As part of the Legal Executive Institute’s focus on talent in the legal industry, we are spotlighting innovative ways participants in the legal ecosystem are working together to drive change. Esther Stone, Market and Diversity Manager at McDermott Will & Emery, shared how the firm is using the intersection of business development and diversity to develop deeper client connections.
Legal Executive Institute: Your job title is Market & Diversity Manager at McDermott Will & Emery. What I find intriguing is the fact that your role includes both business development and diversity. I haven not come across many roles in the legal industry that are focused on both of those topics. Tell us about your role, your daily responsibilities and how your role evolved to include diversity.
Esther Stone: My role has evolved over the years since I have been at McDermott. I started out in business development on the practice side, and I quickly realized that there was not any dedicated support for our diversity groups. A leader of one of the diversity groups was in the practice group that I was working with at the time, and I offered to help because of my passion for diversity and my relationship with him from working on other projects. Over the years, it evolved from leading the budgeting process and helping with sponsorships, to getting our brand out in the market as a diversity project manager.
About 12 to 18 months ago, the firm held a two-day summit on racial and ethnic diversity. The first day was internal, and we invited all of our US-based racially and ethnically diverse attorneys to attend. The second day we included our racially and ethnically diverse clients. It was extremely successful and well-received by our clients. I joked with the lead attorney that, “If you want to do this again next year, there’s going to have to be a full-time person.” A few months after that, there was a lot of conversation about the role and what department within the firm it would be housed under.
At the end of the day, the leaders in our business development group agreed that it makes the most sense for it to stay in business development because one of the things that we realized in engaging our clients is that we really want to partner with our clients as a key mechanism for driving change.
“We have started partnering with some of our clients to create a diversity vendor and supplier program. Working on these non-billable-type initiatives with our clients allows us to learn more about their businesses and deepen the personal connections with our colleagues on the client side.”
— Esther Stone, Market & Diversity Manager at McDermott Will & Emery
Legal Executive Institute: It sounds like the Summit was the impetus for two things—1) solidifying your role at the intersection of diversity and business development; and 2) recognizing that collaboration with clients was the key mechanism for keeping the firm accountable to its commitments. Describe how the Summit played a key role in the recognition of the value of collaboration.
Esther Stone: During the Summit, we were constantly breaking out into groups, working through questions, working through problems — because what we really wanted was people to walk away with action items and steps that they can go back to their organizations and implement as well as things that we could also implement on our end.
For us, post-Summit, we further defined our working groups that focused on different issues like retention and promotion, recruiting, and visibility for our racial and ethnic diversity group. More broadly, we created specific recruiting plans for some offices, and we have a couple of signature events planned during the year that will engage our clients and the firm.
Legal Executive Institute: Where do you see your role evolving next? And how do you see it evolving further to focus more at the intersections of business development and diversity?
Esther Stone: It is an ever-evolving role, which is part of the excitement about it because there are so many different aspects. It is not a typical business development role in that it is all business development all the time, although there is an element of recruiting, professional development, marketing etc.
As an example of how it is evolving, we have started partnering with some of our clients to create a diversity vendor and supplier program. Working on these non-billable-type initiatives with our clients allows us to learn more about their businesses and deepen the personal connections with our colleagues on the client side.