DuPont's Pipeline Projects: Tools For Diversity In The Workplace

Friday, February 1, 2008 - 01:00

Editor: What progress have DuPont and its Primary Law Firms (PLFs) made during the calendar year 2007?

Schaeffer: DuPont Legal and its PLFs were involved in a number of diversity programs that continued to grow and mature in 2007, primarily in the area of the Pipeline projects. One Pipeline project that we added in 2006 was DuPont's Street Law Program which we run in conjunction with the Legal Administrative Assistant Career Program (LAA) at Howard High School of Technology in Wilmington, Delaware. The goal of the project is to encourage minorities from Howard High, a local Wilmington high school, to develop their capacity to enter the legal profession. The students are exposed to legal professionals, and thus are able to experience, first hand, some of the work done by lawyers.

In addition, DuPont Legal has continued its longstanding Diversity Pipeline project at the Kingswood Community Center in Wilmington. This project also exposes local high school students to the legal profession and offers them essential tools and guidance that they will need to embark upon a legal career. In 2007, the students were challenged to identify a problem in their community and collectively develop and implement a solution. The challenge fostered teamwork and a critical thinking exercise. During 2008, this DuPont project will afford the Kingswood Students with opportunities to participate in a comprehensive early college preparatory course to increase performance on college entrance exams as well as the Delaware state test, and to provide awareness and information regarding the college application process.

Editor: Please give our readers a description of the various facets of the Legal Administrative Assistant Career Program.

Schaeffer: The Legal Administrative Assistant Career Program is a career track at Howard High School. Howard is a vocational technical (vo-tech) school. The students in the LAA program at Howard High receive hands-on and in-depth legal education on various aspects of the law, as well as extensive legal administrative assistant experience in the corporate environment in areas such as trademarks, litigation, and legal records. The students can see the nuts and bolts of the way a corporate law department operates and how they might play a role in that kind of environment.

In the 11th grade, LAA students participate in a practicum program in the spring semester where they are allowed to perform hands-on work within a local law firm or corporate legal department. For the 12th grade LAA student, the priority is a co-operative employment opportunity at a local law firm or legal department. DuPont Legal begins by bringing on some LAA students in a cooperative arrangement in the intellectual property, electronic document discovery, litigation support, and legal records areas.

Editor: Is the Street Law Program exclusively a DuPont project or is it shared with others?

Schaeffer: It is not exclusive, it is shared. The national Street Law program (www.streetlaw.com) is a non-profit entity that has been in existence for over 30 years and is headquartered in the Washington, DC area. A number of other corporate legal departments have started similar local programs in their headquarter cities. At present, in our program, DuPont Legal is involved with one local law firm, Young, Conaway, Stargatt & Taylor, and we are in the process of trying to involve two of our local PLFs to achieve greater community impact. The Street Law Program gives Howard High School seniors the opportunity to serve as interns at local law firms or within the corporate environment at DuPont Legal. Legal professionals also serve as coaches and mentors for Howard High's students in mock trial team competitions.

Editor: Please describe the Street Law Conference.

Schaeffer: DuPont hosted its 2007 Street Law Conference at its headquarters on December 11, 2007. Students were divided into teams and each team had an opportunity to rotate through different break-out rooms and to participate in interactive workshops on legal topics including assault and battery, eminent domain, and defamation. DuPont Legal staff and members from the law firm of Young Conaway interacted with the students who were introduced to various legal topics through the full day venue of workshops and panel discussions. The students also enjoyed a panel discussion with Dean Linda Ammons, Dean of Widener University School of Law, and Stacey Mobley, Senior Vice President and General Counsel for DuPont.

Editor: What measurable outcomes have you seen from the programs to date?

Schaeffer: It is a little too early to get very concrete metrics, but when witnessing some of the programs, one gets a real sense of excitement and energy emanating from the students who, for the first time, are exposed to an area which traditionally closed its doors to minorities. However, to date, more than 50 10th grade students have "job shadowed" DuPont Legal professionals including attorneys, paralegals, administrative assistants and legal record analysts. Approximately 20 11th grade students have participated in this practicum program. Because of the early involvement by DuPont and a few other legal partners, the Street Law Diversity Pipeline project, initially designed by ACCA, is now fully accredited and continues to garner steady and growing attention from students throughout the country interested in pursuing legal careers. With the local Street Law Conference, DuPont Legal and Howard High hope to raise awareness of the importance of community outreach and how collaborative partnerships provide a mechanism to help keep Wilmington's young students and future leaders interested in pursuing careers in the legal profession.

Editor: Were there all minority students who participated in the Street Law as well as the other Howard School programs? What percentage of women students take part?

