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Diversity is a powerful word. Diversity is the condition of being different from one another-composed of unlike elements or qualities. Something we all have in common. How is it possible, then, that diversity has so much power? Legal publications have issues devoted to diversity. Bar associations have sprung up, composed of one group or another, similar in gender, ethnic background or sexual orientation. Local and national organizations have formed to advocate for discrete groups within the legal profession. Over the past few years, several large national corporations have made commitments to increasing diversity in the legal profession, and terms such as “metrics” and “supplier diversity” are now used to measure success in the corporate world. Law firms have diversity committees. Law departments have diversity chairs. Many corporations and public entities interested in achieving diversity with their outside firms have focused upon increasing the utilization of minority and female attorneys at majority firms. And these firms have responded in kind. The crux of the matter is that the resulting metrics are not adding up to supplier diversity. Data gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau and NALP’s (formerly the National Association for Law Placement) Directory of Legal Employers all demonstrate that minorities and women account for a disproportionately small percentage of partners at U.S. law firms. The percentage of women partners nationwide is 17.06%. The percentage of minority partners nationwide is 4.32%. The issue of ownership These data suggest that there is still a long way to go to achieve diversity among partners-few minorities and women have ownership of their practice. There is more to be done. Why not apply this enthusiasm and commitment to diversity in other ways? Many corporations have supplier diversity programs: initiatives designed to encourage the use of minority-owned and women-owned businesses as suppliers of goods and services. According to recent research by the Hackett Group, companies that engage in this practice have lower operating costs and receive a higher return. Why not include the legal department in that initiative and reap the benefits? Several corporations, such as E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. and KeyCorp Ltd., already do. Other companies, such as Accenture Ltd. and PepsiAmericas Inc., have supplier diversity initiatives within their legal departments as well. If the measurement of diversity initiative results is a motivating factor, why not also set a goal at the outset? The National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF) encourages corporations to set a quantifiable goal of 5% of their outside counsel budgets to be used with minority- and women-owned law firms, through the Corporate and Public Entities Partnering Program. Use of any certified minority-owned or women-owned firm would satisfy that requirement. In 2002, Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. was one of the first companies to become a corporate partner of NAMWOLF. Today, more than 100 companies and public entities are members of the program. Corporate partners that have distinguished themselves in this arena have been recognized with the Annual Diversity Initiative Achievement Award. In 2005, Accenture was the first recipient to be recognized for excellence in promoting diversity initiatives both within its legal department and companywide. This year’s recipient, DuPont, was recognized at the NAMWOLF 2006 Annual Meeting and Law Firm Expo, on Oct. 24-25 in San Diego. The meeting offered an opportunity for members to speak with in-house counsel from these and other corporations about successfully putting these initiatives into place. The expo offered an opportunity for in-house counsel to interview top-rated minority-owned and women-owned law firms from across the nation. NAMWOLF advocates for all minority-owned and women-owned law firms with a focus on corporate law. Use of these firms is a direct and effective way of promoting minorities and women in the profession, since, as these firms grow and prosper, they are more likely to hire minority and women attorneys. Metrics with regard to retention of minorities and women and supplier diversity requirements can be fulfilled at the same time. Costs go down; profits go up. Seeking and promoting diversity within the legal profession can be done in many ways. Diversity has become more than just a symbol of corporate social responsibility; it is good business. It is taking something that is free, plentiful and all around us, and making it work. Renuka Vishnubhakta is the managing director of the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms, based in Milwaukee. Information about NAMWOLF is available at www.namwolf.org.

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