By Cenadra Gopala-Foster
On Oct. 3, the CPR National Task Force on Diversity in ADR hosted Association of Corporate Counsel Vice President and Chief Membership Officer Tori Payne. She led a presentation on the ACC Foundation Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Maturity Model.
As described by Payne, the model is a living, evolving tool designed for use by legal departments. It outlines clear descriptions for three levels of DEI maturity–“early,” “intermediate,” and “advanced.”
For example, progress throughout the three levels for “governance and resourcing,” policies entail moving from the early stage of having little to no consistent policies incorporating an anti-racism or DEI message toward an intermediate level where the company adopts basic governance models with clear distinctions between policy-planning formulation and execution, closing the gaps between policies and practices, and monitoring identified goals and objectives.
At the final, a “mature” level, policies and projects operate with a consistent feedback loop using a cross-section of functional stakeholders, with diversity and equity resources–including budget–committed to the function. DEI also continues to develop in these mature settings–see below.
The ACC’s main concern for the model was practicability, reported Payne, so the in-depth descriptions can aid DEI efforts and gauge where improvements are needed.
The DEI Maturity Model was jointly developed by ACC and the ACC Foundation, in consultation with an advisory committee of DEI leaders from the legal and business communities who are responsible for advancing DEI results at their organizations. The tool derived from ACC’s recognition that law firms and in-house companies’ were challenged to assess the effectiveness of their DEI efforts without clear indicia for progress and success. The model provides business leaders with a critical snapshot of where their departments are currently and a roadmap on achieving future goals.
For example, in 2011, 11.7% of lawyers identified as people of color; a decade later in 2021, it has rose only 3% to 14.6%. Payne said she hopes this tool will give company leadership the insight to improve diversity efforts.
Throughout Payne’s presentation, she reaffirmed the importance of metrics, and how essential they are for DEI efforts. Metrics will help DEI efforts to measure progress, which will in turn affect future budgetary decisions. The ACC, she said, intends for this model to continue to be refined and improved based on the valuable feedback from those who use it.
Both CPR and the ACC recognize that diversity pledges can serve an important educational and consciousness-raising function. Payne expressed support for CPR’s Diversity Commitment-Ray Corollary Initiative. She further noted that the maturity model would aid companies who sign the CPR Pledge in creating additional policies and supportive mechanisms that will increase the nomination and selection of diverse neutrals. She stressed the need for companies to work only with provider firms that mandate all neutral requests, including diverse individuals.
CPR has taken a step toward encouraging diversity with a new Diversity Commitment Clause, which can be used by companies in their contract’s arbitration agreements. The clause was revised in the summer. It states that “[t]he parties agree that however the arbitrators are designated or selected, at least one member of any tribunal of three arbitrators shall be a member of a diverse group, such as women, persons of color, members of the LGBTQ community, disabled persons, or as otherwise agreed to by the parties to this Agreement at any time prior to appointment of the tribunal.”
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The author is 2022-2023 CPR Intern under CPR’s consortium agreement with Washington, D.C.’s Howard University School of Law, where she is a second-year student.