One Company for Diversity Advocacy: An Interview with Joy Lyu Monahan of AbbVie

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(Courtesy of AbbVie)

By Cadence Advisor

In our recent conversation about A black historical monthMy colleague Monique Burt Williams – CEO of a percussion consultant, who is focused exclusively on hiring an in-house consultant – corporate legal departments identified that are pioneers in promoting diversity. One of the companies I highlighted was My fatherFortune 100, the Chicago-based biopharmaceutical company behind blockbuster drugs like Humira and Imbruvica. Under the leadership and vision of Chief Legal Officer Laura Schumacher – who has led her legal division since AbbVie became independent from Abbott Laboratories in 2013, and formerly General Counsel at Abbott – AbbVie has tirelessly fostered diversity, fairness and inclusion, in the legal profession and beyond.

What are some of the innovations that AbbVie has pioneered? And what can legal departments and in-house law firms learn from the example of AbbVie? I had an interview recently Joy Liu Monahan, Associate Director of Legal Diversity and External Counseling Programs, for some secrets of AbbVie success.

Monahan is a graduate of Georgetown University, from which she earned a BA, then a MA in Public Policy, and a Doctorate of Laws from the Paul M. Hebert Center for Law at Louisiana State University. After working as a clerk for state and federal judges in Louisiana, she worked in a private clinic in New Orleans, then after Hurricane Katrina, she moved to Chicago and worked in Kirkland, Ellis, and Edwards Wildman (now part of Luke Lord). She then moved into the home business, where she worked as a general counsel for World Business Chicago (WBC) before joining AbbVie in June 2020.

What attracted her to the AbbVie opportunity? Monahan and I are graduates of Jesuit educational institutions (Georgetown for her and Regis High School for me), and we pulled together at the start of the interview. The central concept in the Jesuit tradition is service, being “men and women to others.” Monahan has spent most of her career in public service – at the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Senate before law school, and in two clerical positions immediately after law school, and during her tenure at WBC, a nonprofit between the public and private sectors. Driving inclusive economic growth – the opportunity to foster diversity and inclusion at AbbVie was seen as yet another opportunity to serve.

“I was not just looking for a ‘job’, but for an opportunity to do something deeply meaningful,” Monahan told me. “And I found it here at AbbVie. I work for a big company, do things that are meaningful, with leadership and resources behind my work. We have big legal spending here at AbbVie – and we can use it to boost diversity.”

Monahan knows firsthand the challenges of being a minority woman in a profession that white men still dominate. She was one of the few Asian Americans in her class at LSU Law School, as well as one of the few women of color in the two law firms. During her career prior to her career at AbbVie, she encountered various forms of bias – often insidious – that she did not want future generations to face.

When it comes to diversity in the legal profession, the statistics are stark. AbbVie CLO Laura Schumacher also noted in a November 2020 article for Law360Only 5 percent of the active lawyers in the United States are black, 5 percent Hispanic, and 3 percent Asian – numbers far below the representation of these groups in the overall population. Although women represent the majority of the US population, they only make up 38 percent of the legal profession in the United States – and less than 23 percent of law firm partners in the United States. So despite the progress that has been made in recent years, the legal industry has a long way to go.

AbbVie is doing more than its share when it comes to addressing this issue. Monahan is responsible for facilitating eight lines of business with over 50 legal colleagues focused exclusively on expanding the company’s already strong diversity initiatives. One of AbbVie’s long-standing programs is the External Diversity Initiative for External Advisors, which is a carefully designed and metrics-based program to accelerate diversity in the company’s external counsel. Launched in 2018 with more than 25 of AbbVie’s largest law firms, the initiative began by assessing key metrics and creating individual targets for each firm, in terms of the diversity of attorneys working on AbbVie affairs. By 2023, AbbVie’s overall goals for law firm representation in its affairs are equal female and male partners, doubling minority partners, and 50% of lawyers are underrepresented.

Due to her longstanding commitment to diversity and the strong relationships she established with managing partners and other law firm leaders during her tenure as Chair of the WBC Board of Directors, Monahan was the ideal person to lead the initiative. And she is optimistic about her ability to make a difference.

“Like other big companies, we have significant legal spending capacity at AbbVie,” Monahan said. “These are meaningful relationships for law firms. And when it comes to diversity, the difference in our program compared to many others is that we really mean it. We sit with the law firms on a regular basis, review their numbers, and if their numbers are not what they should be, we tell them.” They need to improve – or they will lose our business. “

The program is already showing results. In 2020, compared to basic working hours in 2017, working hours for underrepresented lawyers increased by 12%, hours for female partners by 18%, and partner minority work hours by a whopping 46%.

