Nike, Inc. (Beaverton, OR)

Nike, Inc. (Beaverton, OR)

2004 Employer of Choice Award Winner

Western Region

James Carter
James Carter
General Counsel

With revenues exceeding $12 billion and operations around the world, Nike, Inc. is the world's leading designer, marketer, and distributor of athletic footwear, apparel, equipment, and accessories for a wide variety of sports and fitness activities. At Nike, diversity means honoring the world of ideas, opportunities, and people that drive the company, and its goal is to engage employees who reflect and understand its consumers and athletes.

Under Vice President and General Counsel James Carter, the Nike legal department supports the company's diversity efforts by having a workforce profile that reflects a culture that is inclusive and supportive of diversity. The department employs 19 attorneys, of which 32 percent are female and 16 percent are minorities.

As for outside counsel, Nike expects that any firm interested in its business will either have a demonstrated commitment to diversity, or will promptly undertake meaningful initiatives to promote inclusiveness both within its practice and relevant bar associations. To that end, Nike has required completion of a baseline benchmarking survey by each of its primary outside law firms against which the progress of each firm is annually assessed. Nike also asks its firms to provide lawyers of color and women lawyers with opportunities to become substantively involved with Nike matters and to have them directly interact with its in-house counsel.

To enhance gender and color, both within the company and among its business partners, it uses a three-way strategy of generating internal opportunity, fostering increased external opportunities, and investing directly in pipeline programs.

Veta Richardson, MCCA; James Carter, Nike; and Madeleine Kleiner
(L to R): Veta Richardson, James Carter, Madeleine Kleiner

Legal department initiatives include completion of diversity workshop training by every in-house attorney and adherence to competency-based hiring processes that call for concerted effort to include diverse candidates in every hiring pool. Additional initiatives consist of active department and individual participation in local minority bar association activities as well as in national associations such as the National Bar Association and the ABA's Minority Counsel Program; and attorney accountability, within the formal annual employee review process, for furthering the diversity initiatives of the department. These actions include efforts to partner with vendors that share Nike's commitment to diversity, and annually assessing primary providers on their own progress. And Nike legal is no less demanding in its expectations of outside counsel.

The Nike legal department is also an active contributor to efforts that have attracted minority law students from throughout the United States, such as internship and externship opportunities. In addition, the department is particularly proud of its scholarship support of the NBA's Crump Law Camp-at Howard University Law School-which offers high school students of color an opportunity to cultivate their interest in pursuing a career in law. Additionally, this special pride derives from Nike's recognition that diversity is a process, not a result, and that true to one of its corporate mantras, "There is no finish line."

In 2004, Nike again earned 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's first Corporate Equality Index. The index rates large corporations on policies that affect their gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees, consumers, and investors.

From the November/December 2004 issue of Diversity & The Bar®

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