Marking their largest contribution ever, member companies of the Inclusion Initiative spent more than $240 million last year with black law firms and other minority firms including women-owned (MWBE) law firms.
The fresh figure was provided this month by the Inclusion Initiative, a collaborative program among law departments at big U.S. corporations focused on promoting diversity spending. The amount is a $14 million increase from the $226 million allotted to MWBE firms in 2016.
The total dollar volume participating law departments have distributed to MWBE firms has eclipsed $200 million every year since 2012. The number also is a hefty gain from $42 million, which was spent on the firms in 2010 when the initiative started. Since the program’s inception, participating companies have generated more than $1.4 billion in expenditures on MWBE law firms.
“Minority and women-owned law firms have a substantial role in creating a pipeline for diverse lawyers,” said Ann Kappler, senior vice president and deputy general counsel of Prudential Financial Inc., a founding company of the Inclusion Initiative in a press release. “Programs like the Inclusion Initiative have a multiplier effect as the program has grown it has made a meaningful, positive impact on our target firms and the legal profession more broadly.”
Since its launch, participation in the Inclusion Initiative has nearly tripled to 33 members. The current roster of participating companies includes: 3M, Accenture, Allstate, American Airlines, AT&T, Bank of America, CenterPoint Energy, The Coca-Cola Co., Comcast, Exelon, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., General Mills, GlaxoSmithKline, Google, JPMorgan Chase, McDonald’s Corp., Macy’s, Merck, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, Nationwide, NBCUniversal, Prudential Financial, Sempra Energy, Shell Oil Co., State Farm, Target, Toyota Financial Services, UPS, Verizon, Walmart, Wells Fargo, and Xerox.
The Inclusion Initiative is administered by the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF), which comprises over 193 certified MWBE law firms in 44 states.
“Corporate members of the Inclusion Initiative are a testament to the adage of putting thought into action,” said William Delgado, Inclusion Initiative Task Force co-chair and board member of NAMWOLF. “The commitment exhibited by each company helps ensure the success of minority and women-owned law firms and furthers the important mission of diversifying the legal profession. NAMWOLF is excited about its continued collaboration with the Inclusion Initiative for years to come.”
Additionally, there are hundreds of other companies giving MWBE firms the opportunity to compete and win business that is not reflected in the numbers, officials say. They maintain those companies should consider connecting with NAMWOLF so they can gain exposure to its member firms. The reason: Those member firms are involved in several practice areas handling work for Fortune 500 companies and governmental entities.
Black law firms are scarce. According to data from the American Bar Association, African Americans make up 5% of the active, practicing attorneys in 2018. A report from 2015 shows that even in a diverse metropolis such as New York City, black attorneys only account for 4% of associates and 2% of partners at law firms.