• Do you (or someone you know) work in-house in a corporate law department that is interested in seeing greater D&I progress in the legal profession?
  • Is your corporate in-house law department seeking new tools and strategies to advance D&I both internally and among your outside counsel?
  • Are you one of the many in-house counsel who would like to see greater diversity among your outside counsel but are disappointed that more rapid progress isn’t being made?

Diversity remains a stubbornly persistent challenge, especially for law firms. Corporate in-house counsel have been seeking to encourage and support the diversity of their outside counsel law firms for decades and, while some progress has been made, much work remains. Therefore, when 170 corporate general counsel, under the banner of “GCs for Law Firm Diversity” recently published an open letter expressing their commitment to greater diversity among their outside counsel, IILP decided that we wanted to do our part to help.

With that in mind, IILP’s Chair, Marc Firestone, President, External Affairs and General Counsel at Philip Morris International, penned an open letter announcing the launch of a new survey tool designed to help general counsel interested in seeing greater diversity among their outside counsel. IILP’s “Diverse Outside Counsel Survey – 2019” will allow corporate clients a chance to see how their use of diverse outside counsel compares to others. While individual corporate responses will be confidential and all responses will only be reported in the aggregate, the results from this survey will increase the level of transparency regarding the actual use of diverse outside counsel by corporate clients.

IILP’s open letter is attached below. Please share it with any corporate general counsel you know who might be willing to help the legal profession move the D&I needle and encourage them to participate in the survey. With this tool, the legal profession has an opportunity to increase its level of knowledge about the use of diverse outside counsel by corporate clients.

GCs for Law Firm Diversity Letter.pdf

Sandra S. Yamate


321 S. Plymouth Court

Chicago, IL 60604

(312) 628-5885

Mobile: (312) 375-8271


Reflection on October 2018 Chicago Symposium

By: Sudheer R. Poluru

The IILP Family Feeling

Do you know how rare it is for a diverse leader to open up candidly about their experience? It is not something I take for granted. And I am thankful to IILP for creating the types of inclusive spaces in which diverse professionals feel comfortable sharing their experiences in an authentic manner. Recently I attended an IILP Symposium on the State of Diversity and Inclusion in the Legal Profession. It felt like a family reunion, where people were looking out for each other and wanted to share what they have learned to make life just a little bit easier for the next generation. 

Feed Your Soul

If you are a diverse, hard-working professional or student, consider making time to attend an IILP event. Amidst a packed schedule with looming work deadlines, graduate school applications, and family responsibilities, I attended the IILP’s October 2018 Chicago Symposium, and it was just what I needed. I arrived stressed and sluggish and left calm and reenergized. The candid conversation and supportive community at IILP events feeds my soul.

Meeting Diverse Leaders

Day in and day out, I work to make organizations more diverse and inclusive as a consultant with Jones Diversity, Inc. I have seen the numbers and research, and I know that there is a lack of diversity in senior leadership. That lack of diversity is apparent in a variety of industries from law to business to technology. Sadly, I have also seen the trend lines, so I know progress is slow and is not something that occurs naturally without intentional work.

Diverse mentors and role models in senior positions of leadership are few and far between, and I know there is much to learn from any diverse professional who has successfully navigated their industry and made it to a position of leadership. Unfortunately, it is not easy for me to ask incredibly busy, diverse leaders out to coffee or lunch just to ask them about their career, life, and strategies they have used to overcome obstacles. But IILP fills this gap.

Diverse Leaders Candidly Opening Up

At IILP Symposia, diverse senior leaders share their candid thoughts. At the October Symposium IILP had gathered top leaders from law firms, corporations, and non-profits. They were diverse professionals themselves or allies and strong proponents of diversity and inclusion. I was struck by these leaders serving on the panel or giving a presentation, especially because I would normally not have had access to hear the views and passions of these professionals.

In October, I heard Collette Woghiren speak about the barriers that undocumented immigrants face as they strive to become practicing attorneys; I heard Rutgers Law School Professor Stacy Hawkins talk about the legal defensibility of various diversity and inclusion practices; and I listened to Martin P. Green discuss the challenges of business development as a Partner of color at an MBE law firm in Chicago.

