Denver Lawyer Censured for Misrepresenting Firm’s Diversity
There is a lot of business—and a lot of money—tied to law firm contracts. Part of the mission of MCCA is to direct that business to firms that historically been have underrepresented. And, despite best intentions, some individuals exploit programs meant to expand business to minority- and women-owned firms.
Last month, the Denver Business Journal reported that Willie Shepherd Jr., co-founder of Denver firm Kamlet Shepherd Reichert, received a public censure for misrepresenting the firm’s diversity numbers to win legal work from DuPont. Th e fine was insignifi cant—$127.50—but the damage to Shepherd’s reputation is much more devastating.
His plan to leave Kamlet Shepherd Reichert for a position at Perkins Coie collapsed amid reports of the disciplinary action pending against him. According to court transcripts, Shepherd made false statements to an individual in DuPont’s in-house legal department so that his firm would qualify for the company’s Diverse Legal Supplier Program.
The program is designed to give some of the company’s legal work to firms where women and minorities own at least 50% of the equity. Shepherd overstated his firm’s diversity claims by 20%, saying his firm met the 50% requirement when it was actually 30%.
The misrepresentation was discovered in March 2009, when Shepherd and another partner at Kamlet Shepherd Reichert sent a letter to DuPont’s legal department asking to be removed from the Diverse Legal Supplier Program, acknowledging that the firm should never have been included because it didn’t meet the standard.
“I am truly sorry for my conduct,” writes Shepard, who did not contest the censure. “It was inappropriate and not typical of how I have conducted myself during a 17-year law career.”1
Tom Sager, general counsel for DuPont, and MCCA board member, has been particularly dedicated to steering business to minority- and women-owned firms. Along with Susan Blount, general counsel of Prudential, and other proactive legal leaders, he has committed to increase spending with minority- and womenowned firms (see “Inclusion Initiative Drives Business to Minority- and Women-Owned Law Firms” in this issue).
“DuPont remains committed to continuing our outreach to minority- and women-owned law firms.” — Thomas L. Sager
“Notwithstanding this isolated and regrettable incidence, DuPont remains committed to continuing our outreach to minority- and women-owned law firms,” shares Sager. “We appreciate MCCA’s leadership in the development of best practices in this area.” DB
1 Renee McGaw, Denver lawyer Shepherd sanctioned on diversity claim, DENVER BUS. J., Mar. 29, 2010, available at www.bizjournals.com/denver/stories/2010/03/29/daily11.html (visited Apr. 15, 2010).
From the May/June 2010 issue of Diversity & The Bar®