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Beyond Diversity Inclusiveness In The Legal Workplace

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Case Studies

10 legal organizations, including law firms, corporate law departments, and government law offices have been piloting the 6-step process over the last 18 months. Read more about how organizations in each sector have managed the initial stages of the process.

BROWNSTEIN HYATT FARBER SCHRECK LLP

Type:  Large Regional Law Firm with offices in several states
Size:  200+ attorneys
Time in Pilot Program:  1 Year

Brownstein Hyatt Farber & Schreck LLP ("Brownstein") is one of the largest law firms in the Rocky Mountain region with over 240 lawyers and policy advisors working across 12 offices located in Colorado, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Washington, DC. The firm's practice areas include but are not limited to corporate and business, government relations, litigation, natural resources, and real estate.

Deciding to Pilot:

Brownstein did not have a formal diversity or inclusiveness committee prior to working with CLI and was looking for guidance in creating one when they learned of CLI's inclusiveness program. Participating as a pilot allowed the firm to take advantage of the extensive resources provided by CLI and the support of other pilot organizations.

 

 

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XCEL ENERGY INC. – LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Type:  Small corporate legal department
Size:  34 attorneys; 12 attorneys in Denver
Time in Pilot Program:  1 year

Xcel Energy is the foremost wind provider in the nation and a major regulated combined electric and natural gas energy company operating in eight western and mid-western states with 34 attorneys in four offices located in Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Texas. The largest practice areas include Litigation, Regulatory, Environmental, Real Estate, and Employment law.

Deciding to Pilot:

When CLI approached Xcel Energy about joining the pilot program, it was clear that Xcel Energy was much further along in terms of inclusiveness than any of the other pilot organizations, having spent three years working on their diversity and inclusiveness plan and already having an established committee, the General Counsel's Employee Excellence and Equality ("EEE") Committee. However, the EEE Committee thought piloting would be a great opportunity to further expand its efforts toward creating an inclusive environment. Mr. Connelly, Xcel's General Counsel, was (and still is) a member of the CLI Board of Directors at the time and he fully supported the decision. The committee had already been through many of the steps outlined in the program so they were undaunted by the challenges they would face. Additionally, they realized that piloting provided an opportunity not only to stay on the forefront of inclusiveness, but to be a leader within the legal community by supporting a community-based initiative.

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COLORADO ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE

Type:  Large government legal department
Size:  200+ attorneys
Time in Pilot Program:  9 months

Deciding to Pilot:

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers has been involved with CLI since the inception of the Dean's Diversity Council in 2006, which ultimately led to the formation of CLI (f/k/a CCIE) in 2007. The Deans' Diversity Council consists of managing partners, law school deans, judges, corporate counsel and government attorneys that meet twice a year to discuss diversity and inclusiveness issues in the Colorado legal community. In October 2008, when Mr. Suthers had a conflict which prevented him from addressing the Council on the topic "Why is Government Winning at Retention?", he asked Chief Deputy Attorney General Cynthia Coffman to speak on his behalf. In developing her presentation, Ms. Coffman turned to several attorneys within the AG's Office for input on how the Office was working to retain diverse attorneys. Three of the attorneys she interviewed were already very involved with inclusiveness efforts (as CLI Board members and members of other diversity organizations in the Denver legal community) but others were not. What she learned surprised her. The attorneys she believed were comfortably assimilated in the office spoke of their lack of inclusion in office committees (or, alternatively, sometimes feeling like a token member); their experience of not being encouraged to attend office social gatherings; their interest in informally establishing mentoring relationships with newly hired diverse attorneys as the office's management had failed to meet this need; and their sense of alienation when looking at the lack of diversity among senior management. They also spoke of the need to directly address the challenges presented when trying to achieve diversity and inclusion. They commented on the office's lack of intentionality in recruiting and retaining diverse attorneys as well as what the future might hold if these things became a clear priority for the entire office.

In January 2009, Ms. Coffman invited Kathleen Nalty, Executive Director of CLI, to speak at the annual management retreat about CLI and the inclusiveness pilot program. Shortly after that retreat, the Attorney General and Chief Deputy decided to join the program. Ms. Coffman asked the three attorneys already involved in inclusiveness efforts to join her in forming a "core inclusive excellence team", an initial committee of sorts, to explore office climate and employee needs. In turn, this core group focused its attention on selecting additional members for a more formal inclusiveness committee.

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