DuPont, General Mills, Verizon and Walmart Launch “Engage Excellence” Minority Lawyer Inclusion Incentive Program: One Answer to the Call to Action


July 29, 2014

DuPont, General Mills, Verizon and Walmart Launch “Engage Excellence” Minority Lawyer Inclusion Incentive Program: One Answer to the Call to Action

Engage Excellence seeks to improve diversity partnership numbers and opportunities in majority law firms


Washington, D.C.– July 29, 2014– The General Counsel of DuPont, General Mills, Verizon, and Walmart have announced the launch of the Engage Excellence minority lawyer inclusion incentive program designed to engage diverse lawyers on significant matters and promote diversity in majority law firms.

As participants in Engage Excellence, each company will hire diverse lawyers within majority law firms to be lead counsel on significant matters and will require each firm to assign a diverse team to those matters.  The diverse lawyers will include Latino, Black, Asian, other ethnically diverse lawyers, and openly LGBT attorneys with supervisory experience inpractice areas such as intellectual property, class action litigation, healthcare, patent litigation, corporate transactional, corporate governance, employment law and environmental law.  

The percentage of ethnically diverse partners at majority law firms remains far below any measure of parity. Based on National Association of Law Placement (NALP) 2012-13 Law Firm Data, only 6.7% of partners are ethnically diverse – 1.91% Hispanic; 1.73% Black; and 2.5% Asian.  Additionally, only 1.58% of partners, according to the NALP report, are openly LGBT. For these numbers to improve, more aggressive and targeted efforts are needed.  Engage Excellence is one such effort.

Furthermore, the percentage of minority women partners is dramatically worse; according to NALP, only 2.16% of partners are minority women – 0.48% Hispanic women; 0.60% Black women; and 0.89% Asian women.  These numbers underscore the unique barriers for women of color within law firms. To that end, the participating corporations have set as a goal that at least 50% of the lead counsel awarded work as part of Engage Excellence will be women.

Diverse lead counsel and a diverse team are conditions precedent to receiving the work these companies are providing through Engage Excellence. This step marks a change from many existing corporate diversity efforts, which tend only to encourage diversity on a company’s legal matters and then measure diversity after the fact. 

Through Engage Excellence, the participating legal departments will:

  • Hire diverse lawyers to serve as lead counsel on select matters.
  • Require diverse teams to work on matters.
  • Require the law firms to certify that the diverse lead lawyer hired receives financial credit as originator of the matter.

In its initial stages, the four companies have each committed a portion of their legal spend and have committed to award that work to diverse lawyers with the specific intent of having a significant impact on those lawyers advancing within their law firms. 

Engage Excellence is designed to ensure the diverse lawyers receive credit for the work, as well as opportunities for leadership roles on significant client matters.  In addition, by requiring up front a level of diversity throughout the team, Engage Excellence will ensure that diverse attorneys at all levels in the firm have meaningful roles in the day-to-day work for the participating companies. Diverse junior lawyers will work on the matters with senior lawyers to foster training and experiences necessary for their own advancement.  The goal is to provide a level of sustainability by impacting positively both senior and junior diverse lawyers in the firm.

“Having a diverse team of lawyers leading and working on our legal matters is a critical component of achieving great business results,” noted Karen Roberts, Executive Vice President and General Counsel for Walmart.  “While we have seen progress within the last 15 years, we believe more must be done to engage traditionally underrepresented diverse attorneys.  By being deliberate about which attorneys we choose to give our work to and joining forces with these other corporate clients, we can drive greater fairness in the profession.”

“At General Mills, diversity is core to our business strategy,” said Roderick A. Palmore, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Chief Compliance Risk Management Officer and Secretary of General Mills. “Diversity helps us drive innovation and consumer engagement, and also helps us attract and retain the best talent. There is a growing body of evidence, and near consensus, that diverse teams outperform non-diverse teams. We’re confident the Engage Excellence program will further elevate opportunities for the most talented lawyers and help promote diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.”

“One of the goals of Engage Excellence is to improve the likelihood that diverse attorneys will transition into highly valued client-service roles, thereby furthering their advancement, longevity and leadership positions at majority law firms,” said MichelleC. Ifill, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Verizon’s Chief Administration Office and Information Technology. “These senior lawyers can, in turn, help the diverse junior lawyers on the team get the training and experience on these matters needed for their own advancement, thereby strengthening the pipeline of diversity in the profession.”

“DuPont has long embraced diversity and inclusion as a strategic initiative for the Company and Legal has become one of its strongest proponents as a result. Diverse representation among our in-house professionals and external network of providers is a critical element of our growth strategy and continued success. This creative initiative will further advance our efforts in achieving this critically important strategic goal,” said Thomas Sager, Senior Vice President & General Counsel of DuPont. 

Engage Excellence has the support of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA).  "MCCA is thrilled about this effort to provide meaningful and sustainable business opportunities for diverse lawyers in majority firms, and MCCA pledges its support to this program" said Joseph K West, President and CEO of the MCCA. "The principles embodied in Engage Excellence are consistent with MCCA’s mission since our inception in 1997 and we have incorporated them into our current research projects and training programs. We look forward to providing support to the Engage Excellence initiative going forward."

The legal departments of the participating companies will be contacting diverse lawyers within majority law firms and other leaders of those firms to discuss how each company will implement Engage Excellence in their respective departments.

About DuPont:

With expertise spanning two centuries, diverse industries and more than 90 countries, our company is uniquely positioned to help solve some of the world’s biggest challenges. For more than 200 years, DuPont has brought world-class science and engineering to the global marketplace through innovative products, materials and services. Our market-driven innovation introduces thousands of new products and patent applications every year, serving markets as diverse as agriculture, nutrition, electronics and communications, safety and protection, home and construction, transportation and apparel.

About General Mills:

General Mills is one of the world’s leading food companies, operating in more than 100 countries around the world. Our brands include Cheerios, Fiber One, Häagen-Dazs, Nature Valley, Yoplait, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Green Giant, Old El Paso, Wanchai Ferry, Yoki and more.

About Verizon:

Verizon Communications Inc., headquartered in New York, is a Dow 30 company employing a diverse workforce of nearly 180,000 dedicated employees around the globe. Every day, we connect people, companies and communities with our powerful network technology. Not many companies get the chance to change the industry and change the world through innovation. We do. And as we take on these exciting opportunities, we remain true to Verizon’s Credo, providing clear direction for every employee action, every day.

About Walmart: 

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT) helps people around the world save money and live better --anytime and anywhere --in retail stores, online, and through their mobile devices. Each week, more than 250 million customers and members visit our 10,994 stores under 71 banners in 27 countries and e-commerce websites in 10 countries. With fiscal year 2014 sales of over $473 billion, Walmart employs more than 2 million associates worldwide. Walmart continues to be a leader in sustainability, corporate philanthropy and employment opportunity. Additional information about Walmart can be found by visiting Facebook at on Twitter at Online merchandise sales are available at

About MCCA:

The Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) - -was founded in 1997 to advocate for the expanded hiring, retention, and promotion of minority attorneys in corporate law departments and the law firms that serve them. MCCA furthers its mission through the collection and dissemination of information about diversity in the legal profession. MCCA takes an inclusive approach to the definition of “diversity.” Therefore, its research addresses issues of race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, and generational differences which impact the legal profession’s workforce.

Media Contacts:

Bob Varettoni

Brooke Buchanan

Dan Turner

General Mills:
Shannon Heine

Dennis Ellman
Beck, Ellman Held

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