In a recent article in Corporate Counsel magazine, entitled “Diversity Champs,” a number of corporate general counsels proudly recounted their companies’ efforts to ensure that more women and minorities are hired at their companies and used by the law firms they retain. Those efforts included plenty of practices by the companies, the law firms, or both that violate Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, and sex. (See, for example, this discussion.)
The list of shame includes James Breedlove of Praxair (who is “prodding the company’s outside firms to put more women and minority lawyers on Praxair matters”); Elisa Garcia of Office Depot (“When I first met with firms, I’d ask if there were minority and women lawyers on our matters”; she then “began requiring outside firms to track the number of hours that women, minority, and LGBT attorneys work on [Office Depot] matters”); Gary Kennedy of American Airlines (“We’ve been pounding [outside counsel] pretty hard” to “put more diverse lawyers . . . on American’s matters”; the company also offers a mentoring program and summer internships for “minority law students”); and Donald Liu of Xerox (“clearly communicating to [outside law] firms, both verbally and in writing, that Xerox expected to see more diverse staffing on its matters”). The irony is that the job of a corporate general counsel is to help make sure that his company does not violate the law; here’s hoping these companies get hauled into court, along with their law firms who refused to stand up to them.