DuPont Legal Weaves Diversity Into Its Fabric

Monday, January 31, 2011 - 01:00

Editor: What is your role at DuPont?

Brantley: As managing counsel, legal operations and partnering, I am the person primarily responsible for managing the relationships in the DuPont Legal Network and for advancing the DuPont Legal Model. The role includes retaining law firms and vendors and setting rates while ensuring that we are operating efficiently together in the best interest of the company. This is a two-to-three-year assignment. I have also worked for 13 years at DuPont, primarily handling tort, commercial and employment litigation. Before joining DuPont, I was a plaintiff's personal injury and employment trial lawyer.

Editor: Why is promoting diversity an important aspect of that role?

Brantley: Diversity is a core value at DuPont, and valuing people of all backgrounds is the responsibility of every employee. Leadership and commitment for DuPont Legal comes from our general counsel, Tom Sager, a very well-known advocate of diversity in the legal profession. Because the managing counsel holds the keys to matter and rate assignment, the person in the role is uniquely qualified to drive values externally and to highlight and reward successful firms and providers. Our diversity commitment is active and ongoing. We have operated within a convergence model for 19 years and know our firms and providers very well. We act together promoting diversity, developing constructive working solutions and highlighting firm or individual lawyer success.

Editor: Because DuPont has without question led the corporate diversity cause beginning long before most other corporations realized its importance, we have customarily featured a DuPont Legal leader on the front cover of our February issue. How in your view has support for diversity benefited the company in the legal matters that you supervise?

Brantley: We are a global company with a widespread legal docket. To succeed we must form the sharpest arguments and communicate them effectively to the judiciary, juries, policymakers and the business community. Diversity is critical in both forming a litigation plan and executing it. My background is in trial work. I have seen women and minority lawyers form unique arguments and successfully appeal to juries at a core level with a compassion that is a reflection of the lawyer's experiences and beliefs. Juries connect with honest passion. We are proud to have lawyers who can communicate at this level representing DuPont.

Editor: Diversity is a nebulous concept until it is woven into the fabric of the corporation. Would you give us an overview of how this has taken place in DuPont Legal? What individual and joint activities keep diversity in the forefront of the thinking of its in-house lawyers and its Primary Law Firms and Service Providers?

Brantley: As previously discussed, we have a great advocate in our general counsel, and we have a very strong level of support from our managers, lawyers, paralegals, administrators and support personnel as well. There are many activities promoting diversity within our department and the DuPont Legal Network, but I would like to highlight our diversity Networks. We have very active groups sponsored by DuPont Legal for DuPont and DuPont Legal Network members - DuPont Women Lawyers Network, now in its 11th year, and the DuPont Minority Counsel Network, now in its 13th year. These diversity networks hold annual meetings and are leading forces for diversity initiatives impacting everyone who performs DuPont's legal work. They bring a great level of energy and innovation to diversity issues.

Editor: Diversity also governs DuPont Legal's relationships with the broader community and particularly with minority law firms and with minorities who will be the lawyers of tomorrow. Describe some of these initiatives.

Brantley: DuPont is in its 17th year in sponsoring the DuPont Legal Minority Job Fairs, which bring in more than 500 resumes of law students and professionals to interview with DuPont Primary Law Firms and Service Providers. In 2010 our job fairs were held in Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago and our home town, Wilmington. As the legal marketplace has tightened, we hope that diverse candidates have gotten boosts through our efforts. The DuPont Legal Street Law Diversity Pipeline Project is in its fifth year. The Project, one of 30 run by corporate legal departments, seeks a lasting improvement in the representation of minority lawyers in our profession by reaching back in the pipeline to high school and middle school students. DuPont's program includes classroom teaching, an interactive seminar, a career fair and mentoring. In 2010 we were honored when the national organization Street Law, Inc. selected DuPont Legal for its Legal Diversity Pipeline Award in recognition of our work in the Street Law/ACC Corporate Legal Diversity Pipeline Program. Again, it's wonderful to see the energy and excitement that the students bring as they interact with our lawyers, paralegals, administrators and staff.

Editor: Diversity can expand only if it is increasingly accepted by the broader community. Describe how DuPont Legal reaches out to other corporations, educational and community organizations, and lawyers' associations.

Brantley: We are constantly benchmarking with the legal departments of other major corporations, and diversity is an area of shared concern and one that we discuss frankly with each other. The economic environment presents additional challenges. We must continue to be proactive but also disciplined and creative in designing and implementing solutions. We have worked with the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) for many years; Tom Sager is a former MCCA chairman. Again, there are many opportunities for involvement. A little support can go a long way in elevating the profile of an association or individual. We encourage and expect that law firms and providers serving DuPont will actively engage with, support or lead diversity organizations in their communities and, when able, at a national level.

Editor: Innovation must be constant. Describe some of the more recent DuPont Legal initiatives.

Brantley: DuPont is a supporting member of the Project for Attorney Retention (PAR), which is a non-profit initiative of the Center for Work Life Law at the University of California Hastings College of Law. The statistics on attorney retention are staggering. Women and minorities are impacted severely. These are lawyers who despite providing superior representation for clients leave law firms before they have attained positions of influence. It is to our benefit, as a client, to find ways to keep these lawyers - not only for economic reasons, but also to create self-sustaining diversity. Women and diverse lawyers must rise to positions of power and influence within their firms.

PAR has compiled a set of best practices for flexible work practices that includes proportionality in pay and participation in the partnership track. We have rolled out the best practices to the DuPont Legal Network and are pleased that four of our network firms (Shook Hardy & Bacon; Crowell & Moring; Dickstein Shapiro; and Kaye Scholer) are leaders in PAR.

In addition to serving as a member of PAR and an advocate of its best practices, we identify issues and measure the progress being made within the DuPont Legal Network. We now include in our annual Benchmark Survey, sent to members of the DuPont Legal Network, not only associate and partner retention statistics for those who perform work for DuPont (which we have requested in the past), but we also ask our firms to identify such partners and associates who are working flexible hours and their eligibility for partnership track and whether proportionality is observed with respect to their salaries. Negative responses require a very detailed explanation.

DuPont Legal, along with approximately 10 other corporate legal departments, committed to more than $30 million in spend in 2010 to minority- and women-owned firms under NAMWOLF's Inclusion Initiative. DuPont had a successful year in spend with minority- and women-owned firms as well as in retaining these firms to lead critical litigations including trial.

For many years, DuPont has maintained a Diverse Supplier Network, which now has more than 50 firms and suppliers available for our litigations or for referrals and association by members of the DuPont Legal Network. In our Benchmark Survey, we ask our Network firms to identify successful collaborations and referrals to the Diverse Supplier Network.