HP Inc. has taken a bold stance on diversity, withholding up to 10 percent of billables from firms that fail to meet certain diversity requirements.
When LCLD Member Kim Rivera became Chief Legal Officer of HP Inc. in 2015, she challenged her diversity and inclusion team to come up with a bold and impactful way to improve diversity in the profession, said Christophe D. Mosby, Associate General Counsel and 2013 LCLD Fellow.
“We all agreed that a lot of the actions that have been tried over the last decade haven’t really moved the needle,” Mosby (below) said. “We don’t belittle another company’s or firm’s efforts, but when you look at the numbers—we need to be more successful.”
Under the new policy, law firms with more than 10 attorneys must have a diverse relationship partner and/or a female and racial minority attorney, each performing at least 10 percent of the firm’s billable work. That data is tracked directly through the billing process, using a portion of the ABA Model Diversity Survey as a baseline.
Understanding that some firms might need time to train up a new relationship partner or staff more diverse attorneys, HP announced the policy to firms in the fall of 2016 and gave them a year to comply.
“It was important to me that our firms didn’t feel alienated by our initiative,” Rivera told LCLD, “but rather came away understanding that fielding diverse teams and diversifying the profession is important to us. And we believe that takes collaborative action among law firms and legal departments.” In the first two quarters, HP has already seen improvements in both areas being measured.
Mosby offered the following advice to companies considering a similar policy:
- Be mindful about diversity requirements. HP chose to focus on improving diversity among relationship partners because of the unique and powerful position they hold within their firms.
- Get buy-in from leaders. Rivera’s “vision and courage” were critical for implementing such a bold policy, Mosby said. But they have also ensured that other leaders are able advocates of the initiative.
- Understand your own technical capabilities for collecting, processing and tracking data. To minimize internal workload, HP has automated parts of the withholding process through its billing system.
- Be transparent with firms—ahead of time. Rivera personally spoke with several firms before the launch to explain HP’s expectations and goals.
- Develop a clear communication plan internally, for outside counsel, and for the public.
For more information, contact Christophe D. Mosby at email@example.com.