DIVERSITY IS GOOD BUSINESS:
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO COMPLY WITH SECTION 342 OF THE DODD-FRANK ACT
It would be easy to overlook the diversity-boosting section of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The Act is largely a financial overhaul measure. However, it contains an important section for not only government entities, but also the companies seeking to do business with them and the businesses with whom those companies contract. Section 342 (12 U.S.C. § 5452) calls for federal finance-related agencies to ensure “to the maximum extent possible, the fair inclusion and utilization of women and minority-owned businesses in all business and activities of the agency at all levels.” Government agencies involved in procurement contracts must now consider the diversity of both applicants and applicants’ vendors.
The agencies impacted by section 342 include the Treasury, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Securities and Exchange Commission, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve and the 12 Federal Reserve Banks, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the National Credit Union Administration, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The law also affects federally affiliated financial organizations including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Each of these agencies is now charged with ensuring that: (1) a fair number of procurement contracts are awarded to women and minority-owned businesses; and (2) the companies they award contracts to contract with a fair number of women and minority-owned businesses. Many state and local governments have passed similar measures governing their agencies.
Businesses seeking to contract with the affected agencies, and to work with such businesses’ vendors, should increase their own diversity and the diversity of their contractors. Many law firms fall into this category; they do business with the impacted agencies or with businesses that do.
One way a company can increase the diversity of its contractors is to partner with women and minority-owned law firms. Doing so is great for business and marketing. Recognizing such benefits, 22 major companies signed what is known as the Inclusion Initiative: Accenture, Aetna, Allstate, American Airlines, Bank of America, Comcast, DuPont, Exelon, General Mills, GlaxoSmithKline, Google, JPMorgan Chase, Macy’s, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Prudential, Sempra Energy, Shell Oil Company, UPS, Verizon, Walmart, and Xerox. The Inclusion Initiative is the companies’ pledge that collectively, they will spend millions of dollars working with women and minority-owned law firms.
Each year since the Inclusion Initiative began, more companies have joined the pledge, and every year the companies involved in it have outspent their monetary goals. Thus, in its inaugural year in 2010, 11 companies pledged to collectively spend $30 million with women and minority-owned law firms. They spent $42.6 million. By 2011, the number of companies involved had grown to 17. The 17 pledged a total of $70 million and spent approximately $97.7 million. The numbers suggest the quality of representation they are getting from women and minority-owned law firms is exceeding expectations. The numbers increased again this year, with 22 companies pledging to spend a total of $118 million in 2012.
Companies seeking to partner with women and minority-owned firms can easily identify them. Look for firms that are certified as women-owned by WBENC, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, or minority-owned law firms certified by NMSDC, the National Minority Supplier Development Council. Any firm that is a member of NAMWOLF, the National Association of Minority and Women-Owned Law Firms, has been certified by WBENC or NMSDC, and pre-screened for quality. See NAMWOLF’s membership criteria.
Section 342 is poised to impact government agencies’ contract-awarding processes. Companies affected by the legislation should look at their vendors and assess whether there is a fair portion of business being done with women and minority-owned companies. If there is any doubt, they should consider realigning their partnerships. Failing to do so could cost them government contract work and opportunities with companies doing such work.
Diversity and Inclusion
The Axelrod Firm is a Philadelphia law firm helping individuals, businesses and non-profit organizations with their commercial, employment, appellate, bodily injury / product liability, real estate, and estate planning needs. The Firm is certified as a woman-owned business by the WBENC, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Counsel, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is a member of NAMWOLF, the National Association of Minority and Women-Owned Law Firms, and NAWBO, the National Association of Women Business Owners.
The Axelrod Firm is dedicated to diversity and inclusion. Its founder, Sheryl Axelrod, is the current President of the Temple Law Alumni Association (TLAA), the 4th female to hold the post in TLAA’s nearly 100 year history. Upon becoming President, Sheryl created: (1) a Women’s Event Committee to develop programming aimed at helping women succeed in the profession; and (2) a Diversity Committee to enhance the already great diversity of TLAA, develop criteria for the TLAA Diversity Leadership Award Sheryl founded, and decide upon the first award recipient.
