When Prudential Financial’s Rick Meade first heard more than a decade ago that some of his colleagues at the nation’s top companies were prioritizing the hiring of more minority-owned law firms, he wanted to join them. But back in 2006, he said his company’s efforts on that front weren’t developed enough for him to jump in just yet.
Over the next few years, Meade, who is the vice president and CLO for international businesses at Prudential Financial, collaborated with a handful of other senior lawyers and they decided to be proactive and start engaging women- and minority-owned businesses through their own efforts.
“Everybody was doing their own thing, which was great, but we wanted to organize and create some momentum to stretch this idea further,” said Meade, who is the chairperson of the Inclusion Initiative, a group of corporations dedicated to hiring a diverse group of lawyers as outside counsel.
Within a few years, Prudential and the other legal departments at some of the largest corporations were making inclusion within legal more of a priority.
Now, a decade later, about 8 to 10 percent of Prudential’s legal spend on outside counsel goes to firms owned by women and minorities. Meade declined to provide numbers on the total dollar amount the department spends on these firms, or the total number of firms involved.
Prudential isn’t alone in its efforts to improve diversity numbers. The company is one of 32 corporations that are part of the Inclusion Initiative, which was founded by Prudential and 10 other companies in 2010 to commit to selecting women- and minority-led firms.
The companies—which include State Farm, Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s—announced Monday that they had collectively spent $226 million in 2016 with minority- and women-owned law firms.
Since the initiative began in 2010, companies have spent a total of more than $1.24 billion on this group of firms, allocating at least $200 million each year.
The Inclusion Initiative is administered through the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms, a group of 174 firms in 42 states.
The group, which meets on a semi-annual basis, must spend at least $1 million annually on women- and minority-owned firms. Meade said the group does not break out how much each company spends but said most are spending well above the minimum.
As for Prudential’s team, they continue to actively look for firms to do work, with an increasing focus on those that are minority-led. They have an existing list that they have vetted. The department of 181 attorneys sets financial goals each year for how much it will spend on those firms and they monitor spend on a monthly basis.
Meade said the group of members involved with the initiative has steadily grown each year. Among the newest members are Target and Toyota Financial Services, which both joined in 2017.
“I’ve worked with the Inclusion Initiative for a number of years and have been impressed by their work in bringing organizations together around a shared commitment to increasing spending with minority-owned law firms,” said Don Liu, chief legal officer at Target, who formerly served as the top lawyer at Xerox, in a press release. “At Target, we believe that diversity and inclusion make teams better.”
The full list of participants is as follows: 3M, Accenture, Allstate, American Airlines, AT&T, Bank of America, The Coca-Cola Co., Comcast, Exelon, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., General Mills, GlaxoSmithKline, Google, JPMorgan Chase, McDonald’s Corp., Macy’s, Merck, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, Nationwide, NBCUniversal, Prudential Financial, Sempra Energy, Shell Oil Co., State Farm, Target, Toyota Financial Services, UPS, Verizon, Wal-Mart, Wells Fargo and Xerox.