Law firms doing business with Coca-Cola will have to increase diversity among the attorneys that interact with the company, its new general counsel has stated.

In a letter to several dozen law firms, Bradley Gayton, a Black man who became Coca-Cola’s general counsel four months ago, laid out guidelines for diversity that the firms will have to follow if they want Coca-Cola’s business. Firms that do not follow those guidelines will suffer consequences up to and including the loss of Coca-Cola as a client, the letter says.

Under the new guidelines, which apply to all new legal engagements going forward, 30% of the attorneys who handle Coca-Cola business will have to be diverse, and of those, half will need to be Black. Law firms that don’t reach that benchmark for two consecutive quarters will face a 30% reduction in fees; continued failure could lead to a lack of future work from Coca-Cola.

“We will no longer celebrate good intentions or highly unproductive efforts that haven’t and aren’t likely to produce better diverse staffing,” the letter states. “Quite simply, we are no longer interested in discussing motivations, programs, or excuses for little to no progress – it’s the results that we are demanding and will measure going forward.”

In an interview with Law360.com, Gayton said some firms might be tempted to absorb the fee reduction because it would be cheaper than hiring people of color. That’s why it has to be backed up with the threat of terminating firms that fail to diversify, he said.
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