In 2003, MCCA‘s Board of Directors made the commitment to expand the association's presence in each geographic region by showcasing local diversity best practices. A new forum, the "Diversity Dialogue," was created so that MCCA's award winners could share their expertise on diversity with local firms and law departments. The forum also allowed lawyers to promote new ideas and network. The Diversity Dialogues were so successful that MCCA® decided to share the results with its readers. In this article, you will find real people having open and honest discussions about what their companies are doing to make diversity work.
According to MCCA's groundbreaking research, Creating Pathways to Diversity: From Lawyer to Business Partner, "Increasingly, CEOs expect for their general counsel and legal managers to demonstrate the ability to lead diverse and inclusive teams, both internally and externally." What we discovered is that the best practices shared during the Diversity Dialogues substantiated this finding. Additionally, several general themes emerged across the country, which we would like to share with our readers:
- Commitment to Diversity – While there has been a more intense focus on diversity in the last two years, a lot of work still needs to be done. In this aspect, what's key is that a solid business case and commitment from senior management are critical for success.
- Diversity Metrics – Panelists in all regions emphasized the need to measure diversity initiatives to distinguish good intentions from results.
- Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement — Recruitment and retention of qualified diverse candidates continues to challenge even the most committed organizations. A specific challenge exists in recruiting younger attorneys of all backgrounds who have different expectations from their predecessors. These attorneys want employers who embrace — not simply tolerate — diversity.
REGIONAL SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES
Dallas Diversity Dialogue
In the Southwest region, the focus of the discussion was mainly on attracting and retaining minority and women attorneys. While panelists acknowledged the importance of the business case, they spoke primarily of the importance of developing a culture that supports the needs and perspectives of individual attorneys.
Southwest Airlines' Vice President, General Counsel and Assistant Secretary, Deborah Ackerman, and Texas Instruments' Legal Counsel, Rene Mario Scherr, were quick to point out that they do not have a formal diversity program. Southwest builds on the "golden rule" that when respect exists, diversity issues are easier to resolve. Texas Instruments uses rotational assignments — even across business functions — to harness its talent, striving for "retention through rotation." Rotational assignments help individuals perform optimally, integrate the workforce, and offer individuals the opportunity to stretch and grow.
Patrick T. Ortiz, senior vice president, general counsel and secretary of PNM Resources Inc., gave examples of fashioning a culture that makes employees want to stay. Understanding that diverse groups produce more robust results, PNM has worked to shift its culture to one of finding solutions as a team, rather than focusing on individuals.
Three key questions receive attention at Steel, Hector, and Davis: Why do attorneys join the firm? Why do they stay? What are the barriers that keep people from advancing? Focusing on these key questions, the firm provides all associates with role models and mentors to increase retention. As Partner Heather Gatley stated, "It is no longer the case that people work someplace for 30 years and they're out. People want a fulfilling work experience. They're constantly looking to the next opportunity, which may be inside or outside their current organization."
Duke Energy's PRISM program recognizes diverse perspectives and leverages differences. At Duke, communication is key. "People want information, and in its absence, they make up their own story," said Brent C. Bailey, associate general counsel, Duke Energy. Duke trains its people to communicate effectively, especially with regard to personal and company performance. Duke promotes open discussions across the company, including top-down, bottom-up and lateral forums.
Chicago Diversity Dialogue
In the Midwestern region, diversity as a strategic business issue was the main theme. Many of this region's award winners were consumer-good companies whose diverse customer base requires broad marketing campaigns and innovative thinking.
James R. Rowader, Jr., director of labor relations and senior counsel of Target Corporation, and William L. Hawthorne, III, chief diversity officer and deputy general counsel at Federated Department Stores Inc., both spoke of the unique challenges facing retailers. While getting their internal diversity plans in order, they also hold their vendors, including law firms, to the same standards. Firms that do not demonstrate a commitment to diversity are dropped, with dollars set aside to be spent with minority and women-owned firms.
As for recruitment, "The pool of qualified candidates will become smaller as the spotlight increases," said Sidley Austin partner Stanley B. Stallworth, who is also the cochair of the firm's Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity. As a result, "what we've always done" is no longer sufficient. Sidley's Chicago office has begun an ambitious recruiting program, including:
- benchmarking the schools and firms that have the demographics Sidley is seeking,
- broadening the list of schools where it recruits,
- actively partnering with the placement people on its expectations, and
- acclimating the candidates to Chicago before their interviews.
While not currently recruiting attorneys for his department, Mark L. McGowan, chief counsel – Foods Division, shared that Pepsi Beverages and Foods has the goal of hiring as broad a range of people as possible. Recognizing the need to maintain relationships and its corporate reputation even when it is not actively hiring, Pepsi encourages its attorneys to take active roles in bar associations, particularly minority bar associations, and underwrites law school scholarships.
