Friday, February 17, 2006

Law Firms as "Exclusive Clubs for White Men"

Is Diversity on your management agenda? Has it ever been?

This is a serious wake up call to every single member of your law firm's management team.

Diversity is not some do-good-philanthropic-topic for a tea party of the rich and bored. Diversity is serious business: serious to business; serious for business… not to mention that it is the right thing to do.

In her Law.com article today, Wal-Mart Demands Diversity in Law Firms, Meredith Hobbs explores the demands that General Counsel in major corporations are placing at the doorstep of law firms.

The General Counsel referenced in the article are in the following companies:

Visa International
Del Monte
Pitney Bowes
Cox Communications

The article goes on to say:

So far, close to 100 general counsel have signed on, including those from some of the nation's biggest companies.

If you think you can get by this issue with tokenism, you need to understand what is being demanded of you. For example, the article includes these quotes:

The nation's biggest retailer wants to see diversity at the top.

The goal… is to "increase the number of women and minorities directly responsible for [our] relationship at our law firms."

"We are terminating a firm right now strictly because of their inability to grasp our diversity expectations,"

In her Separate but Equal article in Marketing the Law Firm, a Law Jounal Newsletters publication, Elizabeth Anne 'Betiayn' Tursi offers this advice:

The idea that law firm leaders need not be at the helm of these initiatives can only mean that it will be doomed to fail. The chair or managing partner of a firm must be a proponent of the causes and must be involved in every aspect of promoting the initiatives. In the case of creating this particular blueprint, management serves as the "project leader" or lead architect. Leadership can set the tone for the institution of these initiatives and is in the enviable position of selecting others in the firm who can also promote and develop the actual initiatives. And yes, there should be a chair for each initiative — diversity, pro bono, recruiting and marketing — who meet once a month, with the directors of these initiatives to ensure that they are working together to develop the blueprint, and also to make certain that these individuals are in a positions that enable them to have a voice in implementing the programs to achieve the intended result.


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