12 Oct 2021

Minority GCs' group hails ‘inflection point’ as it unveils law firm diversity scorecard

GCs pledge to monitor effectiveness of advisers’ DEI policies as top-performing law firms are named  

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General counsel at 27 leading US companies have pledged to ask law firms they instruct to use a new scorecard measuring the effectiveness of their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) policies.
 
The Washington DC-based Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) says the initiative marks the first step in establishing a benchmark ‘to better understand minimum standards to evaluate law firms’ DEI efforts’.
 
The scorecard is based on data supplied by participating firms from the MCCA’s annual Law Firm Diversity Survey and takes into account data on demographics, recruitment, retention and promotion.
 
While individual rankings are not published, the MCCA has released a list of top-performing law firms across various size categories and will unveil the five highest-ranking firms with more than 500 lawyers at an awards ceremony tomorrow (13 October).
 
Among the large law firms commended for their performance are Cooley, Hogan Lovells, Morrison & Foerster and Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe. UK Magic Circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is also included on the roster.
 
GCs to have pledged to use the scorecard for firms they instruct include Duane Holloway, of United Steel Corporation, Sandra Leung, of Bristol-Myers Squibb, Hilary Krane, of Nike, and Elisa Garcia, of Macy’s.
 
MCCA board member Anne Robinson, GC of Vanguard, said: “The Scorecard has the potential to redefine diversity in the legal profession, by setting measurable industry benchmarks for firms of all size – and letting anybody, anywhere compare firms before making their hiring decisions.”
 
The group’s chair, Wanji Walcott, GC at Discover Financial Services, added: “This marks an inflection point for our profession. As the general counsel of a Fortune 500 company, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hoped for an industry standard to measure my outside counsels’ diversity efforts. MCCA’s Scorecard is that standard and meets the moment in this new era of investor focus on ESG goals.”
 
Pressure on law firms by their clients to improve their diversity has been mounting as companies themselves embrace the ESG movement. 
 
In April, the UK’s Vodafone refreshed its global legal advice panel, selecting firms based on a shared commitment to promoting diversity targets and ESG. And in January, Coca Cola unveiled a series of diversity targets for its US advisers with the threat of a non-refundable 30% reduction in their fees if they failed to meet them, although the programme’s future came under question when its architect, GC Bradley Gayton stepped down from the role in April.
 
Recent months have seen a notable increase in the number of women being appointed to leadership position at leading law firms on both sides of the Atlantic.

In April, Sidley Austin elected litigation and disputes partner Yvette Ostolaza as the next chair of its management committee, making her the first Latina lawyer to be appointed to lead a top ten US law firm. And in March, Gibson Dunn announced that New York partner Barbara Becker had been elected as its next chair and managing partner to succeed longstanding head Ken Doran on 1 May 2021. 

UK Magic Circle firms Freshfields and Linklaters have both recenlty elected women leaders for the firrst time.

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