When Profile’s sister publication, Modern Counsel, last spoke to Kirkland Hicks in 2017, the emphasis on diversity and inclusion was particularly important to him. Two years later, and that mission of inclusion is not only stronger than ever, but it is continuing to become ingrained in the company culture.
“Positive representation is important,” Hicks said of D&I at Lincoln Financial Group (LFG), a Fortune 500 company offering a range of financial services and solutions, with a central focus on life insurance, annuities, retirement plan services, and group protection. “But we need to go beyond that to inclusion and inclusive leadership.”
It’s a statement that reflects the way Hicks talks about most topics. That is, it’s rare that something is a simple black-and-white issue for the executive vice president and general counsel at LFG. In Hicks’s eyes, D&I isn’t just about hiring diversely. It’s about giving back to the community, lending a voice to the underrepresented, and spearheading altruistic initiatives that go beyond the day-to-day functions of a workplace.
“Kirkland is driving change in his external legal partners as well,” explains Paul Hummer, partner at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr. “He’s made it clear that he expects results from the firms Lincoln partners with, and his focus and encouragement is driving change in the legal community. We’re honored to work with Kirkland and his team in their efforts to make law firms more diverse and inclusive, and we’re particularly honored that he has agreed to share his vision for a positive and inclusive culture at our firm-wide 2018 diversity and inclusion retreat.”
As a result, Hicks is often asked about his accomplishments—be it in D&I, philanthropy, or elsewhere. He’s quick to credit the company culture, as well as his team. For example, when Modern Counsel last spoke with him, he detailed the strengths of seven members of his immediate legal team, including Andrea Goodrich, senior vice president and corporate secretary. When she joined LFG in January 2017, she reported directly to Hicks as she led a corporate law team that handles contracts, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property, investment transactions, securities, and tax.
Goodrich served in a variety of roles with increasing responsibility at Johnson Controls prior to joining LFG. She also brought with her more than twenty years of experience as a law clerk.
“When we were recruiting for that position, we wanted someone with board presence and who we thought would fit into LFG’s culture,” Hicks told Modern Counsel. “She is concerned about helping people in her community develop.”
It’s a trait shared by all members of the legal department at LFG, from Goodrich to Hicks and beyond, so much so that even outside firms are beginning to take notice.
“At Greenberg Traurig, the goal is to deliver excellent legal services at every phase of the client relationship. It is always a privilege to work with clients like Kirkland and Andrea in what can best be described as a collaborative team approach,” says Michael Berlin, shareholder at Greenberg Traurig.
Whether it’s examining diversity and inclusion within the company leadership or lovingly putting together a cookbook for charity, it’s clear that everyone’s hearts and spirits are in the same place, including for projects that may appear outside the box.
One such initiative occurred in December 2017, which combined legal responsibility with creativity and a dash of culinary flair. In the spirit of the holiday season, Hicks and his team wanted to raise funds for the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA). Founded in 1911, NLADA is the oldest and largest nonprofit organization in the United States dedicated to providing legal service for those who can’t afford counsel on their own.
LFG’s charitable donation went beyond asking employees to make donations. Instead, roughly 240 employees in the legal department compiled and published an original cookbook, the cheekily titled You’ve Been Served. Employees, as well as friends and families, could purchase the book in exchange for a contribution to the fundraising campaign for NLADA.
Because the recipes were compiled company-wide and not just from LFG’s corporate headquarters in Radnor, Pennsylvania, You’ve Been Served has a wide variety of regional specificities with dishes hailing from Omaha, Nebraska; Hartford, Connecticut; Greensboro, North Carolina; and other cities that LFG’s offices call home.
“At Lincoln Financial, we have a rich history of giving back to our communities at a corporate level, as well as in our different office locations and business areas,” Hicks said in a news release when asked about the creation of You’ve Been Served. “In particular, during the magical time of the holiday season, our team wanted to join together in support of an important cause. NLADA serves as a valuable resource to so many, and I am very proud that our project will help further their life-changing work.”
More than five hundred copies of the cookbook sold out within ten days, and shortly after, Hicks presented NLADA with an oversized check for $8,000.
On an even larger scale within the company, Hicks has played a significant role in LFG’s ongoing D&I strategy—the dedication to inclusive leadership he detailed last time we spoke with him. Today, the diverse board of directors includes two people who are African Americans, which led to recognition from Black Enterprise. The renowned business resource later recognized Hicks individually on its year-end “Most Powerful Executives in North America” list.
Hicks’s leadership and values also led to him being invited to join the National Association of Corporate Directors’ (NACD) General Counsