Justice Isn’t Gender Blind

Advocacy for women-owned law firms — done right. Finally.

With probably the scariest acronym ever, NAMWOLF — the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms — is getting corporate America on board. It only took a decade.

The group’s goal is to get big companies to spend at least 5% of their funds channeled to outside law firms with women and minority owned firms.  I have no idea what NAMWOLF did for its first ninet years, but it only organized its Inclusion Initiative one year ago. Last year, the initiative snagged $42.6 million in billings for women and minority owned firms, overshooting its goal by nearly 50%.

This year, the 17 corporations that are part of the Initiative aim to nearly double that, to $70 million. Members of the initiative include Procter & GambleDuPontMicrosoft, Wal-Mart and Google.

This is hard to write: has an advocate for lawyers hit on a winning formula for ensuring that diverse professional firms win a fair share of business?

Well, it’s a winning formula, but NAMWOLF isn’t the first to figure it out. The secret is to that being very, very specific is the way to achieve inclusion. The Small Business Administration figured out while doling stimulus money that birddogging other agencies prevented them from wiggling out of their vague obligation to channel 5% of the funds to women-owned businesses. The SBA set out to hold the agencies accountable for hitting those goals and met with procurement officials weekly to coach them through the arduous process of finding and vetting  women-owned companies. (Making the government contracting process easier would sure help. Not for nothing is the second-scariest acronym ever ORCA — the federal Online Representations and Certifications Application).

It can’t hurt that the Office of Federal Contract Compliance  (unfrighteningly acronymed OFCCP)  has made no bones of its intentions to ensure that companies that get Federal dollars spend those dollars with all the taxpayers that provided those dollars. In other words, the OFCCP’s head, Patricia Shiu, takes her mission very seriously and is intent on stepping up accountability for Federal contractors and subcontractors.

Takeaway for other industries: consider tackling supplier diversity department by department. Couldn’t hurt. And if NAMWOLF’s success is an indicator, it sure could help.  

Image courtesy of Morguefile contributor southernfried.

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