Jerry Kang (left), former Founding Vice Chancellor of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at UCLA, interviews Carlos Brown, LCLD Board Member and Senior Vice President, Chief Legal Officer, and General Counsel at Dominion Energy, about his approach to leadership on DE&I. (All photos by Jay Haas)
More than 30 LCLD Members—law firm Managing Partners and corporate General Counsel—gathered at the headquarters of Dominion Energy in Richmond, Virginia, last month for the second-ever LCLD Super Pledge Summit.
Hosted by LCLD Board Member Carlos Brown, Senior Vice President, Chief Legal Officer, and General Counsel at Dominion Energy, the meeting provided LCLD Members with an opportunity to discuss the implementation of their Leader Pledges, with a focus on developing a deep bench of diverse talent through succession planning. Brown was joined in leading the event by Jerry Kang, Distinguished Professor of Law and former Founding Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, at UCLA.
The Summit kicked off with Brown and Kang setting the stage for succession planning by sharing their own thoughts on how to put a plan into action.
“Leaders are not born; they are created by their own internal passion,” noted Brown. “Those who hustle and have the willingness to run towards the fire stand out. It’s all about how you take advantage of the jump ball.”
In his own succession plan, Brown pointed out that he has started to identify people who could—and should—be leaders. Everyone has potential, he noted, but it is their authenticity, strength of character, and willingness to engage that will help push them across the finish line. While his succession plan is not public, Brown does share with possible candidates what they need to do to advance. He is purposeful when creating a diverse pipeline and is deliberate when recruiting by expanding the hiring net.
Following the interview with Brown, Kang led a session on the challenges of building equity in the legal profession, noting the importance of being aware of different biases—both implicit and structural—within an organization.
To drive discussion, Kang shared a "succession planning machine" building upon the commitments in LCLD Members' Leader Pledges.
“When you’re called to lead,” Kang said, “you must up your game. You need to understand how the different vectors of discrimination work. It’s important to understand biases.”
Kang noted how easy it is for diverse lawyers to lose momentum on the career track; missed opportunities add up over time. He noted that every memo written, every assignment, every interaction over an entire career can have consequences in a highly competitive profession. Diverse attorneys do not need much headwind to get stuck in a hierarchy.
To overcome these obstacles, Kang said, lawyers must have a commitment strategy—they need to figure out how they will “tie themselves to the mast like Ulysses so they can continue in a course of action even when facing great difficulties and distractions.”
In small groups, Members shared strategies and pitfalls in their approaches to succession planning and talent development.
Members then divided into groups—led by LCLD Members Carlos Brown (Dominion Energy), Maureen Dry-Wasson (Major Lindsey & Africa), Ellen Dwyer (Crowell & Moring), Tim Lupinacci (Baker Donelson), and Tracy Walker (McGuireWoods)—to share the challenges and successes in their own efforts around succession planning, followed by a robust group discussion on what is working—and what is not.
“What struck me most about the Summit was the ability to share best practices across many inspiring leaders who are working hard to further diversity in the legal field,” said Karen Wilson Thissen, LCLD Member and General Counsel & Secretary at General Mills. “We were honest about challenges, and I took a way a lot of actionable insights.”
In the end, participants identified key elements in building what Kang called “a succession planning machine”:
- Identify future leaders early (1 year, 3 years, 5 years, and 10 years out) and chart a path forward
- Define the challenges
- Fill the pipeline
- Create “joint ventures” between law firms and clients to support talent development
Ellen Dwyer, Immediate Past Chair of the LCLD Board of Directors and Member of the Executive Committee at Crowell & Moring, shares highlights from her table's discussion.
The day closed with a final poll on how LCLD can help support its Members as they create their talent development and succession plans. Several ideas were discussed, including setting up a matchmaking system to serve as a clearinghouse for jobs, holding future leadership summits with experts, and establishing protocols for metrics that include standardized data for DEI statistics.
LCLD is committed to giving leaders the tools they need to close the “implementation gap.” Stay tuned for more at our Annual Membership Meeting this fall and future Super Pledge Summits.
LCLD thanks Carlos Brown, Noopur Garg, Latoya Asia, Gina Burgin, Kevin Smith, and the entire Dominion Energy team for hosting this event. We also thank LCLD Member Law Firms Hunton Andrews Kurth, McGuireWoods, and Troutman Pepper for sponsoring a reception prior to the Summit. See below for the Dominion Energy Summit Sneak Peek, which includes a breakdown of the collaborative efforts of LCLD Members, and the results of the meeting polls.