Diversity - Part III MCCA: Achieving Diversity's Goals

Friday, April 1, 2005 - 01:00

Veta T. Richardson
Minority Corporate Counsel Association

This has been a year of remarkable "firsts." For the first time in the nation's legal history, two major bar associations (the Association of Corporate Counsel and the American Bar Association) are headed by people of color. From my bird's eye view as MCCA's Executive Director, I'm seeing more law departments and firms working cooperatively toward diversity progress, reflecting the fact that diversity is on the "A list" of priorities at many world-class organizations.

It was just a year ago that Sara Lee's General Counsel Roderick Palmore penned "A Call to Action: Diversity in the Legal Profession." The document focuses on three key elements - making a commitment to diversity; reviewing law firms' diversity progress, particularly in hiring and retention; and choosing to do more work with those law firms that are making progress and assigning less work to those that demonstrate a lack of interest in diversity.

By September 2004, Rick Palmore began formally circulating the document to legal departments throughout the country with the assistance of the ABA, ACC and MCCA. In about a month, general counsel from 60 companies had already signed on, and I've been delighted to watch the number of signators climb to more than 80. In addition, the boards of both ACC and MCCA endorsed the Call to Action in November 2004 and made plans to establish a web site to support the initiative at www.CLOCalltoAction.com.

It was also the general counsel community that led the production of the 2005 Vault/MCCA Guide to Law Firm Diversity Programs, a first-of-its-kind resource that will enable meaningful comparisons regarding the diversity efforts underway at many of the nation's top law firms. [ Editor's Note: To read our report on the guide, visit www.metrocorpcounsel.com and put "Vault" in the site's search box. ]

Also MCCA worked side-by-side with LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell to create a new vehicle for law firms to showcase their commitment to diversity and we invited Vault to participate in these discussions. The resulting effort is online Diversity Profiles, which can be found at www.martindale.com, and which are linked to the law firm's home page and include the information about its diversity initiatives published in the Vault/MCCA Guide. The consistency of each Diversity Profile enables the user to make meaningful comparisons among law firms as well as to evaluate how a particular firm has put its commitment into action. [ Editor's Note: To read our interview in which Paul Gazzolo, Chief Operating Officer of LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell describes the Diversity Profiles, visit www.metrocorpcounsel .com and put "Diversity Profiles" in the site's search box. ]

Providing top quality diversity information is at the heart of what we do at MCCA. I encourage all your readers to visit our website at www.mcca.com, where they'll find a wealth of resources, including feature articles from Diversity & the Bar, our bi-monthly magazine. I'm very pleased to announce that this year Bill Proudman, a respected diversity consultant with experience working with corporations toward the greater engagement of white male employees as full diversity partners, is penning a new column titled "White Men and Diversity." We're betting his perspectives will get all of us talking.

Aside from information, we're still hard at work hosting special networking events. A few weeks ago, MCCA joined with ACC's South Florida Chapter and a number of other local bar associations to support ACC's "One Night Under the Sea," a gala event that brought together a rich cultural mix of people to celebrate diversity within our profession. Exceeding everyone's expectations, the 600 attendees had a great time. I was especially heartened to see so many people of different backgrounds mingle and exchange business cards. The South Florida Chapter ACC leadership is to be congratulated for the successful event.

I'd like to encourage your readers to join us at our upcoming diversity events. For example, in Washington, DC, on April 19, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP will lead a discussion on three diversity "hot topics." In Dallas on May 4, Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P. will host a diversity dialogue featuring panelists from Blockbuster, Cox Communications and Adorno & Yoss. In Chicago on May 11, Sachnoff & Weaver, Ltd. will host an event featuring panelists from Aon Corporation, Kellogg Company, Tribune Company and Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal. And, on June 14, MCCA will host its Mid-Atlantic Diversity Dinner honoring the 2004 Employers of Choice at the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington, DC. [ Editor's Note: To read corporate counsel's Discussion of Best Practices at MCCA's January event in New York City sponsored by Arnold & Porter and American Airlines, visit www.metrocorpcounsel.com and put "diversity best practices" in the site's search box. ] To learn more about these and other events presented by MCCA, visit our website at www.mcca.com or email: jenchen@mcca.com.

In closing, let me add that this year brings another big change for the MCCA staff. For the past five years, Winston & Strawn has very generously donated office space to MCCA. This month, the firm will be moving to 1700 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006. I'm delighted to say that MCCA has been invited to come along. So if you like what we do, please join us in thanking Winston & Strawn for offering MCCA a new headquarters!

Veta Richardson is the Executive Director of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association. She can be reached at vetarichardson@mcca.com.