Risk Update

OCGs and DEI — Outside Counsel Guidelines that Counsel on Language

Stop Saying ‘Powwow’ for Meeting: CMG Adds Language Policy to Outside Counsel Guidelines” —

  • “Nestled alongside the run-of-the-mill policies outlined in Cox Media Group Inc.’s latest outside counsel guidelines, which include such classics as how to get reimbursed for overpriced chocolate-covered peanuts from the hotel minibar and rules on confidentiality, is a curious section on diversity, equity and inclusion that focuses on language.”
  • “When he was crafting the policy, CMG general counsel Eric Greenberg realized he had a unique opportunity to, as he says, ‘have some influence on how people think about and use language,’ more specifically, inclusive and non-inclusive language. “
  • “‘I’ve been in meetings with people who have used language like, ‘We had a big powwow and now we’ve made a decision,’’ Greenberg said. ‘Then you have things that are seemingly more benign, where people talk about information barriers as a ‘Chinese wall,’ or describe regulatory compliance as being ‘kosher,’ which I think people don’t even think twice about'”
  • “CMG’s policy includes examples of non-inclusive language that pop up frequently in daily life, from addressing letters and emails to ‘ladies and gentlemen’ and using ‘Nazi’ or ‘lynch’ to describe aggressive or punitive positions or tactics to asserting that someone is ‘deaf’ to a concern or ‘blind to the truth.'”
  • “‘Our goal is neither to police nor mandate the language of our counsel, but to raise the point as a matter of awareness and share with you illustrations of our belief that inclusion is critical in thought, action—and word,’ the guideline states. ‘Moreover, we note that in this engagement, you may be literally speaking on behalf of CMG. Accordingly, we hope that our values of inclusivity will be reflected in the way that we communicate.'”
  • “Since CMG unveiled its new guidelines in January, Greenberg said he hasn’t noticed much of a reaction from his outside counsel on the language policy, though other in-house leaders seem enthusiastic about the idea.”
  • “One of CMG’s outside lawyers, Wiley Rein partner Ari Meltzer, said the language policy ‘goes above and beyond what we would typically see in outside counsel guidelines,’ but noted that he’s not had to make any language changes in contracts or otherwise as a result of the guideline.”
  • “Another CMG outside counsel, Sidley Austin partner Hille Sheppard, stated that the language guidelines ‘capture, in an elegant and non-preachy manner, the true essence of what DEI is and should be, why it is important, and how we can all advance it together in authentic, significant and sustainable ways… CMG’s language guidelines opened my eyes in several respects, and I have forwarded them to Sidley’s training and development professionals to incorporate into our lawyer programming.'”