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Microsoft Boosts Efforts to Build a Diverse Legal Pipeline

May 21, 2021, 10:30 AM

Microsoft Corp. recharged its long-running diversity initiative for outside counsel last year amid nationwide protests for racial justice and inclusion, Corporate Vice President and General Counsel Dev Stahlkopf said.

The software giant increased its focus on Black and Latino leadership at partner law firms and boosted their financial incentives for reaching the company’s overall diversity targets, Stahlkopf said Thursday in an interview with Bloomberg Industry Group Strategic Initiatives Executive Editor Lisa Helem.

Microsoft’s gender and minority legal diversity program has helped drive more diverse representation at its partner law firms for the past 12 years, Stahlkopf said.

However, the number of Black and Latino partners at its outside counsel firms trailed that of other minority groups at those firms, Microsoft said in a 2020 blog post. Microsoft recently made one-third of the diversity-related bonuses it offers outside law firms contingent on growth in those underrepresented minority groups at the partner level.

“It often will take a year or two really to start. And it takes a little bit of pipelining to see increases as it relates to Black and Hispanic leadership as well,” Stahlkopf told Bloomberg Industry Group.

Microsoft increased the diversity bonus it offers outside counsel from 2% to 3% of a firm’s annual fees charged to the company, according to the blog post.

The incentive requires outside counsel to hit diversity-related goals among women, racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, and veterans—both within their firms and on Microsoft-specific matters, Stahlkopf said.

“Today, about 90% of our first and second chairs in our major litigation matters are diverse,” she said.

Workplace Diversity

The company is also looking to improve diversity among its internal workforce, Stahlkopf said.

Last year, Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella pledged to double the number of Black mid-level managers by 2025. It also promised to make a $150 million investment in diversity and inclusion within the company.

Microsoft is trying to hit that goal by requiring diverse slates of job candidates, expanding leadership training programs for Black and LatinX employees, and creating new mentorship opportunities, Stahlkopf said.

The company already requires all employees to identify concrete measures they can take to promote diversity. Employees are assessed on those diversity goals, just as with the company’s business priorities, Stahlkopf said.

“Creating a diverse and inclusive environment has to be everybody’s job,” she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lydia Beyoud in Washington at lbeyoud@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Ferullo at mferullo@bloomberglaw.com; Roger Yu at ryu@bloomberglaw.com