Diversity - Legal Service Providers Online Reference Tool Launched By LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell To Spotlight Law Firms' Commitment To Diversity

Tuesday, February 1, 2005 - 01:00

The Editor interviews Paul A. F. Gazzolo, Chief Operating Officer of LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell.

Editor: Do you see diversity being actively promoted in the legal profession?

Gazzolo: Both sides of the buy-sell equation in the corporate law marketplace are promoting diversity. Law firms are enhancing diversity, starting with their new associate ranks and extending to their partner population as well. From an employment standpoint, diversity is a clear goal of leading firms.

In-house counsel of large corporations are also making commitments to greater diversity. They are focusing on diversity not only within their internal legal departments, but also as a criterion in their selection of law firms. Their emphasis is often part of an overarching corporate-wide objective to achieve diversity.

With LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell in the middle of buyers and sellers of legal services, it is clear to us that diversity is a growing force in the legal marketplace.

Editor: What are the benefits of an increasingly diverse legal profession?

Gazzolo: From the standpoint of a general manager, I find that the greater the diversity of backgrounds among the people on a project or executive team, the better the flow of ideas. Diversity helps avoid people becoming complacent and thinking that their view is shared by the rest of the world.

Another benefit of diversity derives from the global nature of businesses today. For example, LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell is a global business with customers in more than 160 countries. A lot of those customers do not think, look, act or make decisions exactly the way I do. It's really important for me to have people around me who understand those customers so that we can better serve them.

Large law firms and corporations face the same issues in understanding their global customers' needs. Having a diverse workforce is critical to their success.

Editor: What are the origins of your long-term relationship with the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA)?

Gazzolo: We've been working with MCCA for the last five years. Our collaboration has included promoting the winners of MCCA's Thomas L. Sager Award on martindale.com. We also work with MCCA's Employers of Choice events.

In the 2004 business year, we signed a new alliance agreement that stepped up the level of our involvement with each other because of the importance of diversity in the legal profession. We believe MCCA is doing a really strong job of promoting diversity and educating the legal profession of its importance. We are delighted to be a part of that effort.

Editor: Please tell our readers about the Diversity Profiles available at martindale.com.

Gazzolo: After talking with the leading law firms about a year and a half ago, it was clear to me that diversity was an important focus. I saw them struggling with the challenge of responding to different organizations and clients asking for data about their workforce along with a narrative about their diversity policies and practices. Often the detailed requests for information required voluminous responses, which varied greatly from inquirer to inquirer.

No central resource was available where a law firm could direct the inquirer to easily find relevant, useful information. By developing the Diversity Profiles at martindale.com, we hope to simplify their work by enabling them to publish their commitments and progress toward achieving diversity and then answer follow-up questions.

Working side-by-side with MCCA, LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell has created a new vehicle for law firms to showcase their commitment to a diverse workforce. The Diversity Profiles, which can be found on martindale.com, are linked to the law firm's home page and the information about its diversity initiatives published in the Vault/MCCA Guide to Diversity Programs. [Editor's note: To learn more about the guide, read "Tracking Law Firm Performance To Achieve Diversity" in this issue of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel.]

Editor: Who is likely to use the Diversity Profiles?

Gazzolo: The Diversity Profiles are likely to be used by two primary audiences. First, martindale.com is the number one place where general counsel and in-house legal departments go when evaluating outside counsel. Second, martindale.com is frequently used by law students or potential lateral hires as a reference for targeting a job search and making employment decisions.

Editor: How have law firms responded to the Diversity Profiles?

Gazzolo: After Diversity Profiles were released in November 2004, a large number of firms immediately expressed interest. Six firms - Fisher & Phillips LLP; Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC; Rawle & Henderson LLP; Adorno & Yoss; Miller Nash LLP and Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP - already have provided us with their information, and their Diversity Profiles are now published online. Dozens of additional firms are committed to buying them.

Obviously a hot issue, law firms view the Diversity Profiles as a good way to publish how they are putting their commitment to a diverse legal profession into action.

Editor: How are corporate law departments helped by the Diversity Profiles?

Gazzolo: When in-house counsel come to martindale.com to look at an individual attorney or a practice group, it makes it much simpler for them to refine their short list for outside counsel. The Diversity Profiles are just one more way in which LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell has created three-dimensional information to serve the legal community. "Three-dimensional" means that the users find more than biographies about a lawyer and his or her firm. They also can access articles written by the lawyer and other information that helps to characterize the lawyer's expertise. Now they have information available to assess the diversity of the law firm's workforce.

Editor: How can our readers access the Diversity Profiles?

Gazzolo: When accessing information about law firms on martindale.com, an icon will appear if the law firm has created a Diversity Profile. At the icon, the user can click onto a link that will bring the user to the firm's Diversity Profile. The consistency of each Diversity Profile will enable the user to make useful comparisons among law firms as well as to evaluate how a particular firm has put its commitment to diversity into action. In addition, users can conduct searches for only those law firms that have published Diversity Profiles on martindale.com.

Questions about this article can be directed to him at paul.gazzolo@martindale.com.