External programs work to prepare diverse lawyers for leadership positions

There may be hope yet on the horizon for diversity in legal departments

The Minority Corporate Counsel Association’s (MCCA) recent report on diversity in general counsel and chief legal officer positions revealed that things may be looking up. More women than ever served as Fortune 500 general counsel in 2011, accounting for 21 percent of the top legal positions in Fortune 500 companies (108 general counsel and chief legal officers). With respect to minorities, 2011 was the most diverse year in the survey’s history; 90 were white/Caucasian, 11 were African-American, four were Hispanic, two were Asian/Pacific Islanders and one was Middle Eastern.

Looking ahead, the critical piece of the puzzle will be sustainability, progress and the increase of these numbers—not fluctuation, stagnation or regression. In my last article ("Planning for the success of diverse attorneys"), I cited research from the Corporate Counsel Women of Color (CCWC) report that found that women of color have career aspirations to become division general counsel, chief legal officers and heads of business units. But, there are some unfortunate realities—equal access to quality work assignments, training, development, mentorship, succession planning and access to management are not readily available at corporations because of institutional barriers.

Laurie Robinson

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