Duke Realty Corp., which owns 138.9 million square feet in rentable industrial, office and medical buildings in 18 cities, recently competed for a big government contract.
"You know how those RFPs are. They want to know about your diversity, your civic efforts, the diversity of your suppliers," says Howard Feinsand, executive vice president and general counsel for the Indianapolis company that bases its legal team in Atlanta. "No problem. For us it was a slam dunk. We do it all. Years and years ago it may have started as a compliance issue, but today it's part of our culture. We were able to fill out the form easilyhere's our diversity, here's the number of hours in community service; it's all here."
And it's not just the overall corporate staff at Duke that is involved in civic activities. It's also the company's 14-attorney legal team, including the nine lawyers at Duke's Peachtree Corners offices. "There is a willingness here to be out in the community. I've never said that we need to do this or will you do that. It really is who we are," says Feinsand.
Although the legal department is "too small and geographically disperse" to have a formal pro bono program, Feinsand says that "we do subscribe to pro bono partnerships, and our department members have participated in helping various organizations."
In 2011, for instance, the legal department participated in the Relay for Life and Dancing with the Temple Sinai Stars, and supported Autism Speaks. Individual attorneys were involved with the Alliance Theatre, Woodruff Arts Center, Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, The Standard Club, Emerald City Theater Co., Ronald McDonald House Charities, Asian-American Heritage Gala in Atlanta, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association national convention in Atlanta, Organization of Chinese Americans, Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra and The Penrod Society. Some even coached a high school women's soccer team.
Each Duke employee is allowed two days off work to give to the community. "If you don't have a cause, we'll give you one," says Feinsand. The volunteer work can range from serving on a civic board of directors to helping out in an employee's child's school. "We want our people engaged in the community," Feinsand says. "It's as simple as that."
While the volunteer activities are flexible, the company is serious about employees' fulfilling their commitment. Come annual review time, the subject of civic activity and diversity comes up and is part of each employee's evaluation, says Angela Hsu, vice president, legal.
"Howard is astonishingly civic-minded," says Christine Schneider, of counsel with Bryan Cave, who has been doing legal work for Duke since 2008. "He contributes more than any other individual on his team. He's brilliant, but he believes in his community and giving back. His group of lawyers are all pretty darn civic- and community-minded."
Feinsand is flexible about his department's working hours. "I'm not sure we have a formal flex-hour program, but my deal is that you've got a job. However you do it is your business as long as our customers are happy and the work is done well. As long as an attorney works his or her schedule, I'm pretty flexible. Our department has no face-time requirement. Every attorney can set their own office hours and has the flexibility to work from home through our remote access servers. Let's face it, we all work more than eight hours a day anyway."
Duke's company-wide diversity initiative includes a diversity council, which since its inception in 2001 has included at least one member from the legal department. Over the years, the legal department has worked closely with human resources to shape diversity council initiatives and help create the supplier diversity initiative.