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The Black General Counsel Project: Top Lawyers Share Leadership Lessons

Dec. 15, 2020, 11:01 AM

Black general counsel now make up more than 5% of all general counsel in the Fortune 1000, a key milestone first reported by Bloomberg Law in August and tracked by the Black General Counsel 2025 Initiative.

After our story ran, reporter Ruiqi Chen and I started work on a larger project inspired by this development. We put together a list of questions and reached out to more than 50 Black legal chiefs whose companies were in the Fortune 1000 in 2020 or in 2019. The idea? To give readers a firsthand look at the leadership strategies of these top lawyers and the work they do to increase diversity in their legal departments and with the outside counsel that they hire.

The 39 general counsel who participated in this project, co-edited by Rebekah Mintzer, also offered their insights on the key projects their teams are working on during the coronavirus pandemic and their thoughts on the progress Black general counsel have made.

“Companies are seeing that people with diverse backgrounds contribute to better decision making. As a result, companies are making tangible commitments to hiring, developing, and promoting a more diverse workforce,” Guardian Life Insurance General Counsel Kermitt Brooks said in the survey.

The general counsel also shared how much they can directly impact outside counsel diversity. “In every instance where I’ve had the opportunity to have a relationship partner who is female, LGBTQ+, Black, or another person of color, I sought it out. Always. I challenge firms to change that practice,” Albertsons Companies General Counsel Juliette Pryor said.

Uber General Counsel Tony West also underscored the importance of speaking up. “As a person of color at a senior level, it can be easy to play it safe and not expend any capital to move the organization toward a more inclusive environment that expands the number of diverse voices in the room. However, it’s important to remember that you are there for a reason,” West said. “You can and should use that capital and position of influence to hold your organization accountable to the values it espouses.”

To read more insights from the top lawyers featured in our Black General Counsel Project, click on their names below.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lisa Helem at lhelem@bloombergindustry.com

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