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A Note From Our CEO
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Joel's Challenge

By: Joel Stern, NAMWOLF

August 2016

The legal profession remains one of the least diverse professions in the United States. That pains me and I'm certain it pains most of you. While we have long admired the problem and many of us have taken steps to effectuate positive change, the problems continue to exist with no solution in sight. I entered the legal profession in the early 1980s (yes-I'm that old) because I wanted to be a leader and thought lawyers were leaders. Unfortunately-at least with respect to diversity and inclusion-we have failed.
The National Association of Women Lawyers' latest report indicated that women represent only 18% of all law firm equity partners and the typical female law firm equity partner earns a mere 80% of what her male counterpart earns. The National Association for Law Placement reports the percentage of African-American associates has declined steadily since 2009 when 4.66% of associates were black. In 2015, that number was down to 3.95%. The same report states the percentage of African-American partners has remained relatively flat. The number stood at 1.71% in 2009 and reached 1.78% in 2013 as compared with 1.77% now. I could go on and on with statistics that show the inequities that exist among minorities and women in our profession, but I'd prefer instead to focus on one easy step that in-house counsel can take to positively address this problem.
Minority and women owned law firms provide a more welcoming environment for ex Big-Law attorneys unhappy with the lack of diversity at large law firms. In addition, these law firms give their attorneys opportunities to attract clients frustrated with the legal industry's race and gender problem. NAMWOLF is all about enhancing diversity and inclusion in our profession by focusing on supplier legal diversity. We are an organization that makes it very easy for in-house counsel to take positive steps by giving in-house the opportunity to see and meet more than 155 minority and women owned law firms up close and personal. Our Annual Meeting is the perfect opportunity to witness first-hand how great these law firms are and to meet with other in-house counsel from Fortune 500 corporations who actively use our law firms across the United States in a myriad of legal practice areas.
My challenge to all of you is quite simple. I challenge in-house counsel from corporations that want to change the world in which we live, to make the time to attend our Annual Meeting in Houston and get to know our organization and the 155-plus-minority and women owned firms that make up this organization. It's a very low-cost proposition since our meetings are at no cost for in-house and include several CLE sessions, keynote speakers, in-house-only sessions, an expo where our firms are available to meet formally or informally, networking and a little bit of fun. While in-house counsel should continue to focus on making positive change by looking at "big firm" diversity, pipeline diversity and internal-focused diversity, NAMWOLF is the best answer to address legal diversity and inclusion from the supplier diversity perspective, while at the same time procuring excellent legal service from lawyers who understand the complexity of your business and the importance of developing relationships with you and your teams.

See you in Houston!

Joel Stern, CEO, National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms


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