Diversity Is Not Self-Executing – It Needs Advocates. DuPont's Pioneering Role In Sustained Advancement Of Diversity Initiatives

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 15:28

The inauguration was all about diversity. The mass of people crowded into the Mall reflected the diversity of our country. Those addressing them from the podium carried out the diversity theme. The most profound truth that the President uttered in his address was that “What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.’

“Today, we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth.”

Diversity in law schools and at corporations and law firms at first developed very slowly because there were few vigorous advocates. However, the pace picked up about 20 years ago after DuPont launched its convergence program and assigned Tom Sager to help implement it. Tom felt that the primary law firms that remained after the culling process would be more effective representatives of DuPont if they were more diverse.

Out of this grew the DuPont Legal Model. It proved to be a great success with DuPont’s primary law firms and service providers not only because of their work for DuPont, but also because Stacey Mobley (DuPont’s former general counsel and now with Dickstein Shapiro), Tom (now general counsel) and other DuPont senior in-house counsel spent countless hours with the leadership of other legal departments, extolling the virtues of the DuPont Legal Model and the benefits of using its primary law firms and service providers, including the value of their commitment to diversity.

Most importantly, the fruits of Stacey’s and Tom’s dedication to diversity illustrate how important it is to have advocates “here on earth” for a value that enables our great profession to effectively use all (not just some) of the people who have great potential to make important contributions to our society through their devotion to the law.

As Silvio DeCarli said in his interview on page one of this issue, “The fact that we are doing this interview speaks not only to what has been accomplished in the past 20 years but also to how much remains to be done.  

“A survey of corporate attorneys found that only 25 percent believed diversity was an important consideration when selecting outside counsel. Less than half of those attorneys had established a program to encourage diversity in their outside firms. Clearly, there is increased minority representation in the associate ranks of law firms, but in the upper tiers, I’m not so sure we’ve seen meaningful progress. For example, just over one percent of AmLaw 100 partners are African American. Change comes slowly in a traditional industry where law firm ownership is concentrated in the hands of relatively few. We can do better.

“So, yes, we’ve made progress. But we have a ways to go before we can honestly say that everyone in our profession enjoys the same real and meaningful opportunity to progress and succeed.”

Inspired by Stacey and Tom, many advocates of diversity in all areas of the profession are coming forward to extol its value. We take pride in our support for DuPont’s efforts over the years.

Al Driver,

Editor