Corporate law department discussed: Bristol-Myers Squibb
Left to right: Curtis Mack, Jim Sandman, Jane Pigott, Gardner Courson, and Linda Willett (sitting)
WITH TODAY'S GLOBAL ECONOMY, IT'S BECOME INCREASINGLY easier to make the business argument for a diverse workforce. Yet most law firms continue to be predominately white and predominately run by men. In fact, the overall percentage of minority associates and partners has barely changed over the past decade. According to the American Bar Association, less than three percent of all partners in the nation's law firms are minorities, and the percentage dips to less than two percent in the largest and most profitable firms. Today, minority representation in the profession is about 10 percent.
Most law firms have some kind of program in place to increase diversity. So what's the problem? "It's not ineffective programs," says James J. Sandman, managing partner at Arnold & Porter. "It's that most firms aren't doing enough. You need a menu of things to make a difference."
The law firms profiled here have a plethora of programs to increase diversity. By approaching the issue from many different angles— W —from recruiting, retention, and promotion—these firms offer some of the best practices to significantly change the face of the legal profession.
"It really helps to look around the firm and see minorities progressing. It also makes it easier to attract minority lawyers who see that they can succeed in a large law environment."
DEBORAH H. TELMAN
WINSTON & STRAWN
It's easy to see which firms' diversity programs have excelled—just look at the numbers. One look at Winston & Strawn's numbers, and it's clear that something is working at the 840 lawyer firm.
In a recent survey conducted by the Chicago Lawyer in 2000, Winston & Strawn had the highest number of minorities, 45, among Chicago-based firms with 20 or more lawyers. The firm also boasts the highest number of African-American lawyers, 17; and the most minority women, 26; the highest number of minority associates; the most African-American associates; and the most African-American partners.
"It really helps to look around the firm and see minorities progressing," says Deborah H. Telman, a senior associate at the firm who is an African-American, specializing in corporate transaction work. "It also makes it easier to attract minority lawyers who see that they can succeed in a large law environment."
Part of Winston & Strawn's success is traced to its full menu of programs. The firm does all the things that most firms have done when paying attention to diversity: it has a Diversity Committee, its recruiters send a diverse pool of candidates its way, and it has a mentorship program. But this firm has gone even further. It has diversified key committees and allocated significant resources to help women succeed in the firm. Its efforts have also been helped by clients who are insisting on seeing a diverse pool of candidates handle their matters.
In December, the firm further diversified its Executive Committee and in February, its Compensation Committee.
"By having increasing numbers of women and minorities serve on these committees, it says that the most powerful people in the firm believe that diversity not only is an important issue but an important attribute to good, strategic decision-making," says Jane DiRenzo Pigott, a partner at Winston & Strawn who heads up the environmental law department and the firm's Diversity Initiative. It also brings different perspectives to key decisions and gives an added push to the careers of those individuals serving on the committees.
Winston & Strawn's women lawyers also received an extra push to their careers this March when more than 200Winston & Strawn women lawyers from the firm's six offices (about 90 percent of women lawyers at Winston & Strawn) came to Chicago for a two-day conference, the 2nd Annual "Women 2 Women Business Conference."
Like the first conference, which was held in 1997, the conference's primary focus was how to be a successful attorney at the firm. "That issue always has the most interest," says Pigott. Gail Evans, author of Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman, and executive vice president at CNN, served as the luncheon speaker. The firm's chairman, former Illinois Governor James R. Thompson, its managing partner, and several office and department heads also spoke. For two days, the women talked about how to take control of their careers, raise their profiles at the firm, get good work, and build a reputation at the firm. The firm also sponsored the session, "Balancing Career and Family: The Part-Time Option," as well as a discussion on the role of the mentor. At the end of the conference, there was a final gathering, "Ask Anyone Anything," hosted by partners Joan Fife and Pigott.
