Building Today for Tomorrow
I am especially mindful of the legacy that has been passed to me as MCCA’s new executive director and quite humbled by the opportunities that the future holds for this organization under my leadership. Life takes strange twists. But along the road, I believe that the influence of a higher power makes sure we find ourselves exactly where we need to be, if we are smart enough to be quiet and listen. But how many of us are? So frequently, we are quite certain that we know all of the answers. We spend much of our time using our voices and oratorical skills to make sure that everyone knows that we know exactly what’s going on. In the process, the voices of others who might strengthen the final analysis go unheard.
I am reminded of one evening in the fall of 1996 when I sat in my office at the law department of Sunoco, Inc. in Philadelphia reading an invitation to a diversity reception being hosted in New York City by an organization for minority corporate counsel. Although unable to attend, I felt encouraged by the fact that a group was getting together to hear minority counsel concerns and provide an opportunity to network. Little did I expect that several years later, I would find myself leading that organization. Now it’s my turn to listen and respond.
Since leaving the Sunoco law department, I’ve had the opportunity to learn the association management business as a vice president at the American Corporate Counsel Association. In that role, I heard more about the needs of corporate counsel. Without regard to skin color, ethnicity, or gender, in-house counsel are all looking for the same opportunities—to be challenged in their work, to positively contribute to the bottomline of the company, and to have the opportunity for professional growth and career development. Yet, statistics show that for many minority and women attorneys, the legal profession has a long way to go before achieving true inclusion and allowing all voices to be equally heard. So for me, and my staff at MCCA, listening will be the key to learning and identifying opportunities to further the goal of diversity.
For those whose voices I’ve heard asking “does MCCA do anything but host fancy dinners?” the answer is a resounding, YES! But you will not hear the reply if you do not take the time to listen. And the goal of diversity will not be advanced if you fail to raise your voice in support. This year, MCCA will pursue a vigorous research agenda in an effort to provide the industry with an accurate picture of the state of diversity in today’s corporate law departments, and we will build a portfolio of best practices to guide departments in the design, implementation, and measurement of successful diversity initiatives. I encourage you to take an interest and get involved.
Veta T. Richardson
From the March 2001 issue of Diversity & The Bar®