To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:
In recent years, the topic of diversity has been an important issue in many fields such as business and industry, politics and government, entertainment, sports, and our own legal community.
In the corporate world, diversity has become a critical business strategy, particularly with respect to hiring employees in revenue centers such as sales and marketing. After all, one would expect to see an improvement in a company's bottom line if its sales and marketing teams reflect the diversity of their customers. However, it is equally important to make that same commitment to diversity in the corporate legal department, despite the lack of measurable financial impact.
At its annual meeting in October 2004, the Association of Corporate Counsel endorsed A Call to Action, a statement written by Rick Palmore, the Chief Legal Officer of Sara Lee. Palmore's Call to Action encouraged corporate counsel to maintain diversity among in-house lawyers and also urged corporations to select outside counsel based on the diversity performance of law firms.
Why should a corporate legal department embrace diversity? As lawyers, we have an obligation to provide legal representation that reflects the diversity of our clients, whether it be a factor of geography, ethnicity, gender, age group, or any other such factor. In addition, we should accept the social obligation to provide opportunities which may not have existed for some groups or individuals. Ultimately, diversity can lead to providing better services for your clients and fostering a more welcoming atmosphere for your employees.
How does a corporation embark on a diversity initiative? With its Call to Action, the ACC not only presented a challenge to the corporate legal community, but also provided numerous resources and tools to enable corporations to meet these goals. The ACC website, www.acca.com, provides complete guides to designing and implementing a corporate legal diversity program. See http://www.acca.com/practice/diversity.php. In addition, www.DiverseCounsel.org, a service of the ACC, is a database of diverse outside counsel within specific states and practice areas.
In-house counsel can have tremendous influence on a corporation's diversity strategy. While the tools to create such programs are readily available, an important element is commitment to begin and sustain such an endeavor. In time, many more corporations will discover the value and rewards of enhancing diversity.
Amrita Master Dalal