CHICAGO—When pitching to in-house counsel, outside law firms can make a strong case if diversity is part of the overall legal services package.

Womble Carlyle attorney Ashley Kutz Kelley recently moderated a CLE session with a panel of in-house counsel from throughout the country on the importance of  law firm diversity initiatives and programs, and how it impacts and influences in-house legal teams when selecting outside counsel for legal matters.   The program, titled “Perfect Pitch: Hitting the Right Diversity Notes,” took place at the American Bar Association’s Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section (ABA-TIPS) Conference, which took place in Chicago.

Participants in the panel discussion addressed how in-house counsel evaluate and hire outside litigation counsel based on outside counsel's commitment to diversity. This program featured real pitches from two outside litigation attorneys, and attendees also heard feedback from in-house counsel on how to successfully incorporate their firm’s diversity initiatives in the pitch process. In addition, a facilitated discussion focused on the importance of having diversity in a litigation team, why diverse litigation teams get better results and the importance of overcoming cultural biases in the legal profession.

Joining Ashley in the discussion were: Gary Zhao, SmithAmundsen LLC; Blake Nielson, VP of Operations & General Counsel, Enfusion; Jeannie Carmedelle Frey, Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel, Presence Health; Kristy M. Gonowon, Attorney – Claim Litigation, Allstate Insurance Company; and Jonathan E. White, Assistant General Counsel – Litigation, Home Depot USA, Inc.

Ashley Kutz Kelley is an experienced litigator with a broad-ranging practice in federal and state courts, including business, commercial, financial, employment, product liability, and judgment enforcement matters. Kelley practices in Womble Carlyle’s Charleston office. She is the current Chair-Elect of the South Carolina Bar’s Employment and Labor Law Section.