The century-old power management company Eaton definitely isn’t taking an old-school approach to running its legal department.

The department has ramped up diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. It also has digitized, while embracing other company initiatives to effect change, including a program that gives individuals who’ve been involved in the justice system a second chance.

Minorities make up 33% of the leadership team of the law department, which has more than 100 employees, performance that company officials point to with pride.

“Eaton’s legal department models inclusive excellence by focusing on the development of diverse talent,” said Stan Ball, vice president and chief litigation counsel.

Ball added that it is incumbent not just for their Eaton lawyers “but all in-house lawyers to go out and be active ambassadors for your organization as a part of your DEI strategy.”

DEI is a focus for Eaton, companywide. The company recently published its Inclusion and Diversity Report, which shows that at the end of last year, 50% of the company’s directors were women or U.S. minorities, and U.S. minorities comprised 54% of its global leadership team.

Of Eaton’s 91,987 employees, more than 30% are women and of its 25,835 U.S. employees, more than 30% are minorities.

Beyond DEI efforts, the company uses a variety of approaches to help young people reach their full potential, including mentorship circles, internships and shadowing programs for students.

Nancy Berardinelli-Krantz, Eaton’s senior vice president and general counsel of digital innovation and technology, said it is a myth that diverse attorneys with technical backgrounds are nonexistent.

In addition to setting high standards for itself, Eaton’s legal department also is ensuring that outside law firms that do work for Eaton are drawing from a portfolio of diverse lawyers.

“We are making certain that the firms we use are aligned with Eaton’s diversity goals,” she said.

The company is also part on an initiative called the Second Chance Business Coalition that helps justice-involved individuals get back into the workforce.

Of the nearly 11,000 people Eaton hired over the last three years, 10.4% had prior criminal convictions, the diversity report states.

Ball said the Second Chance Business Coalition’s purpose is to wipe out the stigma associated with being a justice-involved individual and build on the many strengths they can bring to a workforce.

In addition to providing job opportunities, Eaton works with the coalition to develop legal and risk-management strategies for second-chance hiring and supports public policy reforms to reduce barriers to employment.

Eaton also takes pride in the law department’s global contracts and government compliance special practice group. It operates as a center of excellence that deploys resources where needed, moving away from the siloed approach found in many law departments.

“When you centralize your knowledge, skills and expertise and couple that with consistent processes, it allows for a more efficient and effective use of resources, provides access to information that can be leveraged across the enterprise and eliminates bottlenecks by streamlining access to critical capabilities,” said Angela McDonald-Fisher, vice president and chief counsel for the global contracts and government compliance team.

As an added benefit, she said, the structure provides opportunities for employees to work with different business units, which boosts employee engagement and retention.

“We’re constantly supporting other parts of our business and really getting ingrained in the business strategy,” Ball added.

The department also embraces automation. Berardinelli-Krantz said the company has implemented a number of automated self-help tools that use analytics to improve response time, increase efficiency, and reduce human error.

She noted that the company uses artificial intelligence software tools, including chatbots, to respond to a series of questions that are automated on a website devoted to data protection and privacy.

Over time, as the tool responds to more and more questions, it gets smarter, which cuts down on the number of emails the legal department receives daily.

McDonald-Fisher said Eaton’s legal department also has boosted efficiency by using contract life cycle management software for several years. In addition to serving as a single repository for contracts, the software provides data that gives insight into potential risks and growth opportunities.

In addition, the law department uses other AI software tools to expedite the review of commercial and compliance risks across a portfolio of contracts.

“Digitalization and innovation are at the forefront of everything we do at Eaton.” McDonald-Fisher said.