As MCCA concludes the celebration of its tenth anniversary, the association looks back on all it has done to help diversify the ranks in the legal community. MCCA has been true to its mission: to advocate for the expanded hiring, retention, and promotion of minority attorneys in corporate law departments and the law firms that serve them. But over the course of its ten year history, MCCA’s scope has expanded to include advocacy for greater inclusion of women, people with disabilities, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (“LGBT”) community. Recently, the association has also started to more closely examine issues of generational diversity in the workplace in order to understand what legal employers might do better to meet the needs of their increasingly diverse workforces. At the start of its second decade, MCCA also looks ahead to confront those who seek to turn back the clock and reverse the diversity progress that has been made.
“Gains made over the past decade in diversity efforts have stirred up those who seek to preserve the status quo, and in recent years they have been a lot more aggressive about marshaling their forces to strike down the diversity efforts underway in leading companies and law firms,” says Veta Richardson, MCCA’s executive director. “Yet at the same time, we see a wonderful opportunity because the commitment to diversity has never been stronger than it is today at leading companies and law firms.” In its attempt not only to preserve current gains but also to advance and firmly establish the rights of diverse attorneys, MCCA has developed the 10x10x10 Campaign (the Campaign).
The genesis of the Campaign began three years ago when the MCCA leadership began thinking strategically about the milestone of its upcoming tenth anniversary. As the strategy was evolving, Richardson approached Robert Zimmerman of Zimmerman Lehman, a consulting firm that assists nonprofits in their fundraising efforts, about what MCCA could do to raise funds to advance its diversity goals further and faster. Zimmerman reflects, “We conducted a feasibility study to gauge reactions to the types of programs and services MCCA had in mind, and determined that MCCA could raise $10 million to make a significant impact on diversity efforts.” Once Zimmerman’s firm realized that they could help to turn MCCA’s dream into a reality, Zimmerman worked with Richardson and MCCA’s Board of Directors to develop a plan to raise the money.
First, they had to demonstrate why the Campaign was necessary. Why have this Campaign, and why hold it now? The fact remains that, despite the progress in the past decade, minority women constitute just 1.48% of partners in the nation’s major law firms, and minority men account for only 3.53% of partners in those firms. Furthermore, only 7.6% of Fortune 500 general counsel are minorities. Worse, the recent trend is toward reversing the gains minorities have made over the past 40 years. Aggressive challenges to affirmative action have been raised, along with efforts to revive segregation-oriented practices in the school districts and the perpetuation of the myth that minorities lack the qualifications to succeed at large law firms. “Diversity within the legal profession is at a crossroads,” notes Thomas L. Sager, vice president and assistant general counsel for DuPont Company. “We continue to hash and rehash the same subjects with only incremental gains. The Campaign will help to identify those truly committed to greater inclusiveness and meaningful progress in the industry through their active collaboration and collective involvement with those who share MCCA’s vision and execution plan.”
The ultimate goal of MCCA is to work itself out of existence—to no longer be needed, because every organization will embrace the tenets of diversity by reflecting diversity in the words they speak and in the people they hire, promote, and place in positions of leadership. Through its efforts, MCCA will empower the legal community, making it less dependent on the organization. The hope is that this Campaign will help transform MCCA into an anachronism.
Many of MCCA’s member corporations have embraced the Campaign. Hinton Lucas, associate general counsel for DuPont Company (which has been involved with MCCA from the beginning), was completely supportive of MCCA, its Campaign, and its methodology in achieving its objectives. “MCCA has transformed corporate America and outside counsel,” Lucas states. “Because of all the success MCCA has had, we wanted to do something more spectacular. We wanted to make the tenth anniversary the year where the pursuit of the Association’s goals would be kicked into high gear.”
Michael Nannes, chairman of Dickstein Shapiro LLP, could not agree more. “MCCA is a fine, committed, and exceptionally well-regarded organization. Dickstein Shapiro has worked with MCCA and Veta for many years, and was the proud recipient of a Thomas L. Sager Award in 2006. Tom reached out to the firm and asked for our support of the Capital Fundraising Campaign, and we are most proud to be one of the earliest subscribers to the initiative, providing the single largest contribution in the firm’s history—the cause and the people are that special. We believe the MCCA has been, and will continue to be, the leader in the diversity arena, and that is why we chose to support this effort.”
To clear the path toward full and equal participation by minorities and women at law firms and corporate law offices, Richardson and the MCCA Board of Directors have undertaken this ambitious Campaign to build on the association’s past success. In other words, in its tenth year, the MCCA launched an effort to raise $10 million by the year 2010. The Campaign is designed to raise funds to dramatically expand MCCA programs to make diversity—true diversity, in every facet of the word—a reality. The response to date has been extraordinarily supportive. “Our steering committee has been very successful in making connections with donors, who appreciate the importance and significance of the Campaign,” remarks Zimmerman.