Washington, D.C. Diversity Dialogue
In the Mid-Atlantic region, the focus was on changing culture over time, using metrics and accountability when possible.
Vernon G. Baker, senior vice president and general counsel of ArvinMeritor, Inc., was recognized with the Trailblazer Award for his individual commitment to increasing diversity. Baker shared how he has seen diversity in the legal practice change during his career. "When I started in 1978, I just wanted to get a job and keep my head down. Now young people have more expansive expectations. The lawyers coming out now want more flexibility and commitment from their companies."
"Getting minorities is easy," said Trisha Butler of Howrey and Simon. "It's keeping them that is hard." Minority attorneys want to be players. As a result, Howrey's Diversity Task Force created a databank of minority attorneys' expertise to help the marketing department and staffing partners actively manage team composition when pulling together business pitches and assigning cases. This database allows the firm to monitor and measure the access that minority and women attorneys have to high-profile partners and cases.
With the philosophy that "everyone needs a mentor," Arnold & Porter has implemented a structured mentoring program. According to Managing Partner James Sandman, training is very important for both the mentor and the mentee. "We find that mentoring skills are distributed very unevenly throughout the population. Learning to listen in the mentor role is particularly important." The mentor's commitment is also tracked. A minimum of two hours per month is required, and the next appointment is scheduled before each session ends.
The Sodexho Diversity Index has been introduced to track diversity progress. Measured quarterly and reviewed by the executive team, the new 1,000 point system impacts the bonus component of key manager's compensation. Robert Stern, senior vice president and general counsel, explained that leaders set targets in the areas of hiring, promotion, and retention, and know that their performance will be under close scrutiny at the quarterly reviews. Sodexho also uses an innovative job sharing program to promote retention.
US Airways, Inc. sends a strong message to outside counsel that diversity is a requirement for doing business. While championing the importance of metrics, Elizabeth Lanier, executive vice president, corporate affairs, and general counsel, directed most of her remarks to her company's innovative summer intern program. Targeting minority law students, US Airways hires exclusively from local law schools, expecting the interns to work fifteen hours during the school year. Interns not only learn applicable law, but they also gain valuable insight into the relationship between corporations and their law firms. US Airways, which does not hire attorneys who are directly out of law school, actively assists the interns upon their graduation to secure jobs with the company's outside counsel.
San Francisco Diversity Dialogue
In the Western region, the panel focused on the need for continuous attention to diversity. All organizations must continue to challenge conventional thinking and find new and innovative ways to build inclusive organizations.
Michelle Haas, HR business partner, legal department, Washington Mutual, shared the company's promise to vigorously pursue and mirror the diversity of the communities it serves. This goal is a particular challenge for Washington Mutual's Seattle office, where the homogeneous community does not provide a large pool of diverse candidates. In addition, Haas shared the Diversity Recruiting Tracking Sheet that Washington Mutual uses when filling positions. This form, which has been favorably received by hiring managers, is kept for each open position to track the company's diversity recruiting efforts.
Guy Rounsaville, executive vice president and general counsel at Visa International, encouraged in-house counsel to take responsibility for changing the legal industry's culture. He challenged corporations to move out of their comfort zones, holding their law firms accountable to the same standards demanded of other vendors or employees. "You are the client. You can change it," he pressed. The best practices he has found are to "walk your talk" both internally and externally and to participate actively with organizations, such as the California Minority Counsel Program.
Wilma Wallace, associate general counsel, Gap, Inc., spoke of the commitment and vigilance needed to maintain diversity. Noting that it takes time and a willingness to challenge oneself, success can be found in looking for new talent. Wallace stressed the need for searching broadly. At the Gap, the biggest surprise has been recruiting candidates featured in relevant magazines. Furthermore, the Gap has included diversity in both departmental and individual goals. Discernible action items are identified, graded, and rewarded.
Angela Padilla, a partner at Morrison and Foerster, LLP, listed two prerequisites for a functioning diversity program. First, an organization must define diversity and intensely recruit for the identified groups. Second, the organization must define specific goals and timelines. Padilla emphasized the need to strip unconscious bias out of every assignment and evaluation. To promote retention, Morrison conducts frank, one-on-one conversations with its diverse attorneys, explicitly encouraging them to stay when they have a chance to succeed. As one audience member confirmed, people often leave because of what they are not told, rather than what they are told.
New York Diversity Dialogue
In the Northeast region, the theme was the need for a culture shift to cultivate an inclusive environment. Panelists emphasized the need to extend the discussion beyond their own organizations to include suppliers.
The panel also highlighted the need to look deeper into reported results of diversity efforts. "There has to be a context," said Thomas Kim, senior legal counsel, Reuters America Inc. "We have to have a commitment to understand the numbers, not just throw them around."
