Diversifying legal departments

Some corporate legal departments are doing their best to create a more racially balanced legal staff

Some corporate legal departments are doing their best to create a more racially balanced legal staff.  Nationally recognized labor and employment attorney Donald Prophete is helping that process along, attorney by attorney, company by company.

Prophete reports, “There is a huge exodus of racially diverse lawyers from large law firms yearly.  We have a system that is not conducive for racially diverse lawyers.” 

“General counsel need to stop being aspirational about racial diversity but focus on racial diversity in a meaningful way,” he said. “There is no better way to show commitment to racial diversity than to have exquisitely qualified racially diverse lawyers handling a very high end meaningful company matter.”

One in-house attorney who shares the same outlook at Prophete is Jim Rowader, vice president, general counsel, Employee and Labor Relations, at the Minneapolis-based Target Corporation. Rowader’s sector of Target’s legal department, which works directly with human resources, comprises 21 attorneys, while the remaining 60-65 lawyers work in the traditional legal department.

Rowader is an advocate for diversifying his legal team, both on a personal level, as he is of Puerto Rican descent, and from a company standpoint, it was apparent that having a diverse legal team working on issues that take place all throughout the country, is invaluable.  “ We are dealing with issues relating to, either teammates or guests, all racial and ethnic groups.  It’s a great advantage to our department to mirror the demographics of our team members.  We are dealing with issues that come up in people’s everyday lives, and it is easier to do that, to bring personal perspective to match those in the lives of team members.”

And as Prophete tends to introduce diverse attorneys to his corporate clients, Rowader, too, does the same with his staff.  “If they get to see and work with people like Don, it reinforces the notion that diverse lawyers can and are being successful,” he said. 

Contributing Author

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Hilary Daninhirsch

Hilary Daninhirsch is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.  In 2000, she left the practice of law to raise her children...

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