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Mitch Zuklie: Collaborating for Change

As the managing partners and general counsel of top law firms and corporate legal departments, LCLD Members are some of the most powerful legal leaders in the United States. But some of our Members go above and beyond in applying their leadership to advance diversity and inclusion at their organizations and in the broader legal profession. These individuals exemplify LCLD's mission to make the legal profession as diverse as the nation it serves. 

LCLD asked Mitch Zuklie, Chairman and CEO of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, to share one of the most innovative, impactful ways his organization is advancing inclusion.  

1. Provide a brief summary of your initiative. 

Four years ago, Orrick launched a Women’s Advisory Board comprised of about 10 general counsel and other leaders of client organizations who share our commitment to advancing women in the legal profession, as well as thought leaders from academic and non-profit settings. Our chairman, partners in charge of our Women’s initiative, and COO also participate. Building on the success of this initiative, in 2019 Orrick launched a Diversity Advisory Board, with a similar composition.  

The goal of these Boards is to create a forum for Orrick to solicit client feedback on our plans and efforts, while enabling our clients to benchmark and learn from each other. The Boards meet two to three times a year for a half-day in one of Orrick’s offices. There is a structured agenda and conversation topic, sometimes facilitated by an outside presenter.

2. What inspired you to take action on this element of D&I?

We were convinced that we would learn a lot by listening to our clients’ views on how to advance women and diverse lawyers – and this has proven to be true. Likewise, we believed our clients would value an intimate forum in which to talk with each other about diversity and inclusion issues. Sharing our goals and objectives with a group of our most valued clients created an extra layer of accountability for us.  

We also believe that client relationships are the best context in which the firm can create opportunities for diverse lawyers, and the dialogue with these clients on these issues will contribute to opening doors for diverse members of our team.

3. What makes your efforts innovative and different?

We are not aware of other firms that have created similar client advisory boards on these issues. We find that many diversity & inclusion efforts are inwardly focused (with the exception of pipeline programs). We really wanted market input, and specifically to partner with clients with whom we felt we could drive change. As a firm focused on tech, energy & infrastructure, and finance, it is particularly valuable to be having this dialogue at a time when our clients in these sectors have heightened their focus on these issues.

4. Are there lessons you learned? Are there things you would do differently?

We would have started sooner. As to priorities going forward, we would like to find additional ways to share the voices of our advisory board members with our lawyers and staff more broadly. We created a video of some of our advisory board members for our partners meeting, and we share reports on our meetings in our monthly report to partners. But there’s more to do, and this year we are planning internal podcasts to share the conversation more broadly.

We are also thinking about how to make the conversation more global. While most of the organizations represented are global and we have taken on global issues (like how to advance women in Europe), we would like to bring more voices from around the world into the dialogue.

5. Has there been a ripple effect for your majority attorneys?

Yes. We have made changes in response to advisory board feedback that have benefited all of our lawyers and a wide range of clients. For example, during one advisory board conversation, clients noted that they recruit top talent from firms at about the fifth year. These associates are well trained, have valuable experience, and are at a point when they may be thinking about a different career experience. There is a natural tension here for us – we want to retain and advance this top talent, yet if they are going to leave, we’d like it to be for one of our clients. So, we created a confidential electronic job board where we house, on average, about 100 postings for in-house positions with our clients. It’s a win-win – supporting our clients and our associates. And, while the inspiration came from our diversity initiative, all of our lawyers benefit.   

We have also adopted this format to create an Innovation Advisory Board to talk with our clients about transforming the legal service delivery model.

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