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January 07, 2019 Practice Points

The Diversity Scorecard Challenge: Secrets for Success

What steps can in-house counsel and outside counsel take to improve diversity in the legal profession?

By Tiffany A. Johnson

Achieving diversity in the legal profession is an ongoing initiative among in-house and outside counsel. By establishing requirements directed toward selecting and retaining diverse service providers, namely outside counsel, several in-house legal departments have demonstrated their commitment to ensuring diversity in the legal profession becomes a reality. As such, outside counsel have been charged with effectively responding to clients demanding diverse service providers.

What are the secrets to success for conquering the diversity scorecard challenge? What requirements must outside counsel meet to be considered for work by in-house counsel? What steps can in-house counsel and outside counsel take to improve diversity in the legal profession? What is a preferred provider program?

Follow Instructions

As simple as it may be, follow the client’s instructions. If the client requires certain criteria for hiring outside, make sure you check every box. Never conduct a pitch with a team that lacks diversity for potential clients who require diversity. Further, never block or unintentionally fail to include a diverse attorney who was included in a pitch from completing substantive tasks related to the work the client hired you to complete.

Conduct Research

Several corporate legal departments provide a statement or insight into their diversity requirements for suppliers. If not, many corporations at least state their mission or vision related to servicing their own diverse client base. Today, there are even non-profit organizations whose mission is directed toward assisting service providers in earning opportunities to work with Fortune 100 and 500 companies. These non-profit organizations may provide helpful suggestions and/or a program designed to introduce outside counsel to in-house counsel. For example, the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF) seeks to increase the retention of minority- and woman-owned law firms. NAMWOLF hosts events that provide a platform for law firms to interview with corporate legal departments. Additionally, the American Bar Association’s Resolution 113 urges the legal profession to achieve diversity, and many corporate legal departments have pledged to ask outside counsel to complete the ABA Resolution 113 Model Survey.

Diverse Leadership

Whether in-house or outside counsel, making others aware of your organization’s diverse leadership team and decision-makers will send a positive message that you expect to work with others who place the same importance on establishing a diverse team.

Matter-Handling Attorneys

Be cognizant of who is pitched as a matter-handling attorney and stay true to ensuring the matter-handling attorney bills hours to the respective work. Inconsistencies between pitching a diverse group of attorneys to work on matters for a client and the attorneys who actually bill hours for those matters will likely disappoint a client and result in receiving no future work.

Billing Practices

Several corporate legal departments utilize a preferred provider program including outside counsel selected to complete work for clients. Often, preferred provider programs go hand-in-hand with securing better spend predictability and remaining within budget. By providing alternative fee arrangements, attractive billing guidelines, and having a willingness to work with the client, outside counsel can increase chances of being selected as a service or preferred provider.

Demonstrating Commitment to Diversity

Whether you are an attorney who has a diverse background or not, your commitment to diversity can be evidenced from your involvement in bar associations and non-profit or service organizations. Further, whether you are a solo attorney or a member of a large law firm, your commitment to diversity can be evidenced by if or how you incorporate diversity into your practice. By at least understanding and embracing how diversity impacts any corporations’ bottom line, establishing a culture of diversity and inclusion can take your practice to the next level.

Tiffany A. Johnson is assistant counsel at The Estee Lauder Companies, Inc. in New York City, New York. She is also cochair of the Section of Litigation Intellectual Property Committee’s Diversity Subcommittee. The subcommittee presented written materials for the 2018 Professional Success Summit panel entitled “The Diversity Scorecard Challenge: Secrets for Success.”

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