Microsoft Receives A. Leon Higginbotham Award for Legal Diversity and Pro Bono Efforts

Editor’s note – June 4, 2009 –
the press release reprinted below was issued by The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; it has been reprinted in its entirety. Following the release is a reprint of Nancy Anderson’s prepared remarks from the A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. Award Dinner held on June 3, 2009 in New York.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer Calls For Renewed Commitment to Diversity “We cannot let current economic challenges derail progress.”

NEW YORK, NY, June 4, 2009 – Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer joined the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law to call for a renewed commitment to diversity in today’s challenging economic climate. Ballmer’s remarks were in conjunction with the 10th Annual A. Leon Higginbotham Award Dinner in New York, commemorating the 45th anniversary of the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964. Microsoft was recognized for excellence in diversity and pro bono efforts during the June 3rd gala, “A More Perfect Union”, emceed by Soledad O’Brien, anchor and special correspondent, CNN Worldwide.

Microsoft Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Nancy Anderson (left) and Maria Melendez, partner with Sidley Austin LLP and chair of the awards dinner held by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, pose with the A. Leon Higginbotham Corporate Leadership Award, presented to Microsoft for work fostering diversity in the legal community. New York, June 4, 2009

“We cannot let current economic challenges derail progress made on diversity efforts in the IT industry, legal profession or anywhere else,” said Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft. “Diversity is critical to the success of our economy and to the advancement of our society. Workplaces that welcome different experiences, perspectives and capabilities and foster talent and creativity can be great engines of innovation – which is needed now, more than ever.”

The prestigious Higginbotham award is named in memory of Chief Judge A. Leon Higginbotham Jr., a civil rights advocate, author and federal appeals court judge. Mr. Higginbotham was the first African American judge to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern Division of Pennsylvania. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995. His countless achievements include appointment by President Kennedy as the first African American to serve on the Federal Trade Commission and authoring the acclaimed, “In the Matter of Color: Race and the American Legal Process, A Study of the Treatment of Race in the Colonial American Legal System.”

The award is being presented at a time when the economic climate is having an impact on diversity initiatives in many areas, including the legal profession. Recently, the National Law Journal reported that a survey of 94 leading law firms, conducted by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA), revealed that 25% of the firms polled expected to cut diversity initiative funding in 2009.

“Now is not the time to reign in our ambition to promote diversity. Because the legal profession plays a critical role in ensuring opportunity throughout society, it’s especially important to promote diversity within the legal community,” said Ballmer. “At Microsoft, we’re committed not only to sustaining our diversity work, but also to raising our ambitions, focused not only on investments, but on outcomes.”

Microsoft is receiving the Higginbotham award for its commitment to diversity and inclusion as part of the daily business function within every area of the company and for how it extends this commitment to its relationship with partners.

In July 2008 Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith announced the launch of an innovative effort that uses a “pay for performance” approach to enhance diversity in the legal profession.  Under the Law Firm Diversity Program, Microsoft has changed its legal fee structure for its Premier Preferred Provider (PPP) law firms, which handle a significant share of the company’s annual legal work. For the current fiscal year, each PPP firm is eligible for a two percent quarterly or annual bonus based on whether it achieves concrete diversity results. Microsoft is considering extending this program to even more law firms next year.

Microsoft also provides pro bono services in partnership with others to effect change. In October 2008, Microsoft announced the formation of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), a new national children’s advocacy initiative with the mission of providing pro bono legal counsel to unaccompanied immigrant children in the United States so that they are treated fairly and compassionately in our immigration system. Each year approximately 8,000 children who are separated from their families go through U.S. immigration proceedings. Today half of these children do so without legal representation. KIND aims to fill this gap by ensuring that all unaccompanied children get access to legal counsel in the immigration process. KIND is present in seven cities with the support of 37 law firms, two other corporations and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Goodwill Ambassador/actress Angelina Jolie.

