Diversity Part II Diversity Comes Naturally To The DuPont Network

Tuesday, March 1, 2005 - 00:00

The Editor interviewsJulie S. Mazza, Manager, Law Firm Partnering, Corporate Counsel and Six Sigma Black Belt, DuPont Legal.

Editor: Why did you decide to become a lawyer?

Mazza: I was born and raised in Greece. My family came to the U.S. when I was 12.In the early years my family members, like many of their contemporaries, did not speak English. Therefore, they and many of their friends in the community relied for information on younger people like me who were learning the language faster. They came to us when they needed help dealing with their employers, health care professionals and government entities and I would frequently accompany them to meetings where they needed someone to speak on their behalf. This gave me the opportunity early on to represent a lot of the people in our immigrant community and pointed me towards a career helping people. I initially considered medicine and started as a medical undergraduate student at LaSalle but found my political science and business law courses so interesting that I switched my major to pre-law.

Editor: Please tell us about your background as a lawyer and your current role at DuPont?

Mazza: I have practiced for twenty years. I graduated from Temple Law School in 1985 when more women were becoming interested in pursuing careers in the law. At that time, incoming classes at Temple and many other law schools were evenly divided between men and women. My first job as a practicing lawyer was with Dechert in Philadelphia. During my seven years with Dechert, I was part of their trial team, where I worked on products liability and medical malpractice litigation. The opportunity to be mentored by the outstanding lawyers at one of the nation's finest firms provided a perfect training ground. I joined the DuPont legal department 11 years ago and immediately became involved in the convergence program known as the "DuPont Legal Model," which had been launched a few years before. I now manage the DuPont Network of Primary Law Firms and Service Providers, which are part of this Legal Model. This involves, among other things, fine-tuning the partnering relationship between DuPont and these firms so that all of the participants benefit.

Editor: My impression is the idea of getting better results from partnering with a smaller group of law firms was novel at the time that DuPont initiated the program.

Mazza: Yes. And, there are dramatic benefits. Previously, 350 law firms represented DuPont. Now, we work with 42 primary law firms and 9 service providers. The mutual benefits flow from the partnering relationship, which result in more strategic management of DuPont's legal matters, lower fees and benefits, such as working as a team to promote diversity.

Editor: You recently completed a survey of the law firms in the Dupont Network. Please tell us about it and particularly about the questions that pertain to diversity.

Mazza: We selected the firms originally and continue to evaluate them on the basis of whether they share our values. We measure their performance in a number of areas every year through a "Benchmark Survey." We send the survey out at the beginning of each year and we just received the firms' responses for 2004.

Among the questions we ask on diversity are how many lawyers they have in different timekeeper categories ( i.e., partners, associates, paralegals) and we want to know which are equity partners, non-equity partners or of counsel. We want to know how many in each category are women and how many are minorities. We compare their answers year to year so we can see how they are trending. We also ask about the retention rates for each category. Beyond that we want to know how many hours women and minorities spend on DuPont work and what that translates to in terms of dollars. That question highlights the importance that DuPont places on assigning women and minorities to DuPont work.

We ask them to tell us about any breakthroughs they achieved in the area of diversity. This includes hiring, retention and career development. We want to know affirmative steps they may have taken to ensure a diverse and creative team that serves DuPont in both substantive work and in leadership roles. We ask them if they are satisfied with the current level of participation on DuPont matters of attorneys of color. We want to know the strategies they pursued in the prior year that helped improve or maintain opportunities for attorneys of color to perform substantive work and play leadership roles on DuPont matters. We want to know what worked and what did not. We then ask if they are willing to share their best practices with other firms in the Network.

Editor: Were there any trends this year that you felt were particularly noteworthy?

Mazza: I noted in reviewing this year's survey that many of the firms reported better success in retaining their minority lawyers. Abbott Simses & Kuchler in New Orleans was one of the firms that turned in an outstanding performance in this regard.More of the firms are selecting minorities as partners and Dillingham & Murphy in San Francisco was among the leaders. Partnering with minority businesses is something that we are seeing more of and that can mean partnering with court reporting services as well as other law firms that are minority or women owned.

Many more firms are reporting that at least a third of their incoming class are minorities and more than one half women. Another interesting development is that more firms are demonstrating that they take diversity seriously by hiring diversity consultants who come in and assess the firm's profile in this area and make suggestions for improvements. Others are hiring full time diversity directors who are tasked with focusing on diversity full time. We saw these trends developing in previous years, but they were much more evident this year.

Editor: Finding minority lawyers is a growing concern. What are your primary law firms doing to address this problem?

