Diversity and inclusion goes beyond the walls of Exelon’s legal department
We’ve long known that having a diverse and inclusive workplace is necessary for success and good for business. A diverse and inclusive workforce makes companies more intelligent and innovative, and the legal profession is no exception. Diverse and inclusive law firms and legal departments attract and retain the best lawyers and legal professionals. They consider a broader range of options for their clients and, thereby, foster better solutions. Attorneys and legal professionals who can draw on their diverse backgrounds and experiences provide more informed legal advice. In addition, a diverse and inclusive team of lawyers and legal professionals is better able to communicate and relate to their clients and to the companies and communities they serve.
Exelon’s legal department, and the company as a whole, operates in markets that are rich in diversity—of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, experience and thought. Accordingly, we understand that we must also be diverse and inclusive of all of our employees, our internal clients, and our outside legal service partners in order to succeed in these markets. Respecting the diverse characteristics of Exelon’s employees, and creating an inclusive work environment, has led to improved service and a more engaged workforce and rewarding workplace. Beyond the walls of our department, we partner with those who share our diversity and inclusion goals, and seek to make a difference in the legal profession and in the communities we serve.
Exelon’s Internal Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives
Our diversity and inclusion initiatives are led by our Diversity and Inclusion Committee, working in concert with Exelon’s general counsel, Darryl Bradford, and the legal department’s leadership. One of our primary initiatives is encouraging the recruitment, retention and development of diverse attorneys—both within the company and the outside law firms with which the company partners to serve its internal clients.
We actively work to recruit diverse professionals to our legal teams by posting open positions with Exelon’s diverse employee resource groups internally and with diverse organizations externally. Today, 37 percent of the legal department’s lawyers are female and 22 percent are people of color. Women hold 34 percent of the legal department’s leadership positions and minorities hold 22 percent of its leadership positions. Overall, 58 percent of the department’s legal professionals are female, and 22 percent are people of color. While we are pleased with our progress, we also realize we must continue to work to maintain a high performing workforce that realizes the full benefits of maintaining a diverse team.
The legal Diversity and Inclusion Committee also promotes a culture of inclusion within the department and in Exelon as a whole. We do this by sponsoring strategic educational, pipeline and social events.
Educationally, the committee partners with employee groups within Exelon and with its law firms for diversity and inclusion seminars on topics such as implicit and gender bias, mentorship and sponsorship. Our pipeline programs include hosting diverse summer law clerks and providing the opportunity for diverse junior and mid-range law firm attorneys to work in our department on secondments. We also provide educational programs to high school students, both to serve as mentors and role models to diverse students and to inform them of, and prepare them for, employment opportunities in the energy industry.
Socially, the Committee sponsors free external learning events for employees. The most popular of these are our “Diversity & Dine” events, during which members have the opportunity to have a guided tour of, or attend an event at, cultural museums or organizations, followed by dinner at a restaurant featuring ethnic cuisine.
Exelon’s External Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives
Exelon Legal’s commitment to diversity and inclusion does not stop with its employees, however. We also team with our law firms and community partners that share Exelon’s dedication to these values.
With regard to law firms, Exelon has designed and implemented programs to encourage, measure and reward diversity and inclusion at the firms with which we work. In 2005, Exelon established the Awareness, Action and Assessment (AAA) program, a cutting-edge initiative to reward outside firms that embrace diversity and inclusion.
The AAA program incents firms to hire diverse attorneys and meaningfully engage them to lead the firms’ work performed for Exelon. The program requires firms to track and report data on their diversity performance on an annual basis, including the amount of work performed by diverse attorneys on Exelon’s legal matters. Exelon provides feedback to the firms, helping them to measure progress and set goals. And we reward high-performing firms with more work and recognize top performers through our annual Diversity Honor Roll.
The AAA program has led to significant improvements in the utilization of diverse attorneys by Exelon’s outside law firms. It also has been recognized as one of the most aggressive and effective diversity programs in any corporate legal department.
We also make an effort to utilize outside law firms that are certified minority and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs). In 2010, Exelon joined several corporate legal departments in a joint effort with the National Association of Minority and Women-Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF) known as the Inclusion Initiative, which committed to spend $30 million collectively with MWBE firms. After exceeding its first-year goal by 42 percent, Exelon increased its goals, and continues to be an active Inclusion Initiative supporter and participant.
Of course, these efforts would not be worthwhile without tangible results, and the Diversity and Inclusion Committee helps to keep our legal team accountable for retaining diverse legal counsel and law firms by tracking the department’s diverse spend and providing the legal team with quarterly updates on performance against these goals.
Exelon’s Pro Bono Initiatives
A discussion of Exelon’s commitment to the diverse communities we serve would not be complete without mentioning its pro bono efforts, by which the legal department works to provide legal services to those who cannot afford them. Since 2002, our legal professionals have worked on projects that help homeless individuals get birth certificates, teach students about the legal profession, help first-responders and the elderly to draft end-of-life documents, and aid refugees seeking lawful permanent residence in the United States. In recognition of these efforts, in 2013 Exelon’s legal department won the American Bar Association’s Pro Bono Publico Award for outstanding volunteer legal services, becoming the first in-house legal department to win the award in over a decade. At Exelon, promoting diversity and inclusion is also about public service in the many communities where we provide energy.
Practicing and promoting diversity and inclusion is critical to Exelon’s legal department. Indeed, to us, the business case for diversity and inclusion is clear.
Being diverse and inclusive broadens our perspective, which increases the range of legal solutions we can provide to our clients. It creates a high performing and engaged employee and leadership pipeline, both within Exelon and with our legal service partners. It enables us to better and more credibly serve our clients and our communities, and it challenges us to learn, grow, adapt and advance.
This is what we do internally, and what we seek to inspire beyond our walls with those who share our goals. ■