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By Yin Wilczek
Diversity matters because it drives innovation, said Malvina Longoria, general counsel, Strategy & Transformation at MasterCard Inc.
MasterCard is a signatory to an American Bar Association push to include more women and minorities in the legal profession. Legal services remains one of the least diverse professions in the U.S.
“The business case for diversity is very clear,” Longoria told Bloomberg BNA. When individuals from diverse backgrounds, ethnic groups and nationalities come together, it leads to a larger number of ideas. The legal profession “is no different from that,” she said. With diverse lawyers “you can have a better exchange of ideas and generate more innovative thought.”
Longoria spoke to Bloomberg BNA June 5 on the sidelines of the Association of Corporate Counsel’s Legal Operations Conference in Chicago.
The ABA action, started in September last year, aims to improve diversity at law firms through Fortune 1000 companies, one of the major consumers of legal services. To date, general counsel from more than 70 large companies have pledged their support.
Among other measures, signatories to the initiative ask their outside counsel to complete a survey describing how diverse they are. The information is compiled by the ABA to make it easier for companies to compare law-firm diversity when choosing outside counsel.
MasterCard has issued the survey to its legal services providers and collected the data, Longoria said. The company also has made an annual commitment to spend a certain amount of dollars with diverse suppliers, including outside counsel. “We’ve been driving up that percent of spend each year,” she said.
The company in 2016 organized its law firms into a panel of preferred providers. Because of the diversity objective, the panel includes a number of firms that are minority- and women-owned, she said.
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