Day in the Life: MCCA CEO
Over the past several decades, there's been no substantial increase in women and minorities holding leadership roles in the legal industry, the least diverse of all white collar professions. We caught up with Minority Corporate Counsel Association president and CEO Joe West on five ways MCCA is changing that.
1. Inclusive messaging: MCCA uses its platform to advocate for all: women, minorities of all races and ethnicities, LGBT individuals, a multi-generational workforce, and those with disabilities.
2. Events: On July 25, MCCA's holding its annual Diversity Gala at the Kennedy Center, honoring five corporate legal departments. Aside from the gala recognizing those organizations, it incentivizes others to also adopt similar strategies. It also holds three major CLE conferences each year.
3. Research: Studies show built-in biases against minorities, pointing out that organizations have to be purposeful in identifying and eradicating barriers to diversity. In one study, law firm partners picked out almost twice as many errors and gave negative comments to an identical memo when they believed it written by a black law student.
4. Information: MCCA maintains the Diverse Outside Counsel Database, so IHC can consult it when allocating legal spend. This is particularly key as business development is the name of the game for lawyers at firms earlier and earlier in their careers.
5. Pipeline Initiatives: Six months after Joe started, he created the Academy for Leadership and Inclusion training program as a tool to identify and eliminate barriers to retention and advancement.
MCCA had a meaningful impact on Joe's life before he ever worked there. A lifelong New Orleans resident, he lost everything in Hurricane Katrina. While living in Houston and working in-house, his company became an MCCA member. Joe met then-Walmart GC Tom Mars at an MCCA conference and eventually became Walmart associate GC and head of outside counsel management, overseeing hundreds of millions in outside counsel spending between 600 firms and 25,000 time-keepers. During his time, the company boosted relationship partner diversity by having each firm re-submit candidates (with at least one minority and one woman candidate)—in the end, quality of work, responsiveness, and results improved. It illustrates, Joe says, that diversity and excellence go hand-in-hand.