Mazza:Job fairs where law firms can meet minority candidates are one solution. Our survey showed increased interest by our primary law firms in sponsoring job fairs. Weston Benshoof Rochefort Rubalcava & MacCuish has sponsored the job fair in Los Angeles. Ballard Spahr has been a long time sponsor of the job fair in Wilmington.Shook Hardy & Bacon in Kansas City recognized that employers in some geographic areas like the Midwest may find it more difficult to attract minority lawyers. To address this concern, they are spearheading an effort in the Midwest which will bring together law schools, law departments and law firms to hold the first Heartland Diversity Legal Job Fair in Kansas City in September, 2006.

Editor: There is growing concern about the lack of interest on the part of minority young people in pursuing legal careers. What is DuPont doing to help fill the educational pipeline?

Mazza: Our Pipeline Project is alive and well. DuPont continues to be actively involved. Thanks to the efforts of the Association of Corporate Counsel, law departments throughout the country now use the toolkit that we developed.

Michael Clarke, one of our in-house lawyers and a former district attorney, spends many hours introducing local students to many aspects of legal practice. He has emphasized the satisfaction that comes from serving clients by introducing students to DuPont business people who describe how they have been helped by our lawyers.

Partnering with Kingswood Community Services, a social services agency in DuPont's headquarters Wilmington, Delaware, we have identified a group of African-American public school students, all from inner city neighborhoods, who have expressed interest in legal careers. The students meet weekly at DuPont.We have focused our efforts on the fundamental competencies that they need, such as communications and computer skills.

Our results have varied over the period of this initiative. While we are encouraged by those students who are now enrolled in college, we get concerned about those others who will not be able to graduate from high school. Our goal is to support all of the students through mentoring and skill development and by encouraging them to maximize their potential.

We are pleased that so many of the firms sponsor scholarships for minority law students. Shook Hardy provides a full scholarship for minority law students. Phillips Lytle, a firm headquartered in Buffalo New York, has provided scholarships to minority law students over a period of 13 years (representing 40 scholarships totaling $90,000).Some of the local firms encourage minority law student who participate in their summer programs to spend some time at DuPont over the course of the summer and learn what it is like to work in a legal department.

Editor: Do you have a way to reward firms that do an outstanding job in these efforts?

Mazza: The Benchmark Survey serves as the basis from which we make annual "Challenge Awards" to the firms. Under this program, firms are eligible to receive substantial money awards for outstanding performance in many of the areas covered in the survey. At our Annual Meeting with the law firms and the service providers, we will present awards to the winners. Our primary law firms' efforts on behalf of diversity have also been recognized by outside organizations like the MCCA. For example, Faegre & Benson in Minneapolis received MCCA's Thomas Sager Award last year for its outstanding efforts to advance diversity.

Editor: Are there particular firms that you feel have over the years shown outstanding dedication to the cause of diversity?

Mazza: Faegre& Benson has had a long tradition of focusing on diversity and, with the active support of the highest levels of people in the firm, placing a special emphasis on accountability. Shook Hardy & Bacon is a firm that has not only talked about diversity but also demonstrated its dedication through its actions.Kilpatrick Stockton from Atlanta is also a recipient of MCCA's Thomas Sager Award. Kirkpatrick & Lockhart and Ballard Spahr have each identified diversity as a major priority for their firm. Our Primary Service Providers are also very involved. Deloitte & Touche and Kelly Law Registry are large organizations that have a long history of advancing the cause of diversity and each has a variety of initiatives underway.

Editor: As part of your partnering relationship with members of the DuPont Network, you have brought their merits to the attention of potential corporate clients. Is their focus on diversity a selling point with other companies?

Mazza: We do benchmark with other legal departments and share information about our respective firms and service providers. Many legal departments are looking for firms which show real commitment to diversity.General Motors, Tyco and Wal-Mart have hired members of the DuPont Network based in part on those firms' commitment to diversity. Today, most legal departments are looking for law firms and service providers that both share their company's dedication to diversity and also provide outstanding legal services.These are the criteria for DuPont's selection of outside counsel and we are happy to share our views about our firms with colleagues in other legal departments.

Editor: What do you find most encouraging about the survey?

Mazza:We are pleased to see the depth of commitment the Network members are showing towards diversity. Through the sheer number of initiatives for hiring, promoting and retaining women and minorities, the firms and legal service providers recognize the value of having diverse teams. In addition, the firms are now focused not only on efforts but on results. Prompted initially by clients like DuPont, they are now challenging themselves to show real improvement in this area. While there is a lot more work to be done, I think we're headed in the right direction, and that's encouraging,