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No one would mistake the legal guardians of corporate America for misty-eyed social crusaders. But Charles Morgan of BellSouth Corp. in Atlanta is using his general counsel pulpit to rattle the status quo. In 1999 he authored a manifesto of sorts — “Diversity in the Workplace: A Statement of Principle” — challenging law firms to employ more minorities and women. At last count, some 385 corporations had signed the statement. But he didn’t stop there: In late 2001, he started asking law firms for hard numbers, like the percentage of BellSouth billables attributable to minority and women lawyers. What’s more, he’s keeping score on the total number of women and minorities at the firms used by the Baby Bell. To keep the pressure on, he’s also asked these 200 or so firms to submit updates on these issues every six months. And, of course, he’s enlisting other big companies to join the bandwagon. Corporate Counsel‘s associate editor Vivia Chen asked Morgan whether the diversity drive was about more than just smart PR. Corporate Counsel: You are white, male, Southern and very much part of the corporate establishment. Why are you pushing diversity? Charles Morgan: I see it very much as a business issue. I don’t think shareholders of BellSouth are paying my salary for me to air my personal views of what society should look at. The diversity issue wraps up so many things about social justice. But at heart it is a business issue. And diversity is good for business. CC: What does diversity have to do with the bottom line? CM: In the competitive environment we work in today, a company can’t have a large segment of its workforce feeling that it doesn’t matter. It’s also in the company’s self-interest to have all its workforce fully engaged. Imagine if 30 percent of your workers were black or Hispanic. Would you want them to feel like it’s a good place to be o

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