It’s back-to-school time for law firms working with Avis Budget Group as Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Michael K. Tucker, implements an initiative to improve the diversity of outside counsel. I caught up with him to find out more:
“We began planning for this in 2016, but the program officially started in February 2017. We were implementing a convergence program, cutting from approximately 700 firms to just seven, and we wanted to include a diversity and inclusion program that was global in effect, which tracked the law firm’s progress and included solid metrics that passed what I call ‘the straight face test’.
So we asked firms to send us their plan – not the plan that they’d sent to the government on how they were going to meet their regulatory requirements or the plan that they put in their recruitment brochure – but a plan with measurable data that they were willing to bet their entire book of business with us to achieve.
Now, it’s an international diversity and inclusion program, so I didn’t want to prescribe what ‘diversity’ should look like for each firm, there isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to the global diversity challenge – for example, one partner from the Hong Kong office of her firm told us: “diversity in our culture is taking a white guy to lunch”. So each firm set their own criteria based on their diversity goals and objectives and then we reviewed, commented and approved it.
Each plan was approved by our Diversity and Inclusion team which consists of human resources and legal staff at our corporate headquarters in Parsippany, New Jersey. Some of the firms pushed back on our Team and requested that we set some standards for all of the firms “to make sure all the firms were playing on a level playing field.” My response was: “Who am I to tell you what your commitment to inclusion should be; you should know your organization’s culture and needs better than me. This is not a competition among our panel of law firms, it’s about progress that is meaningful and progressive for you.”
Now that we’ve agreed to a plan of objectives with each firm, we will review the progress of those plans after six months (August 2017); and again at the end of the 12-month cycle (February 2018); whereupon each firm will receive a ‘report card.’ If their objectives have been met, we set new objectives for the next 12-month period, and the process continues every year. If they don’t meet the objectives in that first year or any one year thereafter, they get another chance the following year. If they fail two years in a row, they are off our panel of firms and they forfeit our book of business – it’s a great motivator.
One of the key things I have learned working so closely with diversity directors from around-the-world is that there are many shades between black and white, and I’m not just talking about race, but everything from gender to sexual orientation. At Avis Budget Group, we have a culture where everybody is represented, included and made to feel comfortable in the workplace. I’m looking forward to extending this to our panel of firms and making more progress in diversity and inclusion.”
This blog post is part of an ongoing series. In September we will be hearing from Michael again as he conducts a six month review with outside counsel. Don’t miss it!
Michael K. Tucker is executive vice president and general counsel for Avis Budget Group, the parent company of the Avis Rent A Car, Budget Rent A Car and Budget Truck Rental subsidiary brands. In his position Mr. Tucker is responsible for the legal affairs of the Company, including management of its franchising and other contracts, litigation, government relations and information security.
Prior to joining Avis Budget Group, Mr. Tucker was in private practice serving as managing partner at the law firm of Tucker Associates, and of counsel to the law firm of Lowe & Savage, where he represented private and public entities, handling corporate, securities, finance and commercial transaction matters. His long tenure as a corporate attorney includes service as division general counsel with Tyco International, Ltd. Mr. Tucker also served in senior legal positions with General Electric Company, including division senior counsel of GE Transportation and senior vice president and general counsel of GE Capital International Services. Before working as a corporate attorney, Mr. Tucker was a member of the law firms of Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, Bingham Dana LLP, and Csaplar & Bok.
Mr. Tucker received his Juris Doctorate degree from Boston University and a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University.