Coca-Cola VP GC Outlines New Diversity Program

On 28th January, Bradley M. Gayton, Senior VP GC at Coca-Cola wrote this letter to outside law firms, informing them of, what Bloomberg Law called, ‘one of the legal industry’s most rigorous outside counsel diversity programs yet’.

Gayton was concerned by a continued lack of diversity in new partner headshots and by reading that ‘Black equity partners won’t reach parity with the Black US population until 2391’.

He said that although the legal profession has ‘developed scorecards, held summits established committees and written action plans’, the results are scarce. Gayton put this down to good intentions being celebrated too quickly, rather than diversity and inclusion being treated as a business imperative. He explained that if it were treated as such, capital would be allocated, and investments would be made within the business to achieve inclusion and diversity.

Gayton stressed that the legal profession should be representative of the population it serves and said, ‘we are no longer interested in discussing motivations, programs, or excuses for little to no progress – it’s the results that we are demanding and will measure going forward.’.

As part of its mission to achieve parity, Coca-Cola outlines a list of initiatives including, but not limited to the following:

  • Diverse attorneys will make up at least 30% of each billed associate and partner time (with the ultimate goal being that this increases to at least 50%)
  • At least 50% of these will be Black attorneys
  • The work performed by these diverse attorneys should contribute to their development and progression
  • Firms who cannot meet the targets are encouraged to work with member firms of the National Association of Minority and Women-Owned Law Firms
  • Managing Partners are expected to publish a ‘personal commitment to diversity, inclusion and belonging and related action plans setting forth measurable goals.’

Firms who fail to meet the commitment will be asked to provide a plan for meeting it.

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