Win-Win Situation

IILP Symposia are win-win situations. At IILP Symposia, senior leaders have the opportunity to reflect on their careers, something they may not have the chance to do when in the midst of a firestorm of work. Additionally, young professionals like me,  have the opportunity to take in valuable advice and lessons learned from accomplished, diverse leaders. As a millennial just starting out in my career, it was reassuring to learn at the last IILP Symposium that diverse leaders wrestle with many of the challenges that are currently on my mind: questioning my purpose in life, figuring out the best way to demonstrate my value, and trying to balance work with a personal life.

Our Collective Effort

Sometimes I get discouraged when I see the slow rate of progress with diversity and inclusion efforts. And I wonder if my individual effort really makes a difference. Leaving the IILP Symposium, I know that I am not the only one fighting the good fight and speaking truth to power. It is uplifting to meet so many accomplished diverse professionals pushing for progress and change in their organizations and their spheres of influence. It is vital for each of us to fight for progress in the pocket of the world we inhabit. Our collective effort can make the world a more diverse and inclusive place. And yes, overall a better place.

Interview with IILP Board Member Floyd Holloway, Jr.

Esquire Coaching interview board member Floyd Holloway, Jr. on their Radio Show last week. Mr. Holloway talked about IILP and broader diversity and inclusion efforts within the legal profession. To listen to the interview, click here

IILP Signs Consortium for Advancing Women Lawyers letter on MDL Standards

IILP is pleased to be a signatory to a letter from the Consortium for Advancing Women Lawyers urging amendments to MDL Standards and Best Practices to include specific guidance to promote diversity in court appointments. 

Read the full letter here: MDL Standards Letter.pdf

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  • 18 Apr 2011 12:00 PM | Sandra Yamate (Administrator)

    April 18, 2011
    By  Jerry Crimmins
    Law Bulletin staff writer

    A retired Illinois Appellate Court justice who now works to improve black political representation as well as a founder of the Puerto Rican Bar Association are among six winners of the "2011 Vanguard Awards."

    The "Vanguard Awards" are presented every year "to honor lawyers and judges who, through their efforts, have made law and the legal profession more accessible to and reflective of the community at large."

    The six honorees will receive their awards Wednesday in an event at the Standard Club, 320 S. Plymouth Court, with a reception at 11:30 a.m. and a luncheon at noon.

    The awards are presented by the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Chicago Area, the Chicago Bar Association, the Cook County Bar Association, the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois, the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago and the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Illinois.

    Those to be honored this year are:

    • Judge Manuel Barbosa of U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western Division of the Northern District of Illinois, chosen by the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois;
    • William Cousins Jr., a retired justice of the Illinois Appellate Court, chosen by the Cook County Bar Association;
    • Selma C. D'Souza, legislative director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, chosen by the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Chicago Area;
    • Marc S. Firestone, general counsel of Kraft Foods Inc., who was chosen by the Chicago Bar Association;
    • Edwin Reyes of Briskman, Briskman & Greenberg, who was chosen by the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Illinois;
    • Laura M. Ricketts, board member of the Chicago Cubs and chairwoman of Chicago Cubs Charities, who was chosen by the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago.

    As examples, some activities of three of the winners are described below.

    Cousins is a board member of the Cook County Bar Association, currently also works with the South Side branch of the NAACP, and works with the ad hoc group, African-Americans for Legislative Redistricting.

    This is according to Lawrence N. Hill, president of the CCBA, who is a member of the ad hoc group on legislative redistricting with Cousins.

    Hill said Cousins in his career has also helped Operation PUSH and the Chicago Planned Parenthood Association.

    Cousins' contributions to diversity "go back decades," Hill said.

    Cousins began his legal career in 1953 after service with the Army in the Korean War. He has been an attorney in private practice, a Cook County prosecutor, also 8th Ward alderman for 9½ years, and later a Cook County Circuit Court judge and finally an Illinois Appellate Court justice.