"The level of enthusiasm for this conference has been mind-boggling," says Pigott. In terms of retaining women lawyers, Pigott said the firm must, among other things, offer flexibility. "The part-time policy must be viable," she says. "Women must also believe they can get the best assignments with the best people and develop relationships with the important clients."
For their next women's conference, the firm plans to couple it with a conference for minority lawyers in the firm. Telman is hosting luncheons and seminars for minority lawyers, not only from Winston & Strawn, but for all minority lawyers at Chicago's large law firms.
Telman, who is serving her third year as chairperson of the Chicago Committee on Minorities in Large Law Firms, a nationwide organization that supports and develops minority hiring and retention strategies for Chicago area large firms, says the educational efforts serve different audiences. The Chicago Committee offers a conference for first-year associates on how to succeed. For senior level associates, the lectures focus on how to generate business. There's also a luncheon series for minority partners. The committee visits corporations and managing partners on an annual basis to talk about the organization and diversity.
Two years ago, Telman began a program in which representatives from the Chicago Committee visited law schools to promote Chicago as a place to practice. "It's an effort to attract more minority attorneys to the greater Chicago area," says Telman.
Winston & Strawn has actively supported Telman in her efforts with the Chicago Committee. "The firm values my work with the Chicago Committee because it believes in the committee's mission," says Telman.
Winston & Strawn is working closely with three of its clients, GE Corporation, Sara Lee, and Philip Morris—all of which expressed their commitment to diversity— and asked their outside counsel to do the same. They told the firms servicing their legal work, including Winston & Strawn, that they wanted to measure their performance on diversity and to encourage their efforts. "We've developed a partnership approach with these clients," says Pigott. "We are sharing best practices and it's making the relationship stronger."
"A commitment to diversity must be an undertaking of the firm as a whole, not simply an effort of the hiring committee. And if the management of the firm works closely with the firm's minority lawyers in recruiting new minority lawyers, you get a very effective way to increase diversity."
JAMES J. SANDMAN
ARNOLD AND PORTER
True to its definition, a diversity program must include many different approaches. Arnold & Porter has a multi-tiered approach to increase diversity, including programs that address recruiting, retention, and promotion.
Within five years, the firm's Washington, DC office has increased its minority attorney ranks by 113 percent, while its total attorney numbers grew by just 21 percent. In 1999, its newly hired group of associates consisted of 29 percent minority associates. As of March 1, 14 percent of the firm's 640 lawyers were minorities, an increase from 5 percent in 1996. This year, 27 percent of the firm's new associates are minorities.
What has pushed its diversity program to the next level, says James J. Sandman, managing partner at the firm in Washington, DC, is a cooperative effort between senior management and minority lawyers.
"A commitment to diversity must be an undertaking of the firm as a whole, not simply an effort of the hiring committee," says Sandman. "And if the management of the firm works closely with the firm's minority lawyers in recruiting new minority lawyers, you get a very effective way to increase diversity."
The firm has a unique approach to finding and recruiting minority attorneys. Several years ago, the firm established the Minority Subcommittee of the Hiring Committee, which works with minority student associations and placement offices. The committee also participates in career development programs, helping to conduct training seminars such as mock interview sessions. The firm attends minority job fairs and holds a reception for minority law students at the Georgetown University Law Center. Any minority law student who is invited to the firm meets with the firm's minority attorneys. Additionally, a minority partner is involved in all minority hiring and call-back decisions.
"We want to make sure that we get plenty of minority candidates into our applicant pool, and that, once we do, they receive close attention and receive a good, hard look," says Sandman.
The firm's minority attorneys are also involved in the Washington, DC "Road Show," which is an effort by the city's minority attorneys to attract minority law students to work in Washington, DC. "New York is a big draw for students," says Sandman, "so we carve out some time and remind students that Washington, DC is also a great place to work."
