Diversity Plan for Shell Legal Services – United States

Cathy Lamboley, vice president and general counsel, with help from her direct reports, the human resources department, and Shell Legal’s Diversity Council, drafted a diversity plan, which includes six components:

  1. enhancing individual and group diversity skills, visibility and leadership;
  2. recruiting diverse talent;
  3. retaining and promoting the best talent effectively and without bias;
  4. maintaining an inclusive and barrier free workplace climate;
  5. consistently achieving Legal’s balanced workforce objectives; and
  6. promoting relationships with minorities and women who own and/or work for vendors and service providers.

The document was merged into an action plan called the Diversity “Key Business Activities” or KBA. This was one of a limited number of activities that Shell Legal Services deemed critical to the success of the organization. Each component of this KBA has goals, targets and action items. The KBA establishes accountability, participation, and responsibilities for the Diversity Council and for the legal department. The Diversity Council consists of 10 members of the legal organization, including legal senior management, attorneys and staff. Ad hoc members include an HR representative and a Diversity Center representative.

Management Participation

It is the belief at Shell that in order for the diversity initiative to be successful, management must lead by example and be held accountable for the results of the program. The Legal Leadership Team (LLT) within the Legal Services department includes seven attorneys who manage other attorneys. Of these seven, two are women (one of whom is the vice president and general counsel) and another member is an ethnic minority.

The LLT is actively involved in the development and review of a diversity plan-its objectives, goals, tactics, targets, and action items. The LLT also has responsibility for communicating clear expectations about diversity for the Legal department and for providing resources or allocations of staff time to ensure the programs are implemented correctly and on time. While all of the key business activities are a part of the performance evaluation of her direct reports, Ms. Lamboley informed them that they would be specifically rated on their performance on the diversity metrics, including the diversity KBA, as she is similarly accountable to the chief executive officer.

Legal’s Diversity Council researched the ethnicity and gender of staff in corporate law departments nationwide through the study of data obtained from MCCA, the ABA Commission of Opportunities for Minorities in the Profession, and from the National Association of Legal Placement (NALP). This comparison of data showed that Shell’s Legal Services department is above the national averages with 15.7 percent of its 70 attorneys being members of an ethnic minority group and 29 percent being women. While the leadership was pleased with the comparative results, much work remains.

The KBA for 2000 states that the Legal Services Department’s main objectives are to create and maintain:

  1. a diverse workforce;
  2. an inclusive workforce; and
  3. business relationships with a diverse pool of vendors.


Legal’s Diversity Council ensures that diversity objectives are incorporated in all recruiting efforts. The Council’s programs that enhance this policy include:

  1. A Summer Clerkship Program: Shell, unlike many in-house departments, hires recent graduates of law schools, who may not have prior corporate experience. Every year, Shell takes promising law students from local and national law schools for a six-week internship. In addition to direct campus visits, key recruiting sources are minority consortiums held each year by participating law schools. Each student is matched with a mentor and assigned several projects that facilitate his or her experience in law and in-house administration. The program has been extremely successful in attracting high caliber candidates for full time employment. Many of Shell’s new hires now come from its Summer Clerkship Program. As a result, the positions filled by new hires from the last several years have been 69 percent female and 62 percent minority.
  2. A Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprises Program (MWBE): Shell Legal Services adopted the goal of spending 10 percent of all expenditures with minority and women-owned businesses. Shell is currently tracking utilization of minority and women owned law firms and is evaluating systems for tracking utilization of women and minorities within majority-owned firms. Legal tracks the dollars spent with MWBE firms and keeps an annotated record of those who perform quality work. Thus, Legal Services is able to network with these firms when openings become available. This has developed an extremely useful pool of candidates who have a familiarity with Shell legal matters.
  3. Participation in Minority Bar Association Events: Shell has assisted with sponsorships for events such as MCCA’s Diversity 2000 Dinner in Houston in May 2000; MCCA/ALM 1st Annual Conference in October 2000; and events for minority and women attorneys given by the State Bar of Texas Office of Minority Affairs, the ABA Commission for Opportunities for Minorities in the Profession, the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, and the Corporate Counsel/Minority Counsel program given by the National Bar Association. Participation in these events facilitates effective networking opportunities for Shell’s recruiters and in-house counsel. While not directly related to recruitment, Shell has also funded a scholarship for minority law students through the American Bar Association.
  4. Job Posting: To ensure that all employees have an opportunity to be promoted or to fill an open position, new jobs are posted in the “Pathways” career advancement system available throughout Shell. This assists in making positions known to all interested employees and identifies additional qualified candidates to the manager seeking to fill the position.

