Relating to other leaders as peers will enhance each attorney’s
ability to influence and lead by facilitating trust, openness and
information sharing among other leaders. It will also help to ensure
that the legal department’s goals and perspectives and those of
other leaders are aligned. Creating a peer culture in which each
attorney’s viewpoint is valued will increase both client satisfaction
and attorney job satisfaction. This, in turn, should increase retention and opportunities for advancement and reduce the potential
negative effects of bias on the same. Further, within the legal team
itself, if attorneys are empowered and expected to take initiative as
peers of one another, team performance is likely to be enhanced as
any failure will be viewed as letting down colleagues.
Providing Access to Knowledge. Last, but perhaps most importantly, to promote initiative and the trusted advisor model,
legal department leaders must provide each attorney with the
information necessary for him or her to exercise such initiative
and provide a well-considered and fulsome point of view that
takes into account the goals of the organization and the legal and
business realties that affect the organization’s ability to achieve
the same. Access to such information will not only enhance each
attorney’s ability to provide great legal advice but also permit him
or her to serve as a “conduit” or “clearinghouse” for the transfer
of solutions across groups and potentially “connect the dots”
between other members of management by creating opportunities to collaborate and share insights—a real value-add to any
To promote such transparency and information sharing, legal
department leaders should:
■ ■ Institute appropriate policies and behaviors, including regular
reports from each area of expertise.
■ ■ Hold regular meetings of the legal team at large.
■ ■ Encourage group discussions of current developments.
■ ■ Discuss overall budget visibility.
■ ■ Encourage overt discussions of outside counsel selection and
■ ■ Institute performance plans for each attorney that align with
the goals and values of the legal department and the whole
If all attorneys are provided with the requisite knowledge to
provide insightful, solution-based advice as a trusted advisor,
then they will be valued and feel valued by the organization. This
will likely result in an increase in retention and opportunities for
advancement for all attorneys (including diverse attorneys) and
reduce the potential negative effects of bias on the same.
The Model for Inclusion
The graphic on the next page is illustrative of the model that
the Huntington Ingalls Industries legal team uses to promote an
inclusive environment and attorney initiative within the legal
The HII team consciously seeks to use:
■ ■ The trusted advisor model to promote attorney empowerment.
■ ■ A peer culture to promote respect for points of view.
■ ■ Information sharing and transparency to provide all attorneys
with access to knowledge.
The HII legal team has used this model to effectively recruit
talented attorneys and grow the department, increase its influ-
ence throughout the company and make a positive impact on the
company’s outcomes. It is often said, “that which is measured, is
valued,” and recent surveys of HII stakeholders indicate that imple-
mentation of these concepts has had a significant positive impact
on client satisfaction. As the HII legal team continues its progress
on these issues, the next step is to create tools to elicit perceptions
from within the legal department of our current level of success in
these areas and to use such metrics to inform ways our policies and
procedures can be further improved and our level of diversity can
be increased going forward.
As an example of metrics, consider asking the following three
polling questions of all team attorneys on a regular basis to help
to create baselines and progress vectors concerning a team’s
1. Do you and your legal team colleagues have a clear understanding of whether and to what extent you and they are
empowered to act and take initiative as team members?
2. Do things happen on the legal team with enough transparency to allow you to know what is going on and how things get
3. Do you have knowledge of the information necessary for you
take initiative and succeed in your role as a team member?
While these may not be the kinds of questions typically asked
in polls relating to diversity and inclusion, they would seem to
provide both a natural barometer on inclusion and, more importantly, specific information that can let leaders know when they
need to do a better job of engaging the key drivers of initiative to
create inclusion and help overcome bias.
Using Attorney Initiative to Drive Inclusion
Although inclusion can be and has been addressed through
numerous pathways, law department leaders may be well-served
in using a focus on attorney initiative to drive such efforts. Legal
department leaders can drive attorney initiative and, in turn, inclusiveness within their department, by creating a team of peers
who share information and leverage professional initiative and
by promoting peer expectations and shared values to consistently
achieve high performance in the role of trusted advisors to the
client community—an operating model that typically aligns well