Baker Donelson Launches Diversity & Inclusion Compact
NEW ORLEANS – Baker Donelson said it has implemented a diversity and inclusion compact, a multi-year plan to increase the number of diverse attorneys within its ranks while committing to provide additional support and remove barriers to advancement.
The document outlines the firm’s commitment to be an industry leader in diversity and inclusion by the end of 2025. Diversity is defined as racial, ethnic and LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer) status.
The groundwork for the compact began in early 2019, after Timothy M. Lupinacci assumed the role of chairman and CEO of the firm and identified diversity and inclusion among his top strategic priorities.
“Baker Donelson has a longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. We’re proud of the progress we’ve made since launching our Diversity Initiative in 2002, but we recognized there was much more work to be done,” Mr. Lupinacci said. “The D&I Compact will allow Baker Donelson to continue to make progress and establish our firm as a leader in the industry.”
In 2019 the firm asked its diverse attorneys for their views on existing diversity and inclusion efforts, obstacles they have experienced and suggestions for improvement. The audit identified many positive attributes but also areas for improvement, including retention, access and connection to significant firm clients, opportunities for leadership advancement, and mentoring.
Over the last year, Marcus M. Maples, chair of the D&I Compact Advisory Board, and a team of attorneys and professionals across the firm used feedback from the audit to create Baker Donelson’s D&I Compact.
“The audit was crucial in helping us identify the types of obstacles that may limit an attorney’s pathway to success. We believe the compact offers a concrete, actionable plan to help attorneys overcome those obstacles. Our hope is that our efforts will serve as an example in the legal community as a firm that understood it had work to do and committed to doing it. We also hope to inspire others in the legal profession and beyond to take their own steps forward,” Mr. Maples said.
To achieve industry-leading benchmarks of at least 20% diverse attorneys, 10% diverse shareholders, eight% diverse equity shareholders and 10% diverse management team, the D&I Compact outlines four priorities:
- Robust tracking of diverse lawyers’ recruitment, progress and pathway success: The firm has implemented clear measurement and tracking tools. All leaders – including the board of directors, compensation committee, practice group leaders, department chairs and office managing shareholders – will be held accountable, and their compensation will be dependent on their achievements.
- Sponsorship: As a person of influence and an advocate, a sponsor is a champion who promotes a protégé’s interactions with signature firm clients and other firm leaders.
- Increased focus on business generation training and execution: The firm will take aggressive measures to ensure that (1) diverse attorneys are given every opportunity to participate in its business development programs; and (2) attorney sponsors are doing everything they can to help diverse attorneys become successful business developers and leaders in business generation.
- Implementation of the D&I attorney recruitment plan: The recruitment plan encompasses a number of measures that primarily seek to ensure that a diverse attorney or a member of the diversity committee interviews each diverse attorney candidate.
“The cornerstone of any effective D&I program should be the creation of a sense of home for diverse attorneys, so that they feel as much at home at the firm as anybody else,” said Maples. “Home is a place where we feel comfortable, where we can express ourselves, where we can disagree but still come together for the common good, and where people respect others and their opinions. That’s what the compact is about. It’s about removing barriers that have been in place for generations that have kept diverse attorneys from succeeding at the same rate as their non-diverse colleagues, and ensuring that each person has the same access to opportunities and the same chance for advancement.”