Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 52 seconds

During his 37-year tenure with chemical giant DuPont, Thomas L. Sager has been instrumental in establishing the DuPont Legal Model.

The revolutionary system features instructive principles designed to increase diversity among corporate legal departments and the outside law firms with whom they conduct business.

While diversity in the law has consistently been at the forefront of Sager’s mindset, it’s not due exclusively to political correctness. Business and the bottom line also play important roles in his philosophy. That’s because Sager says he believes a law firm, whether corporate or private, should reflect the clients, customers and employees it represents.

“Diverse legal departments [are necessary] to reflect the people they serve,” he says, adding that the world is more interconnected than ever before.

As a member of DuPont’s legal department, Sager realized the company was spending millions and expending a great deal of hours working with an unwieldy number of outside law firms. He suggested the company limit the number of outside law firms with whom it conducted business, an effort, he concluded, that would save millions.

He then helped establish the company’s Convergence and Law Firm Partnering Program. That committee was charged with creating standards for the outside counsel with whom DuPont would conduct business. So, in 1992, when DuPont revamped the way it selected its legal partners, it was Sager who kept diversity at the forefront of considerations. From there, the DuPont Legal Model was born. Although Sager is credited with establishing this new methodology, he humbly refers to it as a “collective effort.”

The DuPont Legal Model allows a corporate law department to weigh various factors when hiring outside law firms. While the diversity of the private law firm is scrutinized, other aspects of the organization are also considered. They include the firm’s:

• Technological savvy

• Strategic partnerships

• Use of alternative fee agreements

• Employment history of women and other minorities

“We needed to give a playbook so firms knew what we viewed as diversity,” Sager says.

Today, the DuPont Legal Model is the archetype of gauging not only diversity but also a law firm’s dedication to unparalleled legal services and flexible payment arrangements. In 1997, Sager helped found the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA), an organization that advocates the hiring, retention and promotion of minorities in the legal profession. According to Sager, the term ‘minority’ encompasses more than ethnicity.

“It’s sexual orientation, gender and race, as well,” he says. Four years later, the MCCA established the Thomas L. Sager Award, an honor bestowed on law firms committed to diversity. Despite his lifetime of accolades, Sager isn’t one to seek the spotlight. In fact, he says, it was “awkward” to discuss the fact that the MCCA named such a prestigious award in his honor for a few years afterwards. “That type of thing is usually done for those who aren’t alive but it’s humbling and serves an important purpose.”

Tami Kamin Meyer is an attorney and writer. She is licensed to practice law in Ohio, the Southern District of Ohio and the US Supreme Court. She serves as Of Counsel for the Consumer Attorneys of America, a national law firm based in Florida. Her byline has appeared in publications such as Ohio Lawyer, Ohio Lawyers Weekly, Ohio Super Lawyer, Corporate Secretary, GC Mid-Atlantic and Plaintiff Magazine. In 2007, a study guide she wrote about filing personal bankruptcy was published by Quamut, a division of Barnes and Noble.

Last modified on Tuesday, 25 June 2013
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