As part of the firm's commitment to diversity, it instituted a new program in 1999 for potential hirees. After Arnold & Porter extends an offer to a minority law student, the firm pays for the student to fly to its Washington DC office for a special reception held in the fall. The firm's minority lawyers are also present to answer questions. "It's a chance to get to know the firm better," says Sandman. "The event also helps to send a message about the value we place on diversity and about our commitment to constant improvement."
In addition to the firm's formal mentoring program, Arnold & Porter's minority lawyers have put together an informal group, "Minorities at Arnold & Porter" (MAP), which serves as a mentoring and networking group for lawyers of color. MAP also works closely with minority summer associates, providing a mentoring role. "The group is a wonderful source of suggestions and ideas for management of the firm," says Sandman.
The firm also makes an effort to have minorities represented on its various committees including the Associates Committee, which is responsible for evaluating associates and recommending advancement in the firm; the Hiring Committee; the Summer Associate Committee; the New Associates Committee, which is responsible for integrating new attorneys into the firm; the Pro Bono Committee; and the Diversity Committee.
Every year at Arnold & Porter either the chairman of the firm, Michael Sohn, or Sandman kicks off each session of the firm's diversity training program. Each session is limited to 25 people at a time. Sohn's and Sandman's introductions are intended to underscore how important diversity is to the firm. "We want to send an emphatic message of our personal commitment," says Sandman. "No single diversity program will change attitudes or behaviors overnight, but this is an important vehicle for sending a message about the firm's values and expectations."
The firm has begun working with a major client to help improve the client's diversity efforts as well as the client's other outside counsel efforts. "We were asked by the client to work with them because of our own improvements," says Sandman. "Our dealings with this client have underscored once again the business significance of improving diversity."
"The idea of our diversity plan was to touch every facet of the firm's life. Our commitment to diversity not only extends to our attorneys, but also to the paraprofessional staff and vendors."
RAYMOND P. CARPENTER
HOLLAND & KNIGHT
In 1995, Holland & Knight set out to improve recruiting and retaining minority lawyers. This year, the firm launched an ambitious updated diversity plan that encompasses all aspects of the firm.
"Basically the idea of the diversity plan was to touch every facet of the firm's life," says Raymond P. Carpenter, a partner a Holland & Knight and firm-wide diversity partner. "Our commitment to diversity not only extends to our attorneys, but also to the paraprofessional staff and vendors."
When Carpenter first set out to craft the firm's plan, he evaluated other firms' plans. "Most dealt only with the lawyers," he says. Holland & Knight had originally thought it would do the same, but after consulting with Weldon H. Latham, a diversity expert who joined the firm along with four other partners in July, Carpenter, decided that the best approach would be to address the entire firm's culture. "We want our plan to be a prototype," says Carpenter.
The firm put together recruiting teams that included minority partners and associates, and began interviewing at law schools that had a high percentage of minority students. Holland & Knight also taps into its network of contacts, including judges, corporate counsel, and minority leaders who refer outstanding minority law school students to the firm.
The firm also revised the way its work is handled within the firm to ensure the retention and advancement of minority lawyers. Holland & Knight matches each minority associate with a senior level attorney. Subsequently, minority associates are given exposure to clients, which has resulted in a minority lawyer serving as the lead attorney on a number of client matters, including accounts such as Marriott, BellSouth, and New York Life. According to Carpenter, who is based in the Atlanta, Ga. office, the firm also hired a minority liaison, whose purpose is to allow minority associates to speak in confidence about any problems that arise with respect to perceived bias in the workplace.
Holland & Knight back up its efforts by tying partner compensation to diversity efforts. Additionally, an associate's evaluation also considers the individual's participation in the firm's diversity recruiting and networking efforts.
"In the south where race car driving is big, I like to use the analogy of drafting. You can get behind someone and go faster."
GARDNER G. COURSON
When this team of top lawyers visits a prospective client, it's obvious something is different about the law firm.
Gardner G. Courson, a partner at the Atlanta office, and Curtis Mack, a well-respected African-American lawyer who joined the firm in 1999, have a relationship of mutual respect which was developed over 20 years as competitors.