    Another award winner, Reyes, "has been a leader in the struggle for diversity in the legal profession for years," said Charles P. Romaker, president of the Puerto Rican Bar Association (PRBA).

    Reyes was one of the founders of the PRBA and is now treasurer of the group.

    Reyes "has raised thousands of dollars for Latino law students" through the Latino Law Student Scholarships Program, according to the award announcement.

    He also is active in the PRBA's Adopt-A-Family program which gives food and gifts to families in need over the holiday season and he has participated in Lawyers in the Classroom for the PRBA.

    Reyes is a member of several bar associations and is currently under-secretary of the Hispanic National Bar Association.

    "He is a very energetic, high energy guy and he maintains a very active practice, as well," Romaker said.

    Another award winner, Firestone "is a leader in the truest sense of the word. He never hesitates to contribute in whatever way he can to advocate for increased diversity and inclusion in our profession," said Sandra S. Yamate, chief executive officer of the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession.

    Yamate said Firestone is head of the board of her institute and "doesn't just say he's interested in improving diversity in the legal profession, he makes the time to do it."

    "He thinks about and he ponders what can we actually do to affect change and then he considers what strategies can be implemented to do it," Yamate said.

    "He takes time to be accessible to diverse lawyers. … Young women and minority associates tell me how they met him once, struck up a conversation and maybe a few months later, he happens to be in their town. He contacts them for coffee to get a handle on how things are going in their careers, what's really happening, how they are being treated by their employers.

    "I don't know any other person of his stature who does things like that," Yamate said.
  • 12 Apr 2011 9:30 AM | Sandra Yamate (Administrator)

    Release:           Immediate

    Contact:           Sandra Yamate or Deborah Weixl

    Phone:             312/628-5885




    Despite a strong business case for diversity, inclusion continues to lag

    CHICAGO, April 12, 2011 – Is the business case for diversity making a difference in how corporate legal work is being assigned to outside counsel? Are there meaningful incentives in place to foster diversity and inclusion? Are law firms finding value in building a diverse workplace? Are there real opportunities for diverse lawyers? Why has the legal profession lagged behind in achieving true diversity and what steps can it take to make inclusion a reality?


    New data resulting from a large study of corporations, law firms and diverse partners in law firms by the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession suggest that there is still a long way to go to make the legal profession inclusive through the full integration of diverse lawyers and law firms into the corporate legal marketplace. The report shows that while a business case for diversity has been in place for more than 20 years, it falls short of providing an environment for achieving the economic and social results that reflect career sustainability, viability and success for meaningful numbers of diverse lawyers.


    “The profession has sought solutions and increasingly focused on diversity and inclusion, and it is important to acknowledge that we have made much progress. Equally important, however, is the fact that we must acknowledge that there is a measurable level of frustration, and even skepticism, about the pace –  and the possibility – of significant change in key areas of measurement,” said Marc S. Firestone, chair of IILP and executive vice president, corporate and legal affairs, and general counsel, Kraft Foods, Inc. “Our findings show that diverse lawyers are disappointed with progress and law firms are finding that their diversity efforts are not a clear priority when dealing with corporate clients.”

  • 05 Aug 2010 10:00 AM | Sandra Yamate (Administrator)

    July 30, 2010 Volume: 156 Issue: 148
    Institute seeks answers to firm diversity issues

    By Maria Kantzavelos
    Law Bulletin staff writer

    If you lead a corporation's law department, what percentage of your legal spend last year went to racial and ethnic minorities who were leading matters for you in large law firms?

    If you're a member of your law firm's management, about what percentage of your firm's gross revenues were received from clients who ask about the diversity of your lawyers or your diversity efforts?

    If you're a partner in a law firm, what is your racial or ethnic background? Have you personally received any business from corporations that have expressed their commitment to or preference for diversity among their outside counsel?

