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Michael Harrington: Diversity as a KPI

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 Michael Harrington, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Eli Lilly and Company, to share one of the most innovative, impactful ways his organization is advancing inclusion.  

1. Provide a brief summary of your initiative.

After Eli Lilly’s Fellows complete their fellowships, I require them to serve for two years on an informal “kitchen cabinet” that advises me. Our most recent two classes of Fellows meet with me on a quarterly basis to discuss the state of diversity, inclusion, and engagement in our legal department. They advise me on my priorities and communication. They also nominate the next class of LCLD Fellows. I tell them that the quid pro quo for being a Fellow is that they are expected to return as a leader of the enterprise. Part of that is joining this small group.

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

I received this idea from another LCLD Member several years ago.

3. What makes your efforts innovative and different?

I think what makes this approach different is that it gives these Fellows Alumni a direct line of sight and communication with the general counsel. They become advisors directly to the GC.

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

Only that I would have started it sooner.

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

Yes. It puts pressure on the supervisors of the Fellows Alumni to be more engaged on D&I. It helps us break through the “frozen middle of management.” I think this occurs because the middle layer of management knows their direct reports will be providing me with direct feedback.

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