"I don't know if we can overemphasize the impact of the two of us, both of southern origin, working together to develop business," says Mack.
McGuireWoods has focused on diversity for a long time, but in the last few years, the firm has increased its efforts. It has diversified at all levels of the firm—hiring established, powerful minority attorneys as laterals as well as talented, promising law school graduates.
By hiring distinguished minority laterals, the firm creates a role model for the firm's younger minority attorneys. It also helps younger attorneys see that there are real opportunities for growth and promotion at the firm.
"In the south where race car driving is big, I like to use the analogy of drafting [when someone gets behind the fastest car and is pulled along by their speed]," says Courson. "You can get behind someone and go faster."
While the firm has done what most conscientious firms do to promote diversity—attend minority job fairs and request recruiters to send a diverse pool of candidates —Courson says that focusing on hiring is not enough. "You need to have a commitment at all levels of the firm," he adds.
As part of that realization, McGuireWoods formed a special Minority Recruitment and Retention Committee that focuses solely on improving the recruiting and retention of minority attorneys. Minority attorneys are included on major firm committees including advisory, associates, and recruiting. Additionally, a minority partner is chair of the Recruiting Committee, which oversees the Hiring Committee.
Mack is a nationally recognized labor and employment attorney, who has defended more than 250 individual termination actions as well as sexual and racial harassment cases and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and public sector hearings. He was previously regional director of the NLRB Atlanta Region and former general counsel, and later chairman of the Florida Public Employee Relations Commission. Mack taught law as an adjunct professor at the University of Florida, Emory University, and the University of Michigan. He also continues to be a special assistant attorney general in the state of Georgia.
The firm also hired James W. Dyke Jr., who served as domestic policy advisor to former vice president Walter Mondale. Dyke, who is in the firm's Northern Virginia office, has worked as secretary of education in Virginia and has broad experience in corporate law, legislative law, education law, voting rights, election law, governmental relations, and municipal law.
"Curtis is one of the top performers in the law firm in business development," says Courson. "And Dyke is a recognized leader in Washington, DC."
McGuireWood's diversity efforts are reinforced by clients, many of whom require the firm to have a commitment to diversity equal to their own. "We are asked specifically about the number of minority hires, partners, and equity partners," says Courson. "As a result, it has made the program more urgent."
In an effort to attract more minorities to the area of law, the firm also sponsors an innovative legal internship program at Spelman College in Atlanta, a predominately African-American institution. Each summer the firm hires a handful of academically superior third or fourth year college students who are interested in pursuing a legal career. Last year, it approached its client, International Paper, and shared a minority law student, Laurie Lynch, who was working at the firm as a summer associate. Lynch, now a law student at University of Southern California Law School, attended Spelman and had gone through the firm's internship program. Lynch is returning to McGuireWoods this summer. The firm and International Paper are talking about doing the same thing this summer.
In March 2001, the firm, as part of the DuPont Primary Law Firm and Supplier Network, contributed $8,500 to Howard University in the name of alumnus, Stacey J. Mobley, senior vice president and general counsel of DuPont Corporation. The money will be used for need-based scholarships.
The DuPont Primary Law Firm and Supplier Network also sponsored MCCA's Job Bank with a $100,000 grant to assist minorities with finding legal positions in March 2001. The MCCA Job Bank is an online resource tool that provides information and job search capabilities to corporate law departments and corporate attorneys (www.mcca.com).
"Efforts like this must be personally driven. You need an in-house lawyer to sit with the law firm and engage in a dialogue and the law firm must have partners who are receptive to innovative hiring."
LINDA A. WILLETT
VICE PRESIDENT AND DEPUTY GENERAL COUNSEL
Bristol-Myers Squibb is a leader in the pharmaceutical industry, and it's also in the forefront when it comes to diversity. In fact, if its novel approach to diversity were cloned, the face of the legal profession would change in a matter of years.