Through all these efforts, Shell is creating a pipeline of legal talent that is diverse and represents the highest levels of legal achievement.


To truly create a diverse workforce, corporate law departments have to retain talented minority and women leaders and aid them in the development of their careers. At Shell, an initial step is to assess the work environment to identify issues of concern to all employees and to ensure that all feel that their contributions are being appreciated.

In addition, the Diversity Council has recommended changes to the performance appraisal form to deal with issues that pertain to a diverse workforce. Some 360-degree feedback forms were utilized in some work groups last year, and an expanded utilization of this process is being evaluated.

For Legal Services to fully benefit from Shell’s company-wide inclusion efforts, the LLT encourages participation in employee network groups such as those for Women, African Americans, Hispanics, Asian/Pacific Islanders, and Gay and Lesbian employees. To facilitate awareness training, the LLT is working with the employee network group for women to conduct a Workplace Communications Seminar that introduces and facilitates dialogue about gender-based communications patterns to ensure that various styles of problem-solving skills are equally valued.

Career Development

Guidance from and exposure to senior managers within the legal department are critical to the career development of all attorneys. Shell is evaluating a reciprocal mentoring program. This represents a “next step” for mentoring programs which is structured to facilitate an interactive learning experience for both mentors and mentees. Reciprocal mentoring means that ethnic minority legal staff will be asked to “mentor up” to raise awareness and understanding of the majority attorneys, regarding issues and barriers experienced by ethnic minority attorneys. The majority executives are expected to impart their wisdom and advice about prudent career moves and developments in the legal industry. Thus, two-way mentoring facilitates two objectives simultaneously:

  1. developing an inclusive work environment that is receptive to the concerns of minorities and women; and
  2. identifying and maximizing the potential of all attorneys.

External Diversity

Shell is a signatory to BellSouth’s “Statement of Principle” and participated in BellSouth’s landmark “Beyond the Rhetoric” meeting of corporate law departments in Atlanta. Shell participated in the pledge on minority recruitment originally sponsored by the Hispanic Bar Association of Houston. At the conclusion of the pledge period, Shell had the highest level of minority recruitment among the participants. In addition, Legal Services has consistently maintained an inclusive philosophy in regards to its business with outside vendors and legal service providers. Legal’s philosophy is to make sure that everyone has “a place at the starting line in the competition for Shell’s business, whether or not they are with firms or businesses with a historical connection to Shell.” Those that continue their business relationships are firms that provide cost-effective, legal services.

To facilitate this effort, Shell did the following:

  1. Created a directory of minority and women-owned business enterprises. The paper copy was in multi-colored pages, a variation of the “Yellow Pages” theme. The directory is also housed on the corporate Intranet and updated continuously so that the entire legal staff can search the database by vendor type. A recommendation source is also listed to help guide the user to a person with experience with the vendor. In addition to providing opportunities for women and minorities, the company policy and MWBE directory gives Shell a wider range of choices through increased competition.
  2. To accomplish the goal of spending ten percent of all expenditures with minority and women-owned businesses, Shell revamped its tracking tools to keep a record of the dollars spent with MWBE. A monthly report is distributed to give frequent updates on progress and reminders. Shell is reevaluating its processes to include tracking of utilization of minority and women attorneys in majority-owned firms. In 2001, Legal Services will request that vendors also report their spending with MWBE.

Recognition of Efforts

Shell has emphasized that its diversity plan is designed to create a roadmap for where it wants to go, not merely as a chronicle of where it has been. They focus on accomplishing what is left undone, and carry no pretension that they have accomplished all of what is needed.

They seek to learn from other leaders in the diversity arena. Still, Shell Oil’s diversity initiatives have garnered recognition. Shell was mentioned in the President’s Page of the July 1999 Texas Bar Journal in recognition of its minority recruitment efforts. The legal organization was included in the book, America’s Greatest Places to Work With A Law Degree, by Kimn Alayn Walton, J.D. in 1998. Shell Oil Company was added to the most recent list as one of the fifty best places for minorities, compiled by Fortune Magazine. These awards have raised the visibility of Shell Oil’s commitment to diversity and made the department an attractive place for minority and women candidates.

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