Albert Rocha, senior legal counsel of FleetBoston Financial Corporation agreed, illustrating his point by referring to law firm billable reports. "The numbers always stay the same, but the names change, and that's not the point;" referring to the need to understand the story behind the numbers.
When discussing best practices, several of the panelists focused on sharing experiences to help people see the value of differences internally, among team members, as well as externally, with vendors.
At FleetBoston, the Diversity Leadership Team coordinates forums to show the importance of differences. Events, such as a Passover Seder and a Cinco de Mayo celebration, offer a glimpse into the cultural diversity. A presentation by an attorney whose child has mental disabilities showed the challenges of diversity in a different context.
Robbie Narcisse, deputy general counsel-Corporate at Pitney Bowes Company and MCCA board member, spoke of a similar program, in which people outside the company, such as Henry Cisneros, former secretary of Housing and Urban Development, share how diversity played into their life experiences and their careers. Narcisse also highlighted that while purchasing power allows Pitney Bowes to bring diversity to the table as a requirement of doing business, the company also embraces its role of sharing successful business and diversity practices with vendors, helping both parties grow.
Kim briefed the audience on Reuters' reverse-mentoring program, based on a similar program at its client, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. In reverse-mentoring, the mentor, a member of middle or senior management, who is in a minority group (for example, people of color), is matched with a "protégé," a member of the senior executive team of different race and/or gender, in order to share experiences and perspectives upward. With its initial success, the Reuters' program is being expanded formally, while many of the existing relationships continue informally.
Michael Oshima, partner at Arnold & Porter, the mid- Atlantic region's Thomas L. Sager Award winner this year, like his D.C. counterpart, spoke of the firm's comprehensive mentoring program and its role in helping associates make the transition to partner. Oshima told of an associate who was having problems at the firm, jeopardizing his chances of success. The associate's mentor took the time to give straightforward feedback, allowing the associate to correct the issues and get back on the partnership track. Oshima stressed the importance of investing in all people, at all levels of the firm. This strategy is unquestionably successful: Arnold & Porter's New York office has not lost one minority attorney since 1994, a 100 percent retention rate.
MCCA's exciting and dynamic dialogues have allowed colleagues to gather in the spirit of sharing and learning. Though expressed differently in each region, diversity is making inroads. MCCA will continue to support individuals and organizations as they leverage their individual successes to continue to make the legal profession diverse and inclusive.
Miriam Bamberger, CPCC, and Heather Bradley, CPCC, are the co-founders of The Flourishing Company, which helps emerging professionals sharpen their leadership skills to generate immediate and lasting changes in their ability to successfully manage complex work relationships. For additional information, visit: www.TheFlourishingCompany.com.
Diversity Dialogue Participants by Region
Moderator – John Esquivel, Associate General Counsel, Shell Oil Company
Deborah Ackerman, VP, General Counsel & Assistant Secretary, Southwest Airlines
Brent C. Bailey, Associate General Counsel, Duke EnergyHeather Gatley, Partner, Steel, Hector, Davis, LLP
Patrick T. Ortiz, Senior VP, General Counsel & Secretary, PNM Resources Inc.
Rene Mario Scherr, Legal Counsel, Texas Instruments Incorporated
Moderator – Veta Richardson, Executive Director, MCCA
William L. Hawthorne, III, Chief Diversity Officer & Deputy General Counsel, Federated Department Stores, Inc.
Mark L. McGowan, Chief Counsel, Foods Division, Pepsi Beverages and Foods
James R. Rowader, Jr., Director of Labor Relations & Senior Counsel, Target Corporation
Stanley B. Stallworth, Partner, Sidley Austin Brown & Wood LLP
Moderator – Nancy Lee, Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Marriott International, Inc.
Vernon Baker, Senior Vice President & General Counsel, Arvin Meritor, Inc.
Trisha Butler, Partner, Howrey Simon Arnold & White, LLP
Elizabeth Lanier, Executive Vice President Corporate Affairs, General Counsel, US Airways, Inc.
James Sandman, Managing Partner, Arnold & Porter
Robert Stern, Senior Vice President & General Counsel, Sodexho, Inc.
Moderator – Lloyd M. Johnson Jr., Publisher, Chief Legal Executive LLP
Michelle Haas, HR Business Partner, Legal Department, Washington Mutual, Inc.
Angela l. Padilla, Partner, Morrison & Foerster, LLP
Guy Rounsaville, Executive Vice President & General Counsel, Visa International
Wilma Wallace, Associate General Counsel, The Gap Inc.
Moderator – Angela Williams, Bryan Cave, LLP
Thomas Kim, Senior Legal Counsel, Reuters America Inc.
Robbie Narcisse, Deputy General Counsel – Corporate Pitney Bowes Company
Albert Rocha, Senior Legal Counsel, FleetBoston Financial Corporation
Michael Oshima, Partner, Arnold & Porter
From the January/February 2004 issue of Diversity & The Bar®