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The Texas Lawbook provides unique and substantive content to our Premium subscribers. In this interview, Pattern Energy Corporate Counsel Lauren Haller provides personal insight into her life, how she selects outside counsel and key things outside counsel should know about her.
Lauren Haller discussed those subjects with Lawbook founder Mark Curriden. For a look at his full profile of Lauren click here.
Texas Lawbook: How do you select outside counsel? Do you and Pattern have an outside counsel list?
Lauren Haller: Typically, I use the outside counsel list of firms we have successfully worked with in past projects.
Texas Lawbook: What has been your best day and worst day at Pattern and why?
Haller: My worst day at Pattern was losing a colleague to COVID-19.
Texas Lawbook: What do you look for in hiring outside counsel? Do you have specific criteria?
Haller: Competence. Results. Fee Structure. Diversity. Innovation.
Texas Lawbook: What does outside counsel need to know about you?
Haller: Diversity and inclusion are as important as competence and fee structure.
Texas Lawbook: What are one or two life-impacting experiences you’ve had?
Haller: There have been plenty of triumphs and tragedies in my life; however, the two worth noting are:
- It may sound trite, but becoming a parent changes you in expected and unexpected ways.
- Being laid off is tough for anyone, but being laid off and being nearly five (5) months pregnant adds more complexity and stress to the mix. When I was laid off, I was convinced that I would not get another position until after my maternity leave. All I could think was who would hire a pregnant woman. Well, I was surprisingly mistaken. Within two months after being laid off, I had three full-time job offers in my hand.
Texas Lawbook: How much does diversity impact your decision in hiring outside law firms?
Haller: I am working on an RFP for legal services and diversity is an important factor. In the coming years, I hope to evaluate law firm diversity with respect to the firms we use.
Texas Lawbook: Tell us about the diversity and inclusion efforts and programs that you think are successful?
Haller: Google by far has one of the most comprehensive and thoughtful diversity, equity and inclusion programs that I have come across. From providing computer science and coding education to primary school through university to offering residency programs in partnership with historically black colleges and universities to numerous employee resource groups to offering unconscious bias training to employees (with extremely high participation rates), Google is taking a robust approach.
Amazon also has a strong diversity, equity and inclusion program. Amazon’s Future Engineers program is “a comprehensive childhood-to-career initiative” geared toward igniting interest in computer science careers in K-12 and beyond. Amazon has also partnered with Code.org to introduce coding concepts and skills to low income and underrepresented communities. Amazon further has numerous affinity groups and works to empower and support women and minority entrepreneurs. Finally, Amazon has committed to donating $10 million to organizations working toward bringing about social justice. Amazon celebrates and embraces the differences and the authenticity of its employees.
The Texas Lawbook: I’ve written dozens of articles about diversity in the legal profession. Despite all the efforts, the numbers just don’t seem to improve. Why it that? Is the legal profession doing something wrong? Is it the pipeline? Is it systemic racism and bias?
Haller: Blacks have endured hundreds of years of inequality and injustice in the U.S. Therefore, creating systems rooted in justice, equality, fairness and opportunity is going to take years, not days. As Americans, we have to stay steadfast in our commitment to justice, equality and fairness for all. The numbers and statistics will improve, it’s just going to take time.
Systemic racism, bias and institutional racism are all factors to contributing to the lack of diversity in the legal profession and beyond.
The Texas Lawbook: What is the solution or even is there a solution?
Haller: Yes, there is a solution to combatting the lack of diversity in leadership roles in corporate America and in the legal profession. However, the solution is one that will take years, not days. The solution will require a lot of hard work – tough questions will have to be asked and answered.
The solution will take everyone – regardless of race, gender or religion – working together. Furthermore, the solution is fluid – similar to the practice of law. It is called the practice of law because as attorney’s we are always learning and evolving. Diversity, equity and inclusion is no different, it will continue to evolve and so should our approach.
On a high level, the solutions should include:
Enhancing and strengthening the pipeline.
- Mentoring and educational programs: Mentoring and education should start as early as kindergarten. Mentoring efforts should not be sporadic, but should be longer term commitments, like Big Brother/Big Sister but for the legal profession (or professionals). Recognizing that this will not translate into every student (or even a majority of the students) choosing the legal profession, mentoring low income and minority students will definitely change the trajectory of the students’ lives for the better. Dreaming of college will not be so farfetched and will in a sense be more tangible.
- Policy: Furthermore, programs and policies with disproportionately negative impacts on minority students, need to be revaluated, augmented and in some instances eliminated.
- Scholarships: As we know, a huge impediment to seeking higher education or professional degrees especially for low income and minority students. Scholarship dollars are a huge factor and for some an absolute eliminator to entering the profession.
- Internships/clerkships: We as a profession get too caught up in grades and ranking, we fail to look at the totality of the student. The same holds true for bar passage, wouldn’t everyone be shocked to know that Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton failed the bar exam.
Shifting corporate culture. For a shift in corporate culture to be successful, all employees must be willing and open to have crucial uncomfortable conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion.
- Executive Buy-In: Since the tone is set from the top, Company leaders must be willing to speak up and speak often about the importance and the value of diversity, equity and inclusion. Leaders must also educate themselves on topics including systemic racism and unconscious (and conscious) bias. Finally, leaders must be committed to engaging in active allyship.
- Employee education: In parallel, employees must also be educated about systemic racism and unconscious bias.
- Affinity groups and affinity safe spaces: employee-led affinity groups should be encouraged and sufficiently funded.
- Supplier diversity programs.
Being and staying accountable. The above actions must be associated with a measured objective outcomes. Organizations must regularly evaluate these outcomes and adjust their approach when necessary. Tying diversity, equity and inclusion to meaningful company, executive and/or employee goals is the primary way to ensure that all parties involved are remaining accountable.