The Pitch for Business
I spent the first 11 years of my legal career as in-house counsel with a company where I participated in celebrating its 100th birthday. Many of the outside counsel to the company enjoyed institutional law firm relationships that passed from one lawyer to another over a period of several decades. In all that time, I never once observed the company’s book of business pass from anyone but one older white male to his young protege white male. The historical files did not indicate that practices during my 11years were much different from the previous 90-plus years. Minorities and women were allowed to service an important account, but they were not groomed as “engagement partner” material. Regrettably at most law firms today, this is still the case, and the ugly truth is that despite all of the hard work and barriers overcome, most women and minority partners do not share in the equity of the law firms they help to build and maintain. This, too, must change!
While speaking to the Cincinnati bar two years ago, I cautioned the general counsel in the audience to focus more proactively on whom they and their lawyers pick up the phone to call at the firms they choose to work with. I challenged them to be mindful of how often the engagement partner selected was a minority or a woman. I pointed out that each time they pick up the phone and call the same person they always have, and that person is neither a minority nor a woman, an opportunity to inject greater diversity into their outside counsel relationships fails by their own hands. It is not sufficient to merely ask for minorities and women to service your accounts in representative numbers, you should seek to allow them to manage your engagements in representative numbers as well. Given the opportunity to step up, compete for your business and earn your trust, clients may find that the “best man for the job” may be a minority woman. At MCCA®, our goal is to provide opportunities to connect talented lawyers with one another.
A few weeks ago, MCCA hosted its Second Annual CLE Expo to a registration base of about 300 lawyers, roughly an equal blend of in-house to outside counsel. The CLE conference was fully accredited and designed to meet the educational needs of in-house counsel. The program speakers included many of the nation’s top lawyers, each of whom came highly recommended to MCCA by an in-house attorney who knew and worked with the lawyer. The MCCA mission-focused twist was that these top lawyers were exclusively minority and women partners from leading law firms across the country. If you weren’t able to join us, bios for these outstanding lawyers are on the MCCA web site.
Focusing on the competitive, high-stakes field of intellectual property, MCCA cast its net to identify the very best IP lawyers. In this issue we profile the top four minorities, selected by their peers from MCCA member companies, law firms, and leaders of the American Intellectual Property Law Association. Congratulations to these four outstanding lawyers and the fourteen others who were so highly recommended. All have the proven ability to play in the big leagues, and score home runs for their corporate clients. Now, all we need our in-house colleagues to do is to give them the opportunity to step up to bat. Your pitch!
Veta T. Richardson
From the May/June 2003 issue of Diversity & The Bar®