MILWAUKEE – Members of the Inclusion Initiative – comprised of the law departments at 25 large corporations across the country – today announced a new goal of spending more than $139 million this year on legal services provided by outside law firms owned by minorities and women (MWBE).
Recently, Susan Blount, Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Prudential, a co-founder and one of the original 11 members of the Inclusion Initiative, was honored by Womens eNews as “One of the 21 Leaders for the 21st Century” for her pioneering work with the Inclusion Initiative and her overall dedication to increasing diversity and inclusiveness in the legal profession.
"While the Inclusion Initiative represents the collective commitment of an ever-expanding number of companies, it took the vision, drive and energy of Susan Blount and her staff of dedicated in-house lawyers at Prudential to bring together the critical mass of companies needed to get the Initiative off the ground,” said Rick Richardson, Vice President and Associate General Counsel of GlaxoSmithKline, an original member of the Initiative. “She was instrumental in helping to create the Inclusion Initiative, along with Tom Sager of DuPont.”
The award, presented at a gala dinner at the JumeirahEssex House in New York City, recognized 21 people in three categories: Seven Who Catalyze Culture, Seven Who Engender Ballots and Seven Who Leverage Power. Blount was recognized as one of Seven Who Leverage Power, for being a Persuader for Diversity for her efforts in the Inclusion Initiative.
Blount is also a founding board member of the Center for Women in the Law at the University of Texas Law School, where she received her law degree. The center is devoted to improving the success of the entire spectrum of women in law, from first-year law students to the most experienced and accomplished attorneys.
"Inclusion is a basic social justice issue. Women are 50 percent of law school graduates but they have a higher rate of attrition and lower rate of making partner than their male counterparts. The situation is even more profound for African American and other minority attorneys," said Blount. "Our work with minority- and women-owned law firms through the Inclusion Initiative gives us the power to change people's lives and to make a permanent difference in our profession, while getting high quality lawyers working on our matters."
Members of the Inclusion Initiative work closely with the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF) to identify best practices to maximize relationships with high quality minority- and women-owned law firms. “If the Inclusion Initiative companies meet the 2012 goal, we will have spent in excess of a quarter of a billion dollars on MWBE law firms in just three short years. This is a lofty goal. Achieving it will be something that should make each of our 25 member companies extremely proud,” added Richard Meade of Prudential.
The Inclusion Initiative is administered by NAMWOLF; however the law firms that Initiative companies use are not limited to NAMWOLF firms.
NAMWOLF is composed of more than 100 certified MWBE law firms in 33 states and is dedicated to increasing the utilization of diverse law firms by corporate and public entity legal departments. NAMWOLF board member Robin A. Wofford is Chair of the Inclusion Initiative Task Force and is assisted by NAMWOLF member Pariss Coleman.