While representation of minorities in corporate law departments has increased over the last ten years, today there are still only 15 minority general counsel in the Fortune 500. That’s less than 2.5 percent of the total number of general counsel in the Fortune 500. In an effort to address this issue, the Minority Corporate Counsel Association is sponsoring eight regional General Counsel Roundtables around the United States, each hosted by one or more general counsel who will invite up to 15 participants from other major companies in their region.
Established by the MCCA in 1999, the primary aim of the Roundtables is to refine the Diversity Best Practices. These practices were developed through interviews with more than 80 law departments and two annual surveys to provide concrete suggestions for achieving diversity in corporate law departments.
Leading the diversity effort in the financial industry is Merrill Lynch, who hosted the first ever industry specific roundtable this past summer. Held at the World Financial Center on June 28, the group included twelve general counsel from leading wall street investment firms and exchanges.
“We’re pleased to take a leading role in the war for talent in the financial services industry. Diversity in the workplace is an important goal and an integral part of any successful company’s plan,” says Merrill Lynch General Counsel, George Schierren of Pierce Fenner & Smith. “The focus of the June 28 Roundtable,” said Schierren, “was to address realistic and appropriate projects that we could implement in order to attract, recruit and retain a diverse workforce.”
The goal of the Roundtables is to offer participants the opportunity to spend time assessing their diversity efforts by identifying the problems that inhibit the success of their programs, and then collectively, develop action plans to overcome those challenges. The discussion will also provide a forum for the review of the Diversity Best Practices with a representative group of corporate General Counsel whose experiences in their own law departments may provide additional suggestions for implementing diversity initiatives.
The commitment by general counsel on behalf of their companies, to design (or redesign) their diversity programs using the Best Practices, will ensure progress in achieving diversity goals and indicate their public commitment to the importance of achieving diversity within the industry.
After drawing on the experiences and input of general counsels from around the nation, the MCCA will present the results of the Roundtables during their annual conference in October of this year. The final version of the Best Practices will be published as a basic strategy for the creation of a successful Diversity Program. The Best Practices will also serve as a benchmarking tool, helping law departments gauge the success of their diversity programs.
From the September 2000 issue of Diversity & The Bar®