“EMPOWER”ing the Legal Industry for Years to Come

August 02, 2022

McDonald’s Global Legal Department believes an inclusive and diverse legal profession is a better one, especially because the legal profession has historically been less diverse. In 2020, the department announced the EMPOWER Award, an honor meant to recognize McDonald’s legal service suppliers that actively demonstrate the important role diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) play in their organizations. The selection criteria for this award focuses on:

1. The staffing of McDonald’s matters with diverse attorneys,

2. The allocation of origination credit for McDonald’s matters among diverse attorneys,

3. The demonstration of an innovative and genuine commitment to the recruitment, hiring, retention, succession planning and promotion of diverse talent, and

4. The demonstration of action in alignment with McDonald’s core values.  

Last week, McDonald’s announced the winners of the 2022 EMPOWER Award in its inaugural Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Report: Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila LLP and Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP. Both firms share McDonald’s core values and demonstrate an innovative and strong commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Through their work to embed and operationalize the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion into how they manage their organizations, these two firms have gone above and beyond to create and drive meaningful change.

Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila LLP (RSHC) believes DEI work should be a critical part of everyone’s job, so DEI contributes directly to all performance evaluations and bonus considerations. In this way, DEI is in the fabric of everything RSHC employees do. In addition, their compensation model is unique in that they do not have billing or origination credit, nor do they track realization rates. Through this innovative approach, they have taken away the factors that create competitiveness. Instead, credit is awarded for expanding and collaborating with peers to better serve clients.

The firm also boasts a robust Engagement and Culture Committee that regularly hosts mandatory workshops aimed at fostering courageous conversations for all levels of people across the firm. This programming was shaped in partnership with nationally recognized diversity and inclusion strategist Dr. Derrick Gay through a multi-phase process involving anonymous comprehensive data collection and climate assessments. What’s more, RSHC partners with and sponsors many organizations promoting diversity in their communities. This includes prioritizing minority vendors, as well as providing space and resources to the non-profit organization, Just The Beginning, which encourages students of color to pursue legal careers. RSHC also runs its own pipeline program, the RSHC Summer Institute, which introduces diverse high school and college students to the legal profession.

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP (BCLP), meanwhile, helped pilot the Mansfield Rule in 2017 and is currently Mansfield Plus Certified. The goal of the Mansfield Rule is to help support the representation of diverse lawyers (at least 30% women, lawyers of color, LGBTQ+ lawyers, and lawyers with disabilities) in law firm leadership and overall by broadening the pool of candidates considered for leadership and other hiring opportunities. The firm has taken a hard look at how DEI can be operationalized in a law firm setting and made changes to their recruitment, retention and training programs as a result. For example, in certain offices, BCLP has begun implementing a Matter Management/Work Allocation program designed to address disparities in hours and substance of work that could potentially negatively impact diverse attorneys. Developed through feedback from associates, the goal of the Matter Management/Work Allocation program is to ensure utilization of all BCLP associates from an efficiency, development and wellbeing perspective. BCLP also regularly holds workshops to help foster a “speak-up” culture and teach employees about the importance of psychological safety. Additionally, in embracing accountability through metrics, in 2020, BCLP took bold action and enacted several Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) Aspirational Goals, including:

  • 4% U.S. LGBTQ Partner Goal by 2026
  • 15% U.S. / U.K. ethnic diversity representation
  • 35% global Female Partner Goal by 2026, and
  • 50% diversity in the aggregate of its partners by 2030.

At McDonald’s, we’re committed to actively fostering a systemwide cultural climate that reflects our values – building on the work we’ve done around the world. That means our DEI efforts aren’t just about what happens inside McDonald’s restaurants or offices – but about how we can amplify the efforts of those championing inclusion throughout our ecosystem. We’re proud to work with law firms that are committed to furthering our DE&I ambition and to recognize the hard work of Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila LLP and Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP with the 2022 EMPOWER Award.

McDonald’s Global Legal Department, like the rest of the company, values giving back to the community in more ways than one. Because of this, people in the department often volunteer their time, skills and resources to provide free legal counsel via their pro bono program to those who need it most – from asylum seekers fleeing persecution to low-income, Chicago-area residents. Since the inception of McDonald’s pro bono program in 2000, the department and its attorneys have received over 20 awards and recognitions for their pro bono efforts – and their work has positively impacted the lives of hundreds of people and counting.

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