Outside Counsel Commitment
Microsoft made waves last July when it announced the launch of a legal department program that would pay out bonuses for outside counsel diversity, to both the firms and the senior in-house attorneys who work with them. The law firms can nab a 2 percent bonus for showing measurable results in diversity levels--either by increasing the hours worked by minority lawyers on Microsoft matters or by increasing the number of total U.S.-based diverse counsel within the firm. On the in-house side, 5 percent of the bonus that goes to senior Microsoft lawyers is contingent upon whether at least three-quarters of the firms that opted for the first bonus option meet their goal. The in-house component recognizes that matter staffing and management is often jointly handled by outside and inside lawyers.
While many law departments craft their own diversity questionnaires or surveys for their firms, there are many resources out there to help you measure outside counsel diversity without creating your own tools.
There is a less immediate--but equally important--impact from encouraging outside counsel diversity. Considering the typical law firm-to-in-house pipeline, pushing law firms to be diverse now will have a later effect on in-house recruiting, widening the diverse pool of qualified in-house candidates--which is the second major piece of most corporate legal diversity pushes.
Bertha Whatley, chief legal counsel for the Fort Worth Independent School District, is accustomed to this situation even in a healthy economy. One of only two lawyers in the legal department, Whatley doesn't have many opportunities to recruit diverse lawyers. She can mentor, but when there's only one other attorney the effects are limited. Instead, she decided to turn her energy outward and make a bigger impact.