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The responsibility for transforming law school graduates into high-performing senior attorneys has traditionally fallen to private law firms, with corporations and their inside counsel having little opportunity to contribute to professional development discussions or activities. This model has worked exceptionally well to advance majority group lawyers up the professional performance and leadership ladder, but it has been demonstrably ineffective in moving minority professionals to its topmost rungs. This failure works to the disadvantage of corporations driven by global market demands to secure legal advice, counsel, and representation from a broad diversity of perspectives. As a result, the in-house community has joined its law firm colleagues in the effort to promote diversity. Eight years ago, the chief legal officers of some 500 major corporations signed “ Diversity In The Workplace — A Statement of Principle” supporting the promotion of diversity in the legal profession. Although these lawyers intended the statement as a call for private firms to make significant and permanent improvements in the preparation and advancement of minority professionals, gains by attorneys of color remain a work in progress. In 2004, a diversity “Call to Action” was drafted by Rick Palmore, chief legal officer of Sara Lee and a member of the board of directors of the Association of Corporate Counsel. The ACC board subsequently endorsed this effort “to realize a truly diverse profession and to promote diversity in law firms.” TIME TO STEP UP And now a group of corporate counsel have come up with a solution to allow corporations and their in-house legal personnel to step up and become more integrally and actively involved in the process of developing diverse top legal performers. We call it the Stakeholder 100 Project. The Stakeholder 100 represents the best thinking of a group of more than 40 executives from many of the largest and most successful companies in corporate America about how to best develop the next generation of top-performing law firm professionals. As direct participants in the Stakeholder 100 Project, they have launched a national effort to identify, train, and support up to 100 of the most gifted junior attorneys of color in the United States. Over the next several months, the program will be soliciting nominations from law firms across the United States as it identifies candidates for the project’s inaugural group of participants. The minority attorneys selected will receive training, mentoring, and professional support for the rest of their professional careers from a diverse group of attorneys who are corporate counsel in some of the nation’s most successful corporations. “This challenge of advancing minority professionals is not lost on corporate counsel,” says Kellye Walker, senior vice president and general counsel of Diageo North America and chairwoman of the Stakeholder 100. “Corporations that purchase legal services have always been the beneficiaries of law firms who invest in promoting the top performance of their associates. We who lead in-house legal departments now believe we can contribute a unique career development resource to further these efforts.” Walker adds that participants in the initiative “intend to become active, long-term �co-investors’ in promoting the careers of gifted minority law firm associates and their firms because their development is important to our corporations’ futures, too.” Stakeholder 100′s focus is on fostering and sustaining attorneys who will do high-quality work and continue on that track as they develop their expertise, because top performance is the strongest predictor of attorneys’ ultimate success and lasting value to their firms and the corporations their firms serve. While quality work product is the short-term return on investment law firms receive from professional development, the long-term return is the expertise that comes from top performance. This top performance and expertise are the enduring values the Stakeholder 100 initiative is committed to achieve. Those of us who have enjoyed success in the legal profession understand the importance of having a deep pool of supporters to help younger attorneys transform and coordinate the often disparate professional advancement opportunities they are offered into meaningful career outcomes. Stakeholder 100 intends to identify diverse attorneys who are on a top performance trajectory early in their careers and provide them with resources that contribute to their development as leaders for the future, through a supportive community of long-term supporters. Corporate counsel compose an essential component of the development process. The program allows them to make an investment in creating a diverse pool of highly talented lawyers — a pool which will ultimately benefit their own corporations — through personal participation as training faculty and mentors. In the past, corporate counsel have been an untapped resource. Stakeholder 100 reframes their role as a fertile resource capable of making direct contributions to developing tomorrow’s top legal talent. The Stakeholder 100 is rooted in the belief that personal involvement by corporate attorneys is the surest way to achieve a measurable impact. It acknowledges the responsibilities corporations and their attorneys share for cultivating and sustaining the development of the next generation of top-performing associate level attorneys. Marc Howze, associate general counsel and corporate secretary for John Deere, is among those who have signed on to participate. “I joined Stakeholder 100 because it will allow me to more directly manifest my commitment to promoting diversity and provide me with a framework within which to work with junior lawyers,” he explains. “Our joint success will help shape my professional legacy.” FACTORS FOR SUCCESS The program incorporates a model that focuses on fostering six factors associated with the achievement of top performance in the field of law: subject matter expertise, peer investment, career self-investment, resilience and grit, client impact, and team play. The Stakeholder 100 professional development process is multi-staged, including the initial assessment of potential; participation in an initial learning retreat; and ongoing participation in a long-term relationship with Stakeholder 100′s cadre of experienced professional mentors. We are accepting applications from law firm associates of color to participate in its initial group. The application, due July 15, requires both candidate materials and a nomination form from the candidate’s law firm. A multilevel process to ensure maximum participant and geographic diversity will be used to select this year’s participants. The program is looking for candidates who: • Have unshakable grit

• Strive to understand the rules of the game — even the “unwritten” rules • Seek to create career outcomes from career opportunities • Prioritize self-investment • Are driven to develop subject matter expertise, not mere subject matter competence • Are committed to having an impact

Selection of the first Stakeholder 100 group will be followed by a two-day training session, set for Orlando, Fla., in November. Initial training will be followed by participating junior lawyers securing long-term, meaningful information and resources from Stakeholder 100′s cadre of top-performing corporate counsel, who will deliver subject matter updates, career advice, and other support dedicated to advancing junior lawyers’ practice skills, performance, and careers. As Kellye Walker sums up Stakeholder 100′s plan of action, “It is our hope to both comprehensively train and forge meaningful relationships with the selected associates. We will bring these attorneys into a family of senior top performers that will remain meaningfully connected to them for the balance of the senior performers’ careers.” In addition to identifying lawyers at the beginning of their careers, the project aims to keep following them with continuous career training. Says Walker: “The project’s value will come from our demonstrated, long-term commitment to building an unprecedented alumni association of top performers who are bound together by their focus on achieving at the highest levels and by their mutual investment in one another’s success. We will put into practice our strongly held belief that we must lift as we climb.”
Werten Bellamy is founder and director of the Stakeholder 100 project, the former group counsel of Celera Genomics Group, and former division counsel at Wyeth-Ayerst Pharmaceuticals. He also served as a partner at Blackwell Igbanugo and Lewis & Munday.

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