    The newly formed, Chicago-based Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession is seeking answers to these questions, and more, as part of a study launched Friday that aims to weigh the answer to a bigger question: Is the business case for diversity within the legal profession working?

    The Business Case for Diversity study involves a three-pronged, online survey of the attitudes and practices of general counsels, law firm management and partners at law firms.

    "We know that the business case for diversity is something that's been talked about and addressed, and people have worked on it very hard, for a couple of decades," said Sandra S. Yamate, the institute's CEO. "And yet, for some reason, we're still not seeing the kinds of progress that one would expect."

    The definition of the so-called business case for diversity, Yamate said, is: "The notion that clients value diversity and therefore are finding ways to include that value in any determinations of the qualifications of lawyers to do their work - that it makes for good business for them."

    The three versions of the survey, available online through Dec. 31, asks questions about how corporations choose to allocate their budget for diverse outside counsel; how law firm management determines whether there is any correlation between a firm's diversity efforts and business generation; and about the actual revenue amounts generated from corporate clients by law firm partners who are women, racial or ethnic minorities, lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transsexuals, or partners who are disabled.

    The institute hopes to explore whether the business case for diversity is working in its current form and, "if it's not working, why not? And then, how can we fix it if it's not working?" Yamate said.

    "If you have corporate clients saying: 'The problem is, we want diverse outside counsel and yet the law firms are not giving us the kind of diversity we want,' and the law firms say: 'We're trying our best, but even when we do have diverse lawyers we're not necessarily seeing more business as a result of that,' and then the diverse lawyers are saying: 'We're bringing this diversity but we don't necessarily see clients giving us more work,' it becomes a conundrum in terms of why doesn't it work," Yamate said.

    She said the study is unique in that it will attempt to measure how much clients are actually spending on diversity in law firms, how much business law firms feel they can attribute to diversity, and how much business diverse lawyers are actually seeing.

    "Rather than just relying on all the anecdotes, we're hoping that this study is going to allow us to actually get some data on what's happening," Yamate said.

    The institute was launched in June with a mission to address the lack of diversity in the legal profession in a more comprehensive way, said Yamate, a founder. The organization, which is based at the headquarters of the Chicago Bar Association, 321 S. Plymouth Court, is comprised of lawyers and judges from Illinois and around the country.

    "We are not specifically targeting a particular gender or racial group, we are not targeting a particular practice area. We're really trying to look at the entire profession in a comprehensive fashion," Yamate said.

    Marc S. Firestone, general counsel at Kraft Foods North America Inc., serves as the institute's chairman.

    In a written statement, Firestone commented on the purpose of the study launched by the institute on Friday.

    "Corporations and law firms don't yet have a shared commitment to diversity. Sometimes the clients put too much of the burden on the firms and sometimes the firms question the sincerity of their clients. And it's far from clear that both see eye-to-eye on the mutual business benefits from inclusiveness," Firestone said in the statement. "This study should provide deeper, and perhaps novel, insights into these and other critical aspects of the effort to increase diversity in the profession."

    The use of the word "inclusion" in the institute's name is significant, Yamate said.

    "That's because we want to make sure our approach in our mission includes everybody," Yamate said. "So that straight white men have a role in the work we're doing as much as anyone else. With the institute, we want to make sure they understand they are part of the profession and have a role to play in trying to enhance the diversity of the profession."

    More information about the organization can be found at

    The survey is available for participation at the following online addresses.

    *For corporations,;

    *For law firm management,;

    *For law firm partners who are either women, or racial or ethnic minorities, LGBT, or disabled,

    The results of the survey and an analysis of the study is expected to be released in Fall 2011.

  • 30 Jul 2010 11:30 AM | Sandra Yamate (Administrator)
    The Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession (“IILP”), a new organization dedicated to increasing diversity and inclusion within the legal profession, today announced an initiative to assess whether the business case for diversity is having its intended impact, and if it is not, why not. The Business Case for Diversity study, which will begin July 30, 2010, will survey the attitudes and practices of hundreds of general counsels, law firm management and partners at U.S. law firms.

    Click here to read the press release
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