Schaeffer: No, though the vast majority are students of color. The program is not exclusive, but the make-up of the current student body of Howard High School is mostly people of color. Women students participated in the ratio of 50/50.

Editor: What is behind the theory espoused by DuPont of introducing an increasing number of people of color to the legal profession through pipeline projects and other recruitment efforts?

Schaeffer: The basic premise is that the best work product comes from diverse work groups. This has been proven at DuPont outside of the legal area. DuPont, as a global company, has many diverse groups and to continue to produce the best results, the company must constantly innovate and create a pipeline that is going to encourage new talent. Its just like having an R&D pipeline to bring along new products and inventions. The notion behind Street Law and DuPont's partnership with LAA is to create a pipeline to the legal profession for high school students so that minority students are given the same early opportunities and the advantages that their counterparts are being afforded.

Editor: Are the primary law firms also engaged in these pipeline projects?

Schaeffer: Yes, a number are involved. But, DuPont is pushing to make more PLFs aware of these opportunities and programs. We are encouraging Delaware law firms, and PLFs in other areas, to become involved in the 2008 Street Law and LAA programs by offering their time and their facilities for internships and shadow programs. DuPont is also encouraging other corporations to do the same.

Editor: Has there been any direct linkage between the job fairs and the moot court trials that you have sponsored and recruitment?

Schaeffer: We see all of these programs as opportunities to reach students earlier in their lives to interest them in a future legal career. Also, these programs are aimed at young people to get them interested and involved in helping their communities. We hope that after graduation they will remain as members of their community where their presence can have a great impact, not only as minorities in the legal profession, but in helping their families and friends in ways that otherwise would not be possible.

Editor: Please describe the DuPont Legal Model and how it has resulted in more promising minority lawyers rising to top positions in their law firms.

Schaeffer: One of the guiding principles of the DuPont Legal Model is that diversity is a core value. Since the time the Legal Model was put into place, we have been able to track, through a series of metrics, the number of minority lawyers whose careers have risen at both the associate and the partner level. We see the rise at DuPont and in our PLFs and primary service providers (PSPs).

Editor: Why does DuPont place such stress on diversity and seek to number among its Preferred Legal Firms those who practice a like credo?

Schaeffer: As mentioned before, diversity is a core value. We know that in order to achieve the most creativity and the best work product, diverse resources must be brought together. Therefore, we have always stressed and have made every effort to walk the talk, lead by example, and hope that our law firms and other service providers will follow our example not only because DuPont thinks it is right but also because they realize that it is the right thing to do.

Editor: What criteria are used to evaluate the DuPont PLFs and PSPs for the annual awards? Does participation in one of the pipeline projects increase a law firm's chances of being honored?

Schaeffer: It certainly does help their chances for being honored with one of DuPont's annual awards. We use a benchmark survey, a sort of score card that allows a firm or organization to report on what it has done in the past year. Diversity is a very big part of that. We want very detailed metrics and statistics. How many attorneys of color have made partner, how many have been hired as lateral partners, what percentage of associates, paralegals and the like are minorities, and are the PLFs and PSPs participating in programs such as Street Law and LAA.

Editor: How does DuPont recognize the contributions toward diversity of its PLFs which represent it overseas? Are there any minority programs undertaken by these firms?

Schaeffer: At the present time, DuPont's PLF network numbers 41 firms. Of those we have one firm in the UK, one in Canada and one in Mexico and all the rest in the U.S. The network has not expanded more globally partly because it was created to deal with litigation matters. In that regard the U.S. is king. The rest of the world does not litigate nearly as much as the U.S. so there has not been a need to expand the network although that may occur over time. We are considering, however, the idea of converging on some firms in Europe to try to at least start something similar to what has been achieved in the U.S. But with that said, whatever we would implement globally, outside of the U.S., it would be founded on the same principles with diversity being a core value.

Editor: How has DuPont assisted minority and women-owned firms?

Schaeffer: We have attempted to help minority- and women-owned firms by making a corporate pledge with other companies like Sara Lee, Shell and a few others to meet minimum annual spends. This was started in 2004, and I am happy to say that not only have we met those collective commitments, but that DuPont has come close to doubling its spend. In 2005, DuPont placed about $3.3 million with minority-owned and women-owned firms and based on year-to-date information for 2007, it looks as if that spend for 2007 will be greater than $6 million - nearly double the original figure and an involvement of more firms and service providers. DuPont and Shell will publish a list of the minority- and women-owned firms they both use that will be made available to other companies and the public at large. Thus, those firms will be acknowledged and the list will serve as a directory when a client is looking to hire a law firm.

Please email the interviewee at andrew.l.schaeffer@usa.dupont.com with questions about this interview.