In 1999, the statement "more than just dinners" was a part of an advertisement for a newly formed organization devoted to minority attorneys in corporate law departments and law firms. While MCCA®, which was founded in 1997, had hosted five diversity dinners at that point to honor corporations for their outstanding diversity initiatives, the fledgling organization had not fully developed a programmatic agenda to answer the frustrations many companies encountered with recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce, nor did MCCA offer specific services to the community its moniker suggests: minority attorneys.
By 2000, MCCA's strategic plan laid out a series of research projects on in-house departments and law firms under the rubric: Creating Pathways to Diversity®, an indepth, data-driven analysis of how corporate law departments and law firms can better design, implement, and monitor their diversity progress. The series would take place over three years:
- Year 1: gather baseline information on best practices in corporate law departments to begin developing metrics for those efforts;
- Year 2: develop standard metrics to be used to evaluate the results; and
- Year 3: apply the metrics to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of how law departments are performing against these metrics.
Each project would have three sources of data: quantitative information on the relevant demographic statistics and their rates of change; structural data about the components of the firm or law department's diversity initiatives; and qualitative information gleaned from interviews or focus groups with attorneys in management positions as well as advocates for diversity.
Already, MCCA had published annual surveys of the number of minority and women general counsel within Fortune 500 companies, in addition to the MCCA Survey of Diversity in Corporate Law Departments, which found that minorities comprised just 12.9 percent of in-house counsel: 7.9 percent were African-American (12.7 percent of U.S. population), 2.6 percent were Asian-American (2.9 percent of U.S. population), and 2.4 percent were Latino (11.7 percent of U.S. population). However, for such a young organization, MCCA's surveys were not widely known or cited. Nonetheless, these findings formed the first steps toward being a recognized knowledge center.
The Green Book-Law Department Diversity Best Practices
In 2000, MCCA examined the diversity practices of 16 corporate law departments in the United States, each of which exhibited exemplary results in their diversity programs in the Green Book. This study identified various elements contained in the participants' diversity plans that, taken together, can lay the foundation for a successful diversity initiative. For example, the study found success to be likely when: 1) senior management is responsible for creating the strategic direction/ vision, 2) law departments develop their diversity plan to model and link to the corporate plan, and 3) a diversity council is empowered to implement the plan and works with management to ensure its proper execution.
Pathways revealed that, with respect to their diversity efforts, most corporate law departments can be placed on a spectrum from compliance with federal regulations (lowest) to inclusion (highest).
- Compliance-demonstrating a general commitment to increasing minority representation within the department.
- Diversity-involving a higher level of commitment to diversity activities, accompanied by the strong support of senior management and the development of programs designed to recruit and retain minority and women attorneys; and
- Inclusion-demonstrating the highest level of commitment and characterized by the integration and measurement of diversity initiatives with the corporation's long-term strategic goals.
The Compliance to Inclusion table formed the basis for MCCA's Pathways concept:
- Compliance brings people into an organization.
- Diversity demonstrates an appreciation for their differences.
- Inclusion creates an environment in which people want to stay.
This progression forms the basis for MCCA's research.
In addition to the Pathways report, MCCA also created a Diversity Best Practices workbook to provide law departments with a comprehensive collection of "first draft" action plans for more than 25 possible diversity initiatives. A law department can select and modify these first drafts to fit its needs and circumstances. Together, these tools give departments a clear sense of the difficulties in recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce and many options to overcome them.
Anthony Greene, president of the American Intellectual Property Law Education Foundation, calls the report a "breakthrough." To this day, it is the only source of information about diversity in corporate law departments, and is frequently cited and requested by companies trying to take the first step. The study is a resource for corporate law departments who have the right intentions but no idea as to where to start or how to design and monitor their initiatives.
The Blue Book–Law Firm Recommended Practices
In 2000, the ABA reported that while one in every three Americans was a person of color, attorneys of color represented only 3.2 percent of all law partners and 12 percent of all associates nationwide. Bolstered by these statistics, as well as reports of high attrition rates among minorities and women, MCCA launched a law firm project in 2001 with the specific objectives to: 1) provide a database of current law firm diversity efforts, 2) elucidate best practices for diversity initiatives in law firms, and 3) outline a diversity plan template that law firms can use to increase the recruitment, retention, and promotion of minority and women attorneys.
The Blue Book is arguably the most comprehensive and informative study on law firm diversity. Its richness of data is unprecedented: more than 120 major law firms submitted written survey responses, and MCCA compiled the views of more than 141 individual lawyers at focus groups held throughout the country. The reports provide step-by-step procedures on how to move from lip service to action. Additionally, the report's value to law firms, most of whom are just starting to take diversity seriously, should continue to grow.
The Red Book–Law Department Diversity Metrics
Issued in 2001, the Red Book has 43 metrics to assist corporate law departments with all aspects of their diversity initiatives, including recruitment, retention, and promotion of attorneys in small (less than 25 attorneys), medium (25 60), and large (60 plus) corporate law departments. This publication also provided methods and formulas that a legal department's diversity committee could use to reorganize and track data traditionally kept by the human resources department. As with Pathways, data was broken down for corporate law departments in the compliance, diversity and inclusion phases of a long-term diversity initiative.
Renowned expert Dr. Ed Hubbard collaborated with Reginald Jones, a partner at Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart, P.C., to produce a readable introduction into the technical definition of diversity metrics, and the legal hazards of utilizing them to monitor the department's progress. The Red Book arms the law department with tools to evaluate their diversity progress and implement a diversity plan informed by the best practices of some of the most successful law departments in the nation.
The response from corporations and law firms prove that the MCCA materials are timely, relevant, and provide applicable solutions to difficult problems. Many diversity champions at law firms and in-house departments have repeatedly called MCCA a leader in diversity research; the usefulness of the materials is shown most effectively through the continued support that law departments and law firms show MCCA. In 1999, MCCA had only 40 members; now almost 90 major corporations belong to MCCA.
This year, MCCA launched three research projects: Myth of the Meritocracy-A Report on the Bridges and Barriers to Partnership in Large Law Firms; From Lawyer to Business Partner: Understanding Career Advancement in Corporate Law Departments, a report issued in collaboration with Catalyst, Inc.; and Beyond Voir Dire: An Examination of Mock Juror Perspective Throughout the Nation.
The reports were released at MCCA's 3rd Annual Conference on October 16th in New York, N.Y., and the results will be featured in future issues of Diversity & the Bar® magazine.
In the coming years, MCCA will continue to provide statistics and resources required to further the diversity needs of the legal profession. As new issues arise, MCCA will use its research depth to create innovative solutions that identify options suitable for law departments of all sizes and specialties.
While at one time the words were applied in stinging criticism, "more than just dinners" has taken on a whole new meaning at MCCA.
Scott Mitchell is a special research consultant for MCCA, who has designed and managed the Creating Pathways to Diversity® research projects.
From the December 2002 issue of Diversity & The Bar®