By Ryan Velez
Minority-owned businesses often have a lot of trouble getting the necessary funding they need to operate. However, Black Enterprise says that one sector that is getting a recent boost is minority-owned and women-owned (MWBE) law firms. Member companies of the Inclusion Initiative spent $226 million with these law firms.
This latest figure came from the Inclusion Initiative, a collaborative program among law departments at major U.S. corporations focused on promoting diversity spending, and is a $7 million jump in spending from last year. This represents part of a larger positive trend, with the volume participating law departments have distributed to MWBE firms has surpassed $200 million every year since 2012.
Participating companies in the Initiative have generated $1.24 billion in expenditures on minority and women-owned law firms. “The Inclusion Initiative is a significant success story in the movement to build and sustain diversity and inclusion in the legal profession,” Rick Meade, vice president and chief legal officer for International Businesses at Prudential Financial Inc. and chairperson of the Inclusion Initiative, stated in a press release.
“The commitment made by the participating companies to support MWBE law firms has proven to be meaningful and sustained, enabling many of our target firms to thrive in an increasingly competitive market.”
Equally impressive is the array of clients that are participating, including several major corporations. Target, State Farm, 3M, Accenture, Allstate, American Airlines, AT&T, Bank of America, The Coca-Cola Co., Comcast, Exelon, FDIC, General Mills, GlaxoSmithKline, Google, JPMorgan Chase, McDonald’s Corp., Macy’s, Merck, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, Nationwide, NBCUniversal, Prudential Financial, Sempra Energy, Shell Oil Co., UPS, Verizon, Walmart, Wells Fargo, and Xerox are among the list.
Of course, this is only the start of adding more diversity. The next step? Stern says it’s a matter of letting them get in the door. “This is what supplier diversity is about and supplier diversity needs to extend to the legal groups in corporate America. These 32 companies are leaders in making this happen and we congratulate them for their leadership.”
Adkins of Toyota Financial Services says her company is “committed to sending more high-level legal work to NAMWOLF firms, enhancing its relationships with these firms, and providing them with further exposure to the business needs of the company.” Stern mentions that he plans to continue to work to help MBE/WME firms prosper, including encouraging them to join the initiative or become more active in NAMWOLF.