Diversity Week

Committed to Diversity: General Counsel Hope to Lead the Way

MYA BULWA
Career Development Office

Last May, a collective of 40 Canadian in-house counsel at banks and large corporations signed a pledge committing to diversity and inclusion within their own departments and in the law firms they hire. Companies and organizations like Kellogg’s, Xerox, Bombardier, Bruce Power, RBC and Ernst & Young are members of Legal Leaders for Diversity (LLD) and they are promising to practice and advance diversity and inclusion through their hiring and purchasing practices, by encouraging law firms to follow their example and by promoting diversity initiatives at all levels in the legal and business community.

This is, no doubt, an important contribution in the movement towards a more representative and diverse legal profession. The LLD is encouraging their members to demonstrate their commitment through the following “Be an Advocate” initiatives:

1. Create a “diversity-friendly” law department through actions as well as words.Know your organization’s diversity plan and talk to your groups about it to make sure they understand how important it is. Be visible in your support; attend your organization’s diversity events.

2. Hire from a diverse pool. Establish a diversity intranet website to show role models for career progression.

3. Make diversity and inclusion a standing item on quarterly team meeting agendas.

4. Build diversity and inclusiveness plans into employee reviews.

5. Create a mentoring program within your law department where lawyers mentor people from diverse backgrounds. Consider two-way and reverse-mentorship programs and also mentoring outside your organization.

6. Make coaching in diversity and inclusiveness part of all leadership training. Educate your organization’s leaders to ensure they understand, champion and effectively communicate the business case for diversity and inclusion.

7. Consider establishing an External Diversity Advisory Committee to guide business leadership. Find ways to measure success and hold leaders accountable for progress in diversity and inclusiveness.

8. In dealing with outside law firms, make sure they know diversity is one of your organization’s core values and that you expect to see diversity and inclusiveness on your legal teams.

9. Retain minority- or women-owned law firms whenever possible.

10. Support vendors and suppliers whose ownership or employee base reflects a commitment to diversity and inclusion. 11. Be an advocate. Speak with other CLO’s about diversity and inclusiveness and share best practices.

12. Join with law schools to support initiatives such as Minority Law Job Fairs.

13. Help develop Diversity Employee Networks and act as an Executive sponsor of one of them.

14. Participate in or host a meeting of Legal Leaders for Diversity and Inclusion.

15. Find and support an organization that promotes diversity, such as a youth program or TRIAC.

16. Participate in programs such as ITLP where you host internationally trained lawyers in your law department.

17. Use your general counsel networks to support diversity and inclusiveness initiatives.

There are now upwards of 60 general counsel across Canada that have signed on with LLD, so the initiative does appear to be gaining traction. This is a positive sign for law students getting ready to enter into practice, particularly with those law firms who rely on these corporate clients. It also serves as an encouraging signal to students from diverse backgrounds to network and develop mentee/mentor relationships with LLD in-house counsel. As the LLD Statement of Support for Diversity and Inclusion states, these corporate counsel “value the range of perspectives, ideas and experiences that diversity provides, whether grounded in gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, cultural background, religion or age.” So, take them up on their offer!!

To hear more about LLD, be sure to come to the Diversity Day Panel on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 12:30pm in the JCR. The current Chair of LLD, Av Maharaj, VP and Chief Counsel, International with Kellogg’s, will be a featured speaker. See you there!