To ensure its success, Lucas notes, MCCA had to explain where the money would go. “When you are talking about a large campaign, you need to be able to answer some basic questions, like, ‘What are you going to do with that money?’ ‘How will it be different from what you are doing now?’” MCCA will use the money to expand existing programs and develop new ones. To achieve its objectives, MCCA plans to use the proceeds of the Campaign to fund three major areas of activity: $5 million for research and education; $3 million for diversity training and credentialing; and $2 million for scholarships and other activities to prime the pipeline of future minority attorneys.
Research and Education
MCCA is already engaged in programs and services that help firms and corporations become more diverse. MCCA recognizes, however, that more can be done to study and learn about the impact of diversity, its importance, and ways to advance the interests of women and minorities. With the money it will raise, the MCCA plans to build on its previous success through the following courses of action:
- Reinvest in current research by making existing research materials easier to navigate and more accessible to assist firms and corporations to meet their diversity goals;
- Undertake new research projects, such as probing the “myth of meritocracy,” investigating the alleged dearth of qualified minority attorneys, delving into attrition rates for minority and women attorneys, and examining success models for minority and women attorneys; and
- Lead scholarly debate aimed at building coalitions to counteract current efforts to thwart or derail diversity efforts at corporations, law firms, and law schools.
This research and education will serve as a catalyst for change, convincing the uninitiated about the benefits of diversity—and possibly even converting some naysayers.
Diversity Training and Credentialing
MCCA plans to build on its existing efforts in these areas by initiating diversity training programs designed to provide “how-to” guidance. These intense, goal-oriented programs will provide practical, real-world advice. Diversity training has been shown to be effective, which is why MCCA’s emphasis on it will help to diversify law firms and legal departments.
In addition, MCCA will develop and offer training and credentialing programs for diversity managers. MCCA plans to launch a voluntary instructional program with a curriculum aimed at the design, management, and monitoring of successful diversity initiatives in legal workplaces.
These programs will advance diversity one law firm and one company at a time, by strengthening the knowledge skills and abilities of those who lead diversity efforts.
Scholarships and the Pipeline
Many supporters of MCCA believe that its scholarship program is the most important activity that MCCA undertakes. In fact, subsidizing the education of minorities may have a greater impact than any other effort to advance diversity, and the need for scholarships is increasing dramatically. Just as important are pipeline activities seeking to interest young people in the area of law.
MCCA plans to build upon and expand existing programs, including the Lloyd M. Johnson, Jr. Scholarship Program. The organization also intends to enter into joint efforts with the Council on Legal Education Opportunity and the national bars of color aimed at increasing the number of successful minority applicants to law school.
Furthermore, MCCA is committed to using online media to enable more students to have access to professional development programs. MCCA plans to establish a Web-based national mentoring program to ensure that greater numbers of minority law students receive the benefit of experienced mentors at all stages of their careers.
Although many supporters of MCCA have made generous financial contributions in the past, the 10x10x10 Campaign represents a new and exciting purpose. This is an aggressive campaign focused on expanding programs and services at a critical time when the forces aligned against diversity are very well funded and enjoy substantial spheres of influence. Through this Campaign, MCCA hopes to speed progress toward equal representation among minorities in law firms and the general counsel offices of America’s leading companies.
Now is the time to stand with the MCCA in this Campaign and help it advance the interests of diversity in every law firm and in every corporate law department. It is only through your generosity that MCCA’s goals can become a reality. So far, the Campaign has been an overwhelming success. Sager notes, “To raise in excess of $1.5 million through the contributions of 10 law firms and corporate legal departments is incredible. These donations will hopefully inspire others to do the same and create a ‘huge ripple effect’ for other contributions of a similar magnitude. Let me thank these organizations once again for their overwhelming generosity.”
Alex Vasquez, Associate General Counsel of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., shares Sager’s enthusiasm. “Wal-Mart is excited about this Campaign, and we hope that other companies will join us and the MCCA in carrying out the vision of diversity in the legal profession.”
The Campaign is constructed to facilitate several tiers of giving. We ask that you reflect upon the significance of this Campaign and how it may make diversity more than just a goal, but a reality; MCCA’s ultimate vision for this Campaign may ultimately put the MCCA out of business, because diversity will become part of the fabric of all law firms and of corporate America.
If you (or your company/firm) are interested in participating in this worthwhile program, please contact Veta Richardson to discuss what you and your organization can do. MCCA looks forward to hearing from you. DB
Francisco Ramos Jr., is a freelance writer and partner at the Miami-based offices of Clarke Silvergate Campbell.
From the January/February 2008 issue of Diversity & The Bar®