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My two-person department has been asked to lead the firm's diversity program, currently in its infancy. We're already doing marketing and business development. Should I push back or take it on?

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Jim Staples

Resources are precious, and a two-person marketing team means that focus is incredibly important. Two or three key initiatives per year are probably all that's possible for your team, and a diversity initiative is huge--requiring a great deal of work and attention.

You can make a good argument about your key initiatives for the year and how this diversity one is fairly far outside your scope, but I recommend that you go back to your managing partner with a solution, not a justifiable decline. So, spend an hour and do a bit of homework on what it would take to design and kick of the diversity process. With that knowledge in tow, share your work with a partner you trust, get him or her to support you and then the two of you recruit a partner who might be willing to take the lead for such an initiative. Finally, you and your now-willing partner-in-charge-of-diversity go back to the MP with your proposed solution.

This way, with a couple of hours work, you get the firm of on the right foot and avoid derailing your other critical marketing and business development work.

Jim Staples is the CMO of Cozen O'Connor, where he is responsible for the firm's marketing, branding and business development. He is resident in the firm's Philadelphia office. You can reach him at jstaples@cozen.com.

Jennifer Smuts

Knowing how to lead is admirable. Knowing when to defect and prioritize is necessary for the success of your department. Treat the "ask" as a compliment and communicate the importance and detail that a comprehensive diversity program entails. (The American Bar Association Website provides a wonderful resource guide, www.abanet.org.leadership/recmenu.html. Or you might consider sharing the NALP 2009 Diversity Best Practices Guide, www.nalp.org/uploads/DiversityBPGuide09.pdf.) Whether you meet with your managing partner or marketing partner, you need to emphasize that setting the diversity program up for success needs to be a priority set at the top. The diversity program effort could be spearheaded by the partner-in-charge of recruitment or professional development, and the managing partner must be the voice of the program. Your...

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