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Executive Summary

Since its founding in 1997, the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) has pursued a vigorous research agenda in an effort to provide the industry with a true picture of the state of diversity in today’s corporate law departments and to build a portfolio of “best practices” that could guide departments in the design, implementation, and measurement of successful diversity initiatives. However, early research efforts, while enlightening, were mostly qualitative in nature. Consequently, MCCA embarked on a research study aimed at better quantifying diversity initiatives in corporate law departments nationwide.

Examination of 16 Corporate Law Departments

The “Creating Pathways to Diversity” Study closely examines the diversity practices of 16 corporate law departments in the United States. That examination reveals that most corporate law departments fall into one of three categories:

  • compliance-demonstrating a general commitment to increasing minority representation within the department;
  • diversity-involving a higher level of commitment to diversity activities, accompanied by the strong support of senior management and the development of programs designed to recruit and retain minority and women attorneys; and
  • inclusion-demonstrating the highest level of commitment and characterized by the integration and measurement of diversity initiatives with the corporation’s long-term strategic goals.

Critical Success Factors

The study identifies several factors critical to a law department’s successful move from compliance to inclusion. Chief among those factors are:

  • the alignment of diversity activities with long-term, corporate-wide strategic initiatives;
  • commitment from senior management that translates to measurable objectives at the business unit level;
  • the establishment of metrics for accountability;
  • compensation of senior management in legal departments tied to results of diversity efforts; and
  • substantive training programs.

Barriers to Success

Conversely, the study uncovers two key scenarios within corporate law departments that create substantive barriers to the advancement of diversity initiatives:

  • the law department does not effectively harness the necessary resources to translate its initiatives into measurable goals that are fully aligned with the department’s overall business objectives; and
  • the law department focuses most of its attention on the recruitment of minorities and women, to the detriment of critical career development and retention activiJava.

Foundation for Successful Diversity Initiatives

Overall, the Pathways Study identifies various elements contained in the participants’ diversity plans that, taken together, can lay the foundation for success:
 

  • Senior management is responsible for creating the strategic direction/vision.
  • A strong communications strategy is in place, ensuring communication throughout the organization.
  • The general counsel is committed to the success of the plan.
  • The general counsel or his/her direct reports are responsible for the execution of the plan.
  • Diversity initiatives and objectives are linked to the business plan.
  • Law departments develop their plans to model and link to the corporate plan.
  • Law department diversity goals are linked to corporate goals.
  • Law department leaders are held accountable for goals outlined in the diversity plan.
  • A diversity council is empowered to implement the plan and works with management to ensure proper execution.
  • The metrics are reviewed by senior managers in the law department.
  • Key aspects of human resources-recruitment, retention, performance management, succession planning, and career development-are linked to the diversity plan initiatives.

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