“The Lawyers’ Committee is proud to partner with Microsoft and our generous sponsors for their unyielding support in continuing to advance President John F. Kennedy’s vision and to fight for those facing the scourge of racial, social and economic injustice in our society,” said Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Executive Director Barbara R. Arnwine. “Moreover, we are enormously proud of Microsoft and their tremendous impact toward shaping a ‘More Perfect Union.’”

For more information and to support the critical work of the Lawyers’ Committee, please call 866-723-1781 or visit For more information about Microsoft, CEO Steve Ballmer and their pro bono and diversity efforts, visit

Prepared Remarks: A. Leon Higginbotham Jr. Award Dinner, The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, New York

Nancy Anderson, Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Legal and Corporate Affairs

NANCY ANDERSON: Thank you very much. Steve Ballmer is very sorry that he is not able to be here tonight in person, but I am very honored to represent him this evening. It’s a privilege to accept the A. Leon Higginbotham Award on behalf of Microsoft, and to join all of you to celebrate the important work of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

This award is especially exciting for me personally. I started my career as a civil rights lawyer at Miner, Barnhill & Galland a small firm in Chicago. The Lawyers Committee was an essential partner for us in pursuing civil rights cases and I’ve retained my profound respect for their work and commitment to justice in the intervening years.

Both Steve and I grew up in the Midwest in the 50s and ‘60s – Steve in Detroit and myself in Illinois. We both saw the impact of poverty and discrimination first hand. At the same time, Leon Higginbotham was working to address these same types of conditions in Philadelphia – and in the process, opening the eyes of President Johnson to these issues, not only in Philadelphia, but also across the country. He obviously continued that commitment throughout his life.

Microsoft Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Nancy Anderson (right) with Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Executive Director Barbara R. Arnwine. New York, June 4, 2009

Therefore, it is a wonderful honor for Microsoft to be recognized, with an award in his name, for our work in advancing opportunity. And it is an inspiration for us to do more. As Judge Higginbotham demonstrated so vividly, we all can – and must – do more.

Creating and advancing opportunity is a critical pillar of all the work we do at Microsoft. This is true now, and it has been true since the genesis of our company.

When Bill Gates convinced Steve to drop out of business school and join Microsoft in 1980,

Bill persuaded Steve that staying with the company gave him the opportunity not only to excel in business but to do something that would help change the world.

In fact, that’s why I and many other people from Microsoft in the room this evening decided to join the company.

If you can give people access to a computer and innovate in a way that helps them use it in new ways, you can give them new skills, new confidence, and new hope.

Judge Higginbotham devoted his life to giving people opportunities they didn’t have before. Now is a time when this issue is especially important, both throughout society and in the legal profession in particular.

As President Obama said at the White House in February, there’s a natural tendency at a time of economic difficulty to want to focus inward.

In the legal profession, there’s an increasing focus on what this means for diversity among lawyers. Recent surveys have indicated that some in the legal community are confronting the temptation to cut back on their commitment to enhance diversity.

While the recession may force firms and companies to reduce spending, it would be a mistake to reduce our ambition of promoting diversity. The legal profession plays a critical role in ensuring opportunity for everyone in our society. This means it’s especially important to promote diversity within the legal profession.

We cannot let current economic challenges derail progress that has been made on diversity efforts in the IT industry, the legal profession or anywhere else.

At Microsoft, we’re committed not only to sustaining our diversity work but also to raising our ambition. And, we are focused not only on investments, but on outcomes.

We all have the opportunity to do more and better.

At a time of economic challenge, Judge Higginbotham’s legacy should inspire us all to sustain and renew our commitment to diversity and to meet this challenge.

Thank you. Thank you on behalf of Steve, Brad Smith and many others at Microsoft.

About the Lawyers’ Committee

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (LCCRUL), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of fair housing and fair lending, community development, employment discrimination, voting, education and environmental justice. For more information about the LCCRUL, visit

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.  To learn more about Microsoft Diversity visit:

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