Company: Gibbons PC
Innovation: Thought Leadership for the New Jersey State Bar Association Strategic Plan for Diversity
Award Recognition: Honorable Mention

The Gibbons Diversity Initiative (GDI) is a corporate diversity effort that has demonstrated bold, creative thought leadership to promote the inclusion and retention of diverse professionals in the legal and business communities.

As a result, their Chief Diversity Officer Luis J. Diaz was named Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee for the New Jersey State Bar Association’s (NJSBA) Diversity Committee last year. He is authoring the strategic plan for diversity that will guide the entire state bar and its member attorneys and firms; he will oversee the plan’s practical implementation and serve as a resource for NJSBA members.

As a jumping-off point, Diaz has relied on the extensive research he undertook for an article he co-authored with Patrick C. Dunican Jr., chairman and managing director of Gibbons, for Seton Hall Law Review in late 2011, entitled “Ending the Revolving Door Syndrome in Law.” The article focused on the higher attrition rates diverse attorneys experience in corporate law firms relative to non-diverse peers, suggested possible reasons for this “revolving door,” discussed the negative business implications of decreased diversity, and detailed strategic steps to manage key business processes to help eliminate retention disparities.

Diaz is now incorporating insight from an additional year of intense evaluation of diversity and inclusion initiatives implemented by the American Bar Association and numerous state bar associations to determine best practices and identify any programs appropriate for adoption or replication by the NJSBA.

The resulting strategic plan, which is in the late stages of development, recommends numerous diversity and inclusion enhancement initiatives. Internal efforts to strengthen the NJSBA itself will focus on: institutionalization of efforts to increase access and inclusion, for example, through the designation of a chief diversity officer; increased participation and leadership on diversity issues by diverse members; and member education and communication on issues and goals. External initiatives, to assist NJSBA member firms and attorneys, will cover: guidelines and tools for critical business processes in law firms, such as work assignments, associate evaluations, and quality review; uniform diversity metrics; uniform standards for corporate legal departments in the use of RFPs, which increasingly impact the business of law; and pipeline and mentoring programs for outreach to future potential attorneys.