“It’s The Firms’ Fault”: GCs, You Can No Longer Rely on This Excuse For The Lack of Diversity In Your Outside Counsel

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Law firms remain painfully not diverse at the most senior levels, as we have discussed in a prior post.

Despite decades of bar association statements, this pitiful state of affairs remains.  No one – whether in-house or outside counsel – has taken ownership to drive change, and consequently law has remained the the least diverse white collar profession in America at the highest levels.

Metlife, and its general counsel Ricardo Anzaldua, has stepped up with a strategy to stop the passing of the buck. Anzaldua is holding his own senior leadership — as well as MetLife’s outside counsel — responsible for ensuring that Metlife’s outside counsel is diverse.

As Anzaldua a former Cleary partner, recently explained to  Bloomberg Law, law firms have failed to nurture and promote diverse talent: “big corporate institutions have had the capacity to recruit incoming classes of lawyers that are really quite diverse.”  

However, as Anzaldua explained:

“you go through and look at the classes eight years later, and you look at the candidates for partnership, and they’re once again predominantly white males…I just have to conclude that there’s something structural in the organization[s] that makes it easier for the white males to make the connections than it is for diverse lawyers.”

Rather than simply identify the problem, however, Anzaldua proposes a solution for promoting more diverse lawyers both internally and externally.

“My answer to that problem is to make the senior people in the organization accountable for making sure the diverse talent also gets those connections, opportunities, and experiences necessary to promotion…We’re advancing that paradigm at MetLife…senior people in the organization identify a pool of high potential diverse talent, and the senior professionals in my department each have the responsibility for identifying at least one person from that pool of diverse talent to sponsor…”

Not only is Anzaldua implementing this program within his own legal department, he requires his outside law firms to put in place a similar program, and he is putting responsibility on his senior leadership team to hold the law firms accountable.

The message that Anzaldua delivers is that

“Your performance as a leader, team member and hiring manager will be tied to the diversity of the outside law firms you hire and the diversity and inclusion plans you implement.”

At Bodhala, we praise Anzaldua’s efforts to establish accountability as ground-breaking.

While Bodhala can provide the data analytics to show our clients which firms are staffing diverse associates on their crucial matters and give them the tools to report that back to the law firms, it takes innovative GCs like Anzaldua to establish the reward structures to ensure that this newly available transparency drives much needed change in the legal profession.

2017-03-01T22:34:08+00:00

About the Author:

Co-CEO, Co-Founder of Bodhala formerly: Antitrust lawyer at Simpson Thacher Trial lawyer at Department of Justice, Antitrust Division Co-Founder Relatia Networks JD Harvard; BA Harvard