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Successful Diversity Initiatives of Pathways Study Participants

Generally, the corporate law departments who participated in the Pathways Study can be described as exhibiting exemplary performance in their diversity programs. A critical review of the study participants further indicates that each has achieved excellence at the strategic level, embracing such categories as strategic plans tied to diversity, compensation of senior managers in law departments tied to meeting diversity efforts, culture and environment surveys and professional skills development training (see Chart III).

Moreover, the results of the Pathways Study suggest that, to some degree, success hinges on a two-part strategy of: first, fully integrating the diversity initiatives into the company’s overall strategic plan, and then, ensuring the progress of those initiatives through the strong, continuing support of senior management (see Chart III).

The study revealed that many corporate law departments have established a deep commitment to programs that foster successful diversity initiatives, and have linked the pursuit of those initiatives directly to the corporation’s broader strategic plan. However, the actual progress of those initiatives is slow at best, particularly when it comes to integrating diversity into corporate-wide systems and processes. This slow-growth scenario is vividly demonstrated in the area of career development (see Chart V), where study results showed low participation rates in four categories: formal mentoring, employee self-assessment, written job descriptions and work/life programs that support attorneys with family commitments. At the same time, however, professional skills development training showed relatively high rates of participation for both large and small-to-medium departments-75 percent and 62.5 percent respectively. What this may indicate is a disconnect between acquisition of skills and utilization of skills. In these instances, career development suffers, possibly leading to discontent and turnover in the legal corporate ranks. Additionally, the absence of clearly defined work/life programs may lead employees to perform poorly, stemming from the difficulties of balancing work with family commitments, and therefore, may lead to either reduced productivity on the part of employees or resignation.

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 up and down 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 diversity plan 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 its 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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