CHICAGO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Members of the Inclusion Initiative, a collaborative program among law departments at major corporations across the country, together spent more than $250 million with minority- and women-owned (MWBE) law firms in 2013 – far exceeding their $160 million goal.
The Inclusion Initiative was launched in 2010 by 11 large corporate law departments spanning various industries to help increase diversity in the legal profession by demonstrating the utility and cost-effectiveness of using MWBE law firms for a variety of complex legal matters. The program has since grown dramatically, both in terms of aggregate expenditures and the number of participating companies.
Morgan Stanley and Nationwide joined the Inclusion Initiative earlier this year, bringing the total number of members to 30. The other participating companies are: 3M, Accenture, Aetna, Allstate, American Airlines, AT&T, Bank of America, The Coca-Cola Company, Comcast, DuPont, Exelon, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, General Mills, GlaxoSmithKline, Google, JPMorgan Chase, Macy’s, McDonald’s Corporation, Merck, Microsoft, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Prudential Financial, Sempra Energy, Shell Oil Company, United Parcel Service, Verizon, Walmart and Xerox.
“I could not be more proud of our growth and of the commitment to diversity demonstrated by our corporate members. Each and every year of the Initiative, our participating corporate law departments have surpassed the goal for utilizing minority and women owned firms, demonstrating by their actions that these law firms can play a key role in the delivery of legal services to our businesses,” said Rick Meade, Vice President and Chief Legal Officer for International Businesses at Prudential Financial, Inc. and Chairperson of the Inclusion Initiative.
For 2014, Inclusion Initiative members have set a collective goal of spending $178,650,000 on minority- and women-owned (MWBE) law firms.
“As part of its core values, Morgan Stanley strives to create a spirit of inclusion by bringing together and valuing dedicated professionals with diverse backgrounds, talents, perspectives, cultural identities and experiences. Joining the Inclusion Initiative was a natural fit for the Company, and we are excited about the opportunity to contribute to the Initiative,” said Eric F. Grossman, Chief Legal Officer at Morgan Stanley.
“Nationwide is excited to be named as a new member of the Inclusion Initiative,” said Pat Hatler, Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer at Nationwide. “We’re proud to continue our support of NAMWOLF firms and to join 29 fellow companies who share a demonstrated commitment to diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.”
In 2004, a study commissioned by DuPont Legal found a marked drop since the late 1980s in the number of minority-owned law firms serving Corporate America. The DuPont study identified lack of access to and relationships with corporate decision-makers and misperceptions of law firm expertise and capabilities, as among the primary drivers of this worrisome decline. A 2009 study by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association reached similar conclusions.
The member companies in the Inclusion Initiative believe that diverse law firms are a critical part of the solution to the diversity challenge in the legal profession. The members also believe that diverse law firms provide a reliable pathway into the legal profession for law students and young lawyers from diverse backgrounds, and serve as a recruitment source for diversity in major law firms and the judiciary.
“The overwhelmingly positive results of the Inclusion Initiative send a clear message: companies that are truly serious about legal diversity have a significant impact on the profession by using minority and women owned law firms. There is no question that diverse law firms bring added value and talent to the legal profession and are more-than capable of servicing the legal needs of America’s leading companies,” said Robin Wofford, 2013 Inclusion Initiative Task Force Co-Chair for the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF).
The Inclusion Initiative is administered by NAMWOLF, which is comprised of 117 certified MWBE law firms covering 34 states. Carla Fields Johnson and Maurice Grant will co-chair the 2014 Inclusion Initiative task force for NAMWOLF.