Real, meaningful and sustainable progress requires that we all work together, innovate and openly share our ideas and ideas to help us all improve. We all need to focus on diversity in our own organizations first, and then look for ways to promote diversity by working with others in the industry. Over the past decade, a number of in-house legal departments, including Microsoft, have invested in programs and initiatives to increase diversity within their partner firms. The American Bar Association also recognized this need and opportunity and passed Resolution 113 in 2016, which calls on companies to promote change by (i) expanding and creating opportunities at all levels of responsibility for different lawyers, (ii) urging companies as clients to help facilitate opportunities for various lawyers in law firms, and (iii) increasing the percentage of Legal Services to various lawyers. We supported the resolution when it was introduced (see statement by Brad Smith, President of Microsoft, ABA Resolution 113: Creating a Legal Profession That Reflect the Public it Serves, Nov. 22, 2016, blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/11/22/aba-resolution-113-creating-legal-profession-reflects-public-serves/) and are proud to continue our support with over 100 other organizations representing a wide range of industries, including financial services, transportation, food and beverage, retail, pharmaceuticals and information technology. The 10-year trend for racial and ethnic minorities is even bleaker, with almost no progress in proportional representation. In 2009, the number of lawyers identifying as African American, Asian, Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latinx, and Native American was substantially unchanged, with less than one percentage point change for each group. The only growth category for racial and ethnic minority groups is “multiracial,” introduced by the ABA in 2016. In the three years since its launch, it has gone from zero to 2%.
To meaningfully promote diversity, we must first move forward and take responsibility in our own organizations, whether it`s a corporate legal department, a law firm, a non-profit legal department, or a government agency. From there, we can all look for ways to extend our impact beyond our own borders. For in-house legal departments, considering diversity in the selection and engagement of external consultants provides an important opportunity to broaden a company`s impact on diversity in the profession. This is a particularly rich opportunity, given that the majority of U.S. lawyers — perhaps as many as 75 percent — are employed in law firms. See Clara N. Carson & Jeeyoon Park, A.B. Found., The Lawyer Statistical Report: The U.S. Legal Profession in 2005, p. 5 (2012). Robert C. Bird is an Associate Professor of Business Law and Northeast Utilities Chair in Business Ethics at the University of Connecticut School of Business in Storrs, Connecticut.
David Orozco is Associate Professor of Law and Director of the MBA Program at Florida State University College of Business in Tallahassee, Florida. Paradoxically, the processes by which corporate legal departments gain a competitive advantage remain poorly understood. Prevailing wisdom recognizes the need to integrate legal considerations into high-level decision-making, but too often leaders still view the law as a constraint on management decisions, viewing it primarily as a matter of cost and compliance.4 However, this limited perspective on law does not explain how some large corporations have managed to leverage their legal services to shape the environment. legal to gain a long-term competitive advantage. Whether your case involves military sanctions or compromises your rights as a federal employee, you can trust the Federal Practice Group to provide effective and strategic legal defense, no matter where you are in the world. Supported by an office culture with a strong work ethic and an international network of contacts and resources, the Federal Practice Group is uniquely positioned to represent clients facing highly complex legal challenges in the area of U.S. federal law. There are many reasons for the positive impact of diversity on business outcomes. For global companies like Microsoft that serve a diverse customer base, the diversity of our workforce is critical to understanding our customers. Our clients` needs and desires are shaped by a variety of factors, each of which is very different, such as cultural diversity, language, age, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation, religious beliefs, nationality, local economy, geography and historical context. Our ability to serve our clients well requires us to understand their wants and needs, which requires us to have a nuanced understanding of their overall contextual experience. In addition to its importance in serving our clients, diversity is just as important when working with our broader stakeholders.
The reality is that we cannot be effective if we cannot understand and appreciate the interests and needs of the incredibly diverse people who make up our stakeholder groups, from employees and customers to business partners, regulators and judges. In 2008, Microsoft sought to partner with its strategic partners to promote diversity within these companies. As we had worked to improve diversity within our own legal department, we found that accountability helped accelerate progress, and we thought this would naturally extend to our external companies. We also believed that partnering with our diversity law firms would be the best approach to making real and sustainable progress. With these two principles in mind, and given our experience that many of our companies have already focused on these issues and recognized their importance, we have come to the conclusion that an incentive program is the right approach for us. We launched a Law Firm Diversity Program to reward our strategic partner firms based on key indicators of diversity in their firms, including firm-wide diversity, diversity in leadership positions, and diversity of lawyers at law firms working on Microsoft issues. Now in its 11th year, the program has evolved to financially reward our partner companies for the most innovative diversity programs, and Microsoft encourages them to share their ideas and ideas with us and each other. This program has allowed us to extend our influence beyond the approximately 575 lawyers in our own legal department to more than 15,700 lawyers in participating firms. Effective leaders must be able to make informed strategic decisions that align with business objectives and implement appropriate preventive measures to mitigate risk. A basic understanding of the legal landscape helps you identify risky corporate behavior, provides security and stability, and serves as a dispute resolution mechanism. Learn about the circumstances under which a company is legally liable for the illegal actions of its employees.
Companies are “swimming in a sea of laws” as they grapple with increasing regulation, different international jurisdictions, various lawsuits, and the impact of tougher penalties for violations.1 As a result, executives are increasingly recognizing that legal skills are critical to the continued success of the business, and they understand the importance of working with legal counsel. In fact, one study found that 43% of U.S. companies had attorney directors in 2009, a notable increase from 24% in 2000.2 Other research has found that companies generate tangible returns, such as: higher stock market valuations if they employ lawyers to sit on the board and if senior executives have legal knowledge.3 Improve your skills Learn to interpret the many laws and regulations that make up the complex legal landscape of the United States. Lobbyists could work for corporations, not-for-profit organizations and other government agencies. Sometimes they work with like-minded grassroots campaigns and other advocacy groups that may have a larger number of followers than lobbyists can use to their advantage. In addition to selecting external consultants, the profession can continue to invest in other opportunities to support the diverse talent pool, enhance professional development and development, and foster a culture of inclusion. There are significant opportunities for lawyers to work with not-for-profit organizations that focus on directly supporting the development of various lawyers, such as the Minority Corporate Counsel Association and the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity. Affinity bar associations are also key stakeholders driving progress. These organizations provide important community, networking and professional development opportunities for diverse lawyers, and provide excellent opportunities for in-house departments and law firms to form partnerships and explore ways to enhance diversity in our organizations and careers.