Sheryl has been fostering diversity and inclusion for decades. As a young lawyer, she spent 4 years coaching high school mock trial teams and, with a minority co-coach, coached the Overbrook High School Mock Trial Team, an inner-city, minority team, to a state semifinal championship. In college at Brandeis University, she was the co-coordinator of the Volunteer Tutoring Program. She spent her 3 years of college in the States tutoring a minority high school student, an African American in a virtually all-Caucasian high school. She spent her junior year of college in Spain living with a Spanish family and taking university-level classes taught in Spanish.
A. Women’s Event Programming
TLAA’s women’s event, “Backwards in Heels: a Panel of Women Lawyers Share Experiences and Strategies for Success,” is coming up on May 4, 2012 from 11 am to 1 pm at the Philadelphia office of Blank Rome, LLP. The program will be free to all dues paying TLAA members who register.
This Free Program Is Sponsored By:
Temple Law Dean JoAnne Epps, pictured above on the far left, will moderate a panel consisting of the following Temple Law graduates pictured from the left of Dean Epps, from left to right: Sophia Lee, Chief of Litigation at Sunoco, representing in-house counsel; Mairi Luce, a partner at Duane Morris, representing large law firm lawyers; Marissa Boyers Bluestine, Legal Director of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, representing lawyers in the public interest and, with her 10 years of experience in the Defender Association, women practicing criminal law; and The Axelrod Firm’s Sheryl Axelrod, representing small firm lawyers and owners. The one-hour panel discussion will be followed by a mentoring / networking luncheon.
In April, the Law School will begin sending email blasts out about the event. If you are a female graduate, don’t miss joining TLAA and registering. We look forward to seeing you there.
B. Diversity Leadership Award News
The TLAA Diversity Committee (on which Sheryl is a proud member) developed criteria for the TLAA Diversity Leadership Award, an award Sheryl envisions being given on an annual basis, each time to an outstanding Temple Law graduate who has made a significant contribution to diversity in the profession. We are thrilled to report that this year’s award recipient will be Charisse Lillie.
Ms. Lillie triumphed over racial and gender barriers to achieve preeminence in the legal profession. Comcast Corporation, the company on which she serves as Vice President, Community Investment, is forging a path toward greater diversity and inclusion in the profession along with her. Comcast is a signatory to the Inclusion Initiative. What that means, as explained in our Newsletter, is that Ms. Lillie’s company agreed, along with 21 other major organizations, to collectively pledge to spend $118 million in 2012 working with women and minority-owned law firms. In short, TLAA will be honoring a renowned attorney committed to enhancing diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, working for a company that is putting its money behind such enhancement efforts.
Keep watching this space. The date, time, and place of the award presentation ceremony will be announced.
C. Other Axelrod Firm Diversity Outreach
On February 24, 2012, Sheryl spoke on behalf of TLAA at the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) Alumni Student Diversity Outreach Reception at the African American Museum. TLAA was one of the major sponsors of the reception.
At the event, Sheryl learned that BLSA did not have enough attorneys to pair with all the students seeking mentors. She responded by telling the students from the podium that she would mentor all who wished. BLSA students have already begun taking her up on her offer, and she has begun giving them tips on how to prepare and present themselves for interviews, identify mentors and sponsors, and develop a professional network. Not stopping there, she arranged for them to meet professional contacts, attorneys in the fields in which the students are interested, and others they will find to be resources. She looks forward to the mentor relationships growing, and to the students graduating and flourishing in the profession.
When you donate your car to The Axelrod Firm’s client, The Salvation Army, you are helping to heal broken lives and assist individuals on the road to recovery. Your used vehicle will help change the road ahead for someone who has lost direction. Proceeds from the sale of your donated automobile are used to help fund The Salvation Army’s rehabilitation programs in your area.
If you call 1-800-SA-TRUCK (728-7825), The Salvation Army will pick up your car, boat, truck, motorcycle, or RV at absolutely no charge and provide you with an IRS-approved receipt for your donation. After receiving your information, The Salvation Army will call you within 3 business days to provide you with the stock number assigned to your donation and to arrange for a pick-up time. Your tax deductible receipt will be provided at the time of pick-up and additional information will be mailed after your vehicle has been sold.
The Axelrod Firm’s client, Conestoga Bank, is approved by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania for the maintenance of attorney fiduciary accounts. In fact, Conestoga Bank is not only on the list, but among the financial institutions recognized as a Platinum Leader for going above and beyond the eligibility requirements to foster the IOLTA Program.