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Milbank Hires AmEx Exec to Bolster Diversity Efforts (1)

June 29, 2021, 7:07 PM; Updated: June 29, 2021, 10:46 PM

Milbank has hired a former American Express Co. executive to boost its diversity and inclusion efforts, after last year’s protests and reckoning with longstanding racial inequities put a spotlight on Big Law’s diversity shortcomings.

Mikeisha Anderson Jones, the firm’s first global chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, was previously vice president of Global Inclusion & Diversity at American Express. At Milbank she’ll lead DEI strategies across the New York-founded firm, which has offices on multiple continents.

Big Law has long struggled to hire, retain, and promote lawyers from diverse backgrounds and has recently unveiled new DEI initiatives to achieve those goals. But progress has so far been limited, and there’s skepticism from attorneys, including some attorneys of color, about whether the current fervor will fade if public pressure isn’t sustained.

Last year in the U.S., Black partners comprised only 2.1% of law firm partners, while Asian and Latinx partners represented 4.1% and 2.8%, respectively, according to the National Association of Law Placement’s most recent diversity report. Percentages of women partners within these three groups were even lower.

Anderson Jones is an attorney and has held corporate legal positions in-house at Cardinal Health Inc. and Catalent Pharma Solutions in addition to working as a law firm associate at Reed Smith and Lowenstein Sandler earlier in her career.

Anderson Jones said in an interview Tuesday that she’s excited to collaborate with the existing team working on diversity and inclusion at the firm and to “help open the aperture a bit.”

She said diversity work at Milbank will have to take into account the firm’s global nature, as “what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for all.” The firm has offices from Beijing, to Munich, to Sao Paulo, so the diversity needs and cultural nuances across geographies may vary.

“I’m looking forward to really doing a de novo review as I go on my listening tour and learn about Milbank and what’s important at Milbank, who the people are at Milbank, and what the experiences are at Milbank,” she said.

Anderson Jones said that in her view, diversity efforts in the legal profession are far from new, but have evolved as of late.

“What we certainly see is a heightened awareness, at least, in the last year and a half, and I think what we also experience is louder voices and more voices participating in discussions in all different arenas, especially in corporations,” she said. “And because of that, I think there’s an opportunity to coalesce and galvanize and bring the work forward in a way that maybe folks were not willing to before, or interested in, or aware of, before.”

In addition to announcing its new C-level diversity hire, Milbank on Tuesday confirmed it would be further raising associate salaries, according to a firm memo viewed by Bloomberg Law. Associate pay will now hit top of the market ranging from $205,000 for the firm’s newest associates, to $365,000 for its most senior.

-Rebekah Mintzer contributed to this report.

(Updates throughout with quotes from Anderson Jones and associate salary raise information.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Tiana Headley at theadley@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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