“We have a lot of success stories with our outside advisor,” Monahan said. “Sitting at these annual review meetings and seeing those numbers rise, seeing how change happens – that’s one of the best parts of my job.”

Of course, for law firms to achieve diversity goals like those of AbbVie, they need strong representation of women and minority attorneys, both at the associate and partner level. This requires addressing the so-called “pipeline problem”, and making sure there is a consistent pipeline of diverse talent entering companies in the first place. This is an issue that AbbVie values ​​and addresses as well.

Monahan spoke proudly of AbbVie’s IP Group Intern Academy, a first-year law school internship program for students with an interest in diversity and intellectual property – an important legal area for AbbVie as a pharmaceutical company, and one that has historically traced other practices to a variety of disciplines. Interns, often diverse law students with scientific backgrounds, work for AbbVie after their 1-liter summer term, gaining valuable intellectual property law experience – then AbbVie helps them find jobs with leading law firms in the summer of 2 liters. The program has an excellent track record to date, with 100 percent of the various interns from the program receiving offers for summer or full-time employment with major companies.

“Many of the interns come from law schools where it is difficult to get a job at a major law firm,” Monahan explained (and she notes that you can deal with this situation, as many LSU graduates do not go directly to companies like Kirkland). “We choose people who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity, and we give them a chance. After working with us in the summer, they are” AbbVie Certified “, helping them get jobs by the big corporations as 2Ls. The companies love our interns – they come back to us and say,” It’s Wonderful, and can we have all the other trainees? ”

“We are now in our third year of the program, and our interns continue to receive offers from big companies, all because they got a chance. This is what the program is about: choosing people who do not usually have the opportunity, and giving them a chance.”

AbbVie also focuses on diversity in its in-house recruitment. Women make up more than two-thirds of the company’s global legal division, and underrepresented minorities make up roughly one-third. Under Monahan’s leadership, the firm has built strong relationships with a wide range of minority bar unions, which it turns to when it has job vacancies to fill. Additionally, AbbVie works with third-party recruiting firms that prioritize diversity – such as Cadence AdvisorLed Monique Burt Williams, One of the few black women CEOs in the recruitment industry.

Not surprisingly, AbbVie and its legal team have won numerous awards for their commitment to diversity and inclusion. In 2020, the Alliance for Women Initiatives in Law awarded AbbVie its Benchmark Award, which goes to the firm’s law firm or legal division that has demonstrated a passion and commitment to lead the advancement of women’s issues. In 2019, Chambers and Partners honored Laura Schumacher for her outstanding contributions in promoting diversity in the legal profession. AbbVie has also been recognized as the best employer or workplace for diversity by authorities such as Fortune, Forbes, Working Mother, DiversityInc, and Human Rights Campaign.

Honors and awards are great – but for Joy Lyu Monahan, the most important thing about her work is the ability to make meaningful change. If recognition and positive publicity can help AbbVie’s approach spread throughout the legal industry, it all helps.

“We want to be a leader and be an example,” she said. We want the other companies to say, ‘We want to do what AbbVie is doing.’ We want to get the word out. We want to get our model out. We want other companies to say, ‘We want to do what AbbVie does.’

“When doing my part, AbbVie chose me – but I also chose AbbVie, for its long-standing commitment to diversity. I work with an amazing team of leaders and colleagues who share these values, and I couldn’t have made this progress without them. I am so excited to be in a place where I could be. Making a real change in the legal profession. “

DBL square headEd. Note: This is the last installment in a series of posts from Side link A team of expert contributors. This post by David Lat, Managing Director of the New York office, where he focuses on placing senior employees, partners, and partner groups in prominent law firms across the country.

Prior to joining Lateral Link, David founded and worked as managing editor of Above the Law Magazine. Prior to launching Above the Law, he worked as a federal prosecutor, litigation assistant at Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz in New York, and legal clerk for Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. David is a graduate of Harvard and Yale Law School. You can contact David at Twitter (@DavidLat)And the Linkedin, And the The social networking site FacebookYou can contact him via email at

Cadence Advisor It is a specialist research firm that focuses exclusively on hiring an internal consultant. We specialize in retained executive search, placement of special advisors, and diversity and development counseling. Cadence Counseling, a certified women’s business enterprise, is a leading diversified resource for in-house legal professionals within the Fortune 500.

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