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Titles for Change

By Megan Kinneyn | May 2, 2007

Law Office Management

May 2, 2007

Titles for Change

The rise of the diversity manager By Chuleenan Svetvilas

By Chuleenan Svetvilas
      Edited by Martin Lasden
      Last summer DLA Piper's national diversity committee hired regional managers in both New York and San Francisco, a move that underscored the emerging significance of diversity programs at many major law firms. "The positions evolved partly out of the need to pay close attention to retaining minority lawyers," says Theresa Cropper, the firm's Chicago-based national diversity director. "In addition, clients were starting to ask about our level of diversity." With more then 3,200 attorneys worldwide, she says, the firm wanted full-time attention to both issues.
      DLA Piper hired Sean T. Carter, a former commercial litigator, to head diversity initiatives in the firm's twelve western-state offices. "I travel every other week to meet with managing partners, recruiting partners, and other attorneys, and to attend events at the individual offices and law schools," says Carter, who is based in San Francisco.
      According to a January survey by Altman Weil, half of large firms have created similar positions, up 5 percent from 2005 to 2006. In fact, enough people hold the title of "diversity manager" that last year they formed the Association of Law Firm Diversity Professionals. A majority of the 46 participating firms have offices in California.
      The increased attention paid to diversity has been driven in part by the 2004 Call to Action by Roderick Palmore, chief legal officer of Sara Lee. The call, which has been endorsed in writing by the chief legal officers at more than 100 companies, commits signers to either ending or limiting their relationships with outside law firms "whose performance consistently evidences a lack of meaningful interest in being diverse."
      And general demographic information on diversity is not enough anymore.
      "Clients are asking firms about individual associates' careers?whether they are getting credit or lead responsibility," says Roland Dumas, who provides consulting services to law firms on diversity matters at Major, Lindsey & Africa in San Francisco. "And when they ask for more than numbers, the firms can't bullshit."
      The diversity program at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, for example, addresses issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, social class, disability, and cultural differences. And last year the 1,150-attorney firm reinforced its commitment to diversity by bringing in a managing director of diversity and global talent to coordinate recruiting, diversity, and pro bono programs worldwide.
      Though more firms are hiring diversity managers and directors, it isn't always easy to find people with the right skill set, says DLA Piper's Cropper. "We're all pioneers, inventing the wheel."

Megan Kinneyn

Daily Journal Staff Writer

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