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Moving beyond diversity in the legal department

SuperConference panel discusses whether diversity is a given, its business case, and what the concept even means in this day and age

Donald Sterling.

The disgraced businessman who is being forced out of ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers after making racist comments is perhaps the last name one would expect the moderator of a panel on diversity to invoke. But Mike Evers of Evers Legal did just that during the panel “Beyond Diversity: Creating Your Department’s Culture” at the 14th annual SuperConference.

He mentioned Sterling because the businessman’s comments “remind us that work is left to be done to create a true culture of inclusion,” and that active steps need to be taken in order to create that culture. The panelists agreed, and shared the best practices used to achieve this goal in their legal departments.

Maria Green, senior vice president, general counsel and secretary at Illinoi Tool Works (ITW) notes that, for ITW, it’s not about the process. She cited the business case for diversity, noting that metrics have shown that,  when public companies have female board members, the companies tend to perform better. It comes down to diversity of thought, which comes from diversity of backgrounds. Businesses do better, she notes, when they bring people into the equation from different backgrounds.

Martin Montes, manager and assistant general counsel at Exelon noted that, of the 110 lawyers employed by the energy company, 20 percent are attorneys of color and 30 percent are female. The legal department’s approach uses “3 A’s”: awareness, action and assessment. Exelon sets baselines with firms, determining the number of female and minority attorneys, tracking that number from year to year, creating a scorecard for each firm. Furthermore, Exelon wants a diverse group of attorneys working on Exleon matters, and uses its billing system to ensure this. He spoke about the importance of pipelines that do this, noting that Exelon’s dedication to diversity comes from the top, as its CEO and head of HR crated programs to increase diversity company-wide.

David L. Rawlinson II, vice president, deputy general counsel & corporate secretary at W.W. Grainger, Inc. mentioned that his department is considering the new meaning of the word diversity, redefining what it means across different areas, thinking of the next steps beyond affirmative action, considering new vectors such as gender diversity, sexual orientation and more.  He also noted that Grainger is working to diversify across the board, even going so far as to identify diverse suppliers.


For more on the topic of diversity, check out the following:


Morrison & Foerster event focuses on women in-house counsel

State of evolution: Inside the DFEH

Asian-American GCs meet in Chicago to expand career opportunities

AIPLEF helps provide much-needed diversity in IP law


Senior Editor and Community Manager

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Rich Steeves

Richard P. Steeves is Senior Editor and Community Manager of InsideCounsel magazine, where he covers the intellectual property and compliance beats. Rich earned a B.A....

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