and their General Counsel, Michael Cahill, for hosting a great cocktail session for our law firms, In-House, and sponsors at their corporate headquarters this past Thursday. Over 60 people attended to hear about NAMWOLF, our Annual Meeting and the amazing firms that are part of NAMWOLF. We also were fortunate to hear about all of the great diversity and inclusion initiatives that City National Bank is involved in.  I am planning several more trips in the coming months including N. California in mid-June and Seattle in July.  I’m happy to meet with corporate legal groups that have an interest in learning more about NAMWOLF and procuring high quality and high value legal services, while at the same timing aligning perfectly with their corporate supplier initiatives. As you have heard before, it’s a very compelling value proposition.  I’m pretty confident that based on the response from the several companies I met with last week, they will be attending our Annual Meeting and looking for opportunities to use our law firms. 

Joel Stern, NAMWOLF, CEO

 

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Thank You For A Great Business Meeting!

Posted By Renecca Allen, Friday, February 13, 2015

Well, another successful business meeting just concluded in beautiful San Antonio. Thanks to our co-chairs, Paul Garcia, Shannon Schmoyer and Matt Morningstar along with many others who helped put on such a successful event.  We had over 260 attendees, including several in-house from across the United States. We were also honored to have several guest speakers, including the CEO of CST, Kim Lubel, who gave a very passionate talk on her journey from a small town in Ohio to CEO of a Fortune 500 company.  I was also very pleased to see Joe West, the CEO of the MCCA, at our conference including our Monday lunch where we honored our own Yolanda Coly with the first annual Yolanda Coly Advocacy Award, which was one of the highlights of our session. This is the first meeting where we focused on our nine Practice Area Committees and from what I have heard, the practice area focus was a hit and resonated very well with both our Member Firms and in-house counsel. Another highlight of our meeting was the very original and funny video created by our 2015 Annual Meeting co-chairs, William Delgado and Mark Tarrango.  They clearly got us all pumped up with the video that can be seen on our website. They could give up their successful lawyer jobs and become a comedy team but not before our Annual Meeting please. We also had several in-house only sessions, including the very successful Shell session that focused on what legal groups can do to bring more work to minority and women owned law firms, as well as law firm only sessions. And, last but certainly not least, we had plenty of time to network, build relationships and have fun.  I hope all of you who attended leave the meeting energized to do more to help us achieve our mission. I also hope many of you continue building friendships with the authentic and high quality lawyers who are part of the NAMWOLF family. I know the NAMWOLF Team and Board are very excited to continue with our 2015 priorities and see many of you (and more) at our Annual Meeting in Hollywood in September. 

 

In the interim, please keep looking at our social media, our website and find me or anyone on the NAMWOLF Team if there is anything we can do for you. 

 

 

Joel

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