NMBC: Helping Minority- And Women-Owned Businesses To Compete In America's Mainstream Marketplace

Friday, October 1, 2004 - 01:00

The Editor interviews Gregory L. Reid, Managing Partner
of Reid Rodriguez and Rouse, LLP, a boutique in Manhattan specializing in
employment law litigation. He can be reached at (212) 554-4417 or
href="mailto:glreidesq@aol.com" target=_new>glreidesq@aol.com.

Editor: Congratulations on being chosen to chair the National Minority
Business Council, Inc. (NMBC). What is the Council's mission?

Reid: Thank you. I am honored to serve NMBC. For more than a quarter
century, NMBC has opened doors for minority- and women-owned businesses to
America's mainstream marketplace. Countless businesses have benefited from
NMBC's assistance, educational opportunities, purchasing listings and related
services.

Editor: What experiences do you bring to your role as chairman?

Reid: Admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and the
highest state and federal trial and appellate courts in New York State, I have
more than 25 years of experience in both in-house and law firm settings. After
earning my undergraduate degree from Brown University and my law degree from the
University of Michigan (UOM), I worked for Equitable Life Assurance Society of
the United States, where I became the general counsel of one of its operating
subsidiaries. In 1997, I co-founded Reid and Rodriguez with UOM classmate Miguel
Rodriguez. Our current practice focuses on litigation of employment-related
cases and advising clients in all phases of labor and employment law.

Public service has always been an important focus of my professional and
personal life. I have served on the board of a Boys' and Girls' Club affiliate,
represented pro bono political asylum applicants from Zaire and Haiti,
and last year the Association of the Bar of the City of New York (ABCNY)
approved my qualifications as a candidate for Justice of the Supreme Court, New
York County.

Editor: As the co-founder and managing partner of a sophisticated law
firm, what advice do you have for other lawyers who are venturing into the
business of providing legal services?

Reid: Entrepreneurship was not taught in law school. Everyday I learn
something new, fine-tuning not only legal skills, but also financial,
managerial, marketing, and technological acumen.

The legal profession, however, is unlike the business of selling fast food,
clothing or other commodities. Often clients with lives pressured by legal
issues come in stress to lawyers. Because individuals' emotions and welfare are
involved, a lawyer must filter human considerations through the lens of economic
realities.

A successful legal practice requires revenue flow, constant analysis and
marketing, i.e., acquiring select clients who need and can afford you. An
unsuitable client choice creates extraordinary complexities for a law firm.

Editor: What strides has the legal profession been making to level the
playing field for minority- and women-owned businesses?

Reid: One past barrier was the regrettable exclusion of minorities
from the American Bar Association (ABA). Especially in the 80s and 90s, the ABA
developed laudable initiatives encouraging large law firms to co-venture with
minority- and women-owned firms, leading to admirable success stories. Major law
firms have made great strides in recent years in recruiting minority and women
attorneys. I anticipate even greater strides in the future as more minority and
women attorneys ascend the corporate ladder. They will insist that law firms
enrich their talent pools with qualified attorneys with diverse backgrounds who
bring expertise to the table, without regard to gender or ethnicity.

Editor: What would you like to accomplish during your term?

Reid: One NMBC focus will be on increasing opportunities for minority-
and women-owned businesses to access capital markets through either an initial
or limited public offering (IPO or LPO). Of the currently 7,200 publicly-traded
companies, only 30 are owned by women, African Americans, or Latinos. If NMBC
can add at least one more minority- or woman-owned firm to that list during my
term, it will be a tremendous accomplishment.

Editor: Please give an example of how NMBC is working with law firms to
increase diversity in the profession.

Reid: Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP has an impressive and enviable
diversity record. Under Steve Dannhauser's visionary leadership and with help
from NMBC, it was the first major New York City law firm to institute a
firm-wide diversity training program and a formal diversity policy. The policy
served as the initial model for the ABCNY.

Editor: What factors contribute to a diversity program's success?

Reid: First and foremost, top management sets the pace with policy
directives and resources to ensure that directives are implemented. Success
requires measurable goals linked to compensation.

Essential in the legal field is a diversity committee headed by an attorney.
Legal experience arms that individual with practical insights into diversity
initiatives and the vocabulary needed to maintain the necessary level of respect
for effective interactions with the firm's attorneys.