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In 1995 Nancy Gardner was on maternity leave from New York-based Weil, Gotshal & Manges, and worrying about returning to her grueling securities practice. Out of the blue, she got a call from a client, Thomas Glocer, then general counsel of Reuters America Inc. He was looking to fill an in-house lawyer position at the British media company and asked if Gardner was interested. When Glocer mentioned that the job could be done on a flextime schedule, she was sold. “Tom really encouraged it because he knew he would get the best from me if he made it fit around my lifestyle,” Gardner says. A couple of months later, Gardner, now 44, became Reuters’ first flextime law department hire. Because of his savvy dealmaking and people skills, Glocer went on to become the first nonjournalist, non-British CEO at headquarters in London. And Gardner, who has a 9-year-old daughter, Erin, and a 5-year-old son, Kevin, and who continues to work flextime, is now executive vice president and general counsel of Reuters America in New York. Never forgetting that Glocer took a chance on her and that it worked out, Gardner, who became GC in 2001, has made it a practice to seek out a diverse group of staffers and keep them happy with flexible schedules and telecommuting. Gardner says that when, as deputy GC and GC, she and her colleagues went on a hiring spree in 1999 and 2000, they told recruiters that they wanted to see candidates from many racial and ethnic groups. Since then, there has been some downsizing in the legal department as part of Reuters’ restructurings — the department had 25 lawyers at its height in 2001 and now has 18 — but it is still diverse. Ten of the 18 lawyers are women. Of the 18, two are African Americans, and there are also an Orthodox Jew, a Cuban American, a Spanish citizen, a lawyer from China, a Korean American and a Swiss citizen. The support staff is also multiethnic. Hiring this diverse group has meant trade-offs. In order to observe the Sabbath at sundown on Fridays, Shmuel Bulka, an Orthodox Jew who lives on Staten Island, works from home that day. Other staffers, including working mothers, also follow a flextime schedule. Gardner works from home on Fridays. Reuters America’s policy about flextime and telecommuting is far more worker-friendly than most companies’. According to Corporate Counsel‘s 2003 Quality of Life survey of 1,010 in-house lawyers, only 10 percent of respondents said their employers had an outstanding attitude about flextime, and only 9 percent said their employers had an outstanding attitude about telecommuting. For its flexibility and diversity, Gardner’s department has won a number of accolades. “When we look to organizations as employers of choice, we look at internal demographics that meet or exceed the general demographics of in-house,” says Minority Corporate Counsel Association executive director Veta Richardson. “For women it’s a little more than a third [of in-house lawyers]. For minorities, it’s 10-12 percent of in-house lawyers. [Reuters America's] numbers are stronger than that.” Veteran diversity advocate and BellSouth Corp. executive vice president and GC Charles Morgan says a diverse legal department does better work. “A lot of the stuff we do is judgment questions about how a jury is going to react to something, how a legislature is going to react,” he says. “[Diversity] makes for better thinking, makes for a more interesting, more dynamic thought process.” Gardner points to one instance that showed the benefit of having a multicultural department, especially at a global media company like Reuters. One of her lawyers, Maria Diaz, who was born in Spain and speaks Spanish and Portuguese, expertly researched employment law in Brazil, Cuba and Argentina. Her grasp of the languages and culture simply gave her access to more information than a lawyer whose first language is English. Gardner’s legal department also tries to spread the word. The GC sends her outside counsel a “statement of legal principles.” It lays out what Reuters expects from its law firms, and includes a paragraph about how diverse the in-house group is and about how it expects to see similar variety on the outside teams that do its work. Gardner, who hasn’t yet turned a firm away, says that the letter provides an incentive for the firms to cast a wider hiring net: “Our law firms can say, ‘Look, the client is demanding this. There’s a business reason why we should focus on diversity.’” Reuters’ lawyers trumpet their diversity outside of the office, too. The company has just partnered with a school in Harlem as part of a Junior Achievement mentoring program, and most of the lawyers in the department are volunteers. “It does good to have this diverse group out in an inner-city school, talking about their experiences and how they got to Reuters,” Gardner says. She has also sent emissaries into the executive suite. In-house lawyer Thomas Kim last year started up a “reverse mentoring” program, under which employees of minority backgrounds at the middle-level mentor senior management to sensitize them to diversity issues. In the end, though, Gardner says having a diverse department means a richer, more interesting work environment. “If everyone is from the same background,” she says, “it doesn’t lead to experiencing other people’s experience through working with them.”

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