The company created a partnership with one of its primary outside law firms and together they made the commitment to seed their ranks with minority attorneys. The company has set up an internship program and the firm has agreed to be the first to interview the interns as possible first-year associates.
"If every company did this with one or two law students of color and with their law firms, we would truly increase diversity at the bar," says Linda A. Willett, vice president and deputy general counsel at Bristol-Myers Squibb.
Willett's model for increasing diversity could very easily catch on. Corporate clients hold a lot of leverage over outside firms. If a company says it wants to see an increase in diversity among the law firm's ranks, few firms are in a position to say no. Moreover, more firms are recognizing that diversity of people means diversity of thought. These firms are looking for ways to increase diversity. If a corporate client can help them, then all the better. And for the handful of truly progressive thinking firms that view themselves in partnership with the client, playing a role in a corporate diversity program is a natural next step.
Three years ago, Bristol-Myers Squibb partnered with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund in New York to set up an internship program. It wasn't a small undertaking. Willett and others in the 105 lawyer legal department knew that to do the program right, they had an obligation to teach the intern, act as role models, provide a mentorship role, as well as assign meaningful work.
The program began small. The first year, Willett hired one intern. "She was outstanding," says Willett. "It was such a good beginning."
The second year, the company hired five interns who were placed throughout the company's practice area groups—including the patent, litigation, and international departments. It was another outstanding year. "We ended up facing the question of whether or not we would hire students fresh out of law school," says Willett. Some in-house lawyers were for it and some were against it. The prevailing view was that the new lawyers needed some time in a law firm to learn to think like a lawyer and to hone skills in writing and making arguments.
But the company wanted to do something to help the interns find jobs. Willett decided to talk to the company's outside counsel. Several years ago, the company reduced its number of outside counsel by 50 percent and consolidated 80 percent of its work into six major law firms. Those who remained were the most progressive firms, the ones who were willing to try innovative fee arrangements and work closely with the company to achieve its business goals.
Willett approached the New York office of Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold, which specializes in litigation. Bristol-Myers Squibb had a longstanding relationship with the firm and close relationships with some of the partners. The firm was receptive to the idea of hiring an associate who had not been through its own summer program, but had been vetted by a large client. In exchange, Bristol-Myers Squibb said that the firm could assign its work to the associate if hired.
"Efforts like this must be personally driven," says Willett. "You need an in-house lawyer to sit with the law firm and engage in a dialogue and the law firm must have partners who are receptive to innovative hiring."
Sedgwick interviewed the law student recommended by Bristol-Myers Squibb and was impressed with her qualifications. Subsequently, an offer was made. The student will graduate in May and join the firm in September.
The company enters its third year of the intern program with five interns on board for this summer. It has increased its partnerships with nonprofit organizations and now works with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund as well as the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. Both groups handle the recruiting and screening of candidates, handing over to Bristol-Myers Squibb the best students available. The company now accepts first and second year students into its program.
Bristol-Myers Squibb recently has received calls from some of its other outside firms that want to participate in the program. One firm has offered to help train the company's interns and invited them to attend some of the sessions that are held for its summer associates.
Internally, Bristol-Myers Squibb's legal department, which is made up of 10 percent minority attorneys, has a Diversity Committee. The committee itself, which includes 10 to 12 lawyers, is diverse. The committee recently began a law firm metrics program, requiring its law firms to show on each bill the percentage of women and people of color working on the company's matters. "Once we get enough data, we will work with the firms to help them increase diversity," says Willett.
Already, Willett, and the Legal Division's Diversity Committee, go through the 50 to 100 resumes they receive every week and cull them for strong candidates. Even if there isn't a position open at the company, Willett will meet with an outstanding candidate. "If we can, we'll help that person find a job with one of our law firms," she says. By doing so, we open a world of opportunities.
From the June 2001 issue of Diversity & The Bar®