Guest Authors: David Allgood is executive vice president and general counsel, Royal Bank of Canada; treasurer of the ACC Board of Directors and a member of the Legal Leaders for Diversity Steering Committee. Kenneth J. Fredeen is general counsel, Deloitte & Touche, LLP, Toronto, Ont., Canada and a member of the Legal Leaders for Diversity Steering Committee.
According to a recent ACC Canada Online Quick Poll, “Just Over Half of Canadian General Counsel Say They Consider Diversity in Choosing Law Firms.” To that, we say: “Well done.” This is a great reflection of in-house leadership.
General counsel are looked upon as senior and respected leaders, both within the legal community and within their organizations. There is no doubt that this is good for job and career satisfaction, if not income, but leadership comes with obligations. We are role models. What do we want people to see? Increasingly, general counsel are choosing not only to do the right thing by seeking diversity among outside counsel, but also to make statements and take public positions that lead others to follow our lead toward positive change. After all, diversity makes good business sense.
In May 2011, a group of Canadian general counsel with this shared philosophy launched the Legal Leaders for Diversity and Inclusion (LLD) initiative. The primary goal of LLD is to encourage general counsel to take responsibility and be held accountable for creating a more inclusive legal profession, starting with our own departments and organizations. Having just celebrated our first-year anniversary, our membership has grown to more than 60 Canadian general counsel, who represent various industries and sizes of Canadian organizations. We are very excited about the widespread enthusiasm and support of this initiative. With the collective actions of many, change will happen faster. Here are some of our thoughts on how and why the time for change is now:
- Diversity is a business imperative. As general counsel, we appreciate the value in creating an inclusive law department. By doing this, we will create an inclusive work place that will allow us to attract, retain and fully engage the best in talent. Diversity makes business sense, in our law groups and throughout our organizations.
- Positive examples can be inspiring. When law firms know that this issue is important to their clients (general counsel), it draws them into the dialogue, thereby creating an even larger platform to build change. The LLD realizes that a more inclusive legal profession can only be created by working with external law firms.
- Time to loosen up. Many of us have our own biases. Too often, we get caught up in political correctness and maybe even guilt. By working collectively in a positive way, what we do can be fun and extremely satisfying.
This initiative has resulted in an exciting and growing cause that has engaged a large number of Canadian general counsel. We are encouraged by the idea to extend our ongoing leadership roles, and we acknowledge that each of us needs to take our individual thoughts and ideas and translate them into actions so that our commitment to diversity is visible to all. After all, leadership gives us the opportunity to embrace the obligations that come with our roles as senior leaders in the business and legal communities.