By Lindsey Dunn and Elizabeth Banzhoff
This past year, Perkins Coie became one of the first Denver firms to adopt ABA Resolution 113. The Resolution reiterates the importance of diversity in the legal profession and urges all legal services providers, including law firms and corporations, to expand and create opportunities for diverse attorneys.
What makes this effort different from previous diversity programs advanced by the ABA is the acknowledgement that corporate clients are supporting and, in many cases, driving diversity initiatives. The Resolution called on these clients to direct a greater percentage of the legal services they purchase to firms with diverse attorneys. The response has been resounding. General counsel from more than 20 prominent companies sent a letter to all of the Fortune 1000 companies, asking for their support in the implementation of Resolution 113. Currently, more than 50 companies have signed the “General Counsel Pledge,” including Colorado-based company EchoStar Corporation.
In the pledge, these companies state that they will request diversity information from any law firm that provides legal work or that competes to handle a matter. To facilitate this process, the ABA has provided a “Model Diversity Survey” for law firms. The Model Diversity Survey is a 15-question form designed to share consistent information and statistics related to firms’ diversity commitments as a tool for in-house counsel to use when considering diversity in deciding which firms to retain. In the survey, a law firm provides:
- the demographic profile of its attorneys, the firm leadership and associates promoted to partners;
- the number of diverse attorneys that left the firm and that the firm hired;
- the number of diverse attorneys working a reduced hours schedule;
- the demographic profile of the top 10 percent of highest compensated partners in the firm; and
- information on the firm’s diversity initiatives.
There are some indications that the ABA has a larger vision of centralizing the information that law firms provide to their clients.
What does this mean for Denver practitioners? The effect of Resolution 113 on your practice will come when your firm seeks work from one of the increasing number of clients that promote diversity, especially those that have signed the General Counsel Pledge. The new focus on clients in Resolution 113 reflects the market’s demand for diversity. Many clients have recognized the business case for diversity and expect their lawyers to support this goal. Resolution 113 ties clients’ business needs to the legal profession’s aspirations.
At Perkins Coie, we have already seen the effects of adopting Resolution 113. The firm was urged to complete the survey by one of its clients, Mark Roellig, executive vice president and general counsel at MassMutual Financial Group. He was a signatory on the letter sent to the Fortune 1000 companies asking for their support of ABA Resolution 113. Roellig and other firm clients have encouraged and applauded Perkins Coie’s support of Resolution 113 and completion of the Model Diversity Survey. Perkins Coie has since been widely recognized for its diversity efforts by industry organizations and publications, and its joinder in support of ABA Resolution 113 is part of that commitment.
Regardless of the size of your firm, as clients increasingly recognize the business value of diversity, the expectation of incorporating diversity will be expanded to outside counsel. ABA Resolution 113 is a significant step toward acknowledging clients’ collective demand for diversity. The diversity metrics that the Model Diversity Survey attempts to standardize will become important measures that clients can rely on to evaluate a firm’s investment in diversity. As such, law firms are well-advised to join in Resolution 113 and increase their own diversity efforts.
Lindsey Dunn is a DBA YLD members and an associate in Perkins Coie’s Denver office in the Commercial Litigation practice group. Prior to joining Perkins Coie, Dunn served as a clerk for Justice Monica M. Márquez of the Colorado Supreme Court. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Elizabeth M. Banzhoff is Counsel with Perkins Coie’s Intellectual Property group. Based in Denver, her practice focuses on patent infringement and other intellectual property litigation, including trademark litigation. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article first appeared in The Docket.