The chief legal officer who authored a letter demanding law firms improve diversity or risk losing clients is pushing the movement forward with a newly released set of strategies for general counsel.
When Michelle Fang, the CLO of car-sharing company Turo, began spreading the letter in January it struck a chord with the more than 170 general counsel who initially signed on to her message. Since then, around 60 more companies’ top lawyers have added their names, including the legal department heads of Axiom, Sophos and NetApp Inc.
It’s a momentum Fang said she wants to build on, not lose. That’s why on Monday she released a set of actionable items for general counsel looking to promote diverse legal talent.
“As I thought about what’s next, I wanted to figure out … the more tangible things that general counsel can do,” Fang said. “Because the letter was really designed to be a statement of principle. It wasn’t designed to have specific action items in it.”
But Fang is not a diversity and inclusion expert, and some critics of her letter noted in-house diversity initiatives have often failed.
So she reached out to DiversityLab, a group promoting diversity in the legal industry through data, to get expert input on what works and what doesn’t. She also called up individual leaders in the legal industry’s diversity and inclusion space.
Monday’s eight-page document of diversity strategies is the result of those calls and collaborations.
“It’s a dense document by design, because not every item on there will appeal to every single legal department,” Fang said. “So you want to give options and say, ‘Do what works for you.’”
Fang and DiversityLab’s strategies include: collecting outside counsel metrics on diversity and prioritizing spend on firms with strong D&I programs, partnering with law firms to promote diverse talent at every stage of the pipeline, and hiring women- and minority-owned firms.
Legal departments also can partner with their outside counsel to offer internships for students from underrepresented backgrounds, as Turo is doing this summer. Or GCs can ask firms about their origination credit process and push to ensure diverse attorneys are getting noticed for their work.
Fang said her next step will be surveying general counsel on strategies they’re currently using, results they’ve seen and future tactics they’re planning to implement.
“Many companies are doing some really awesome stuff, and I think sharing that with other in-house counsel who care about this issue [would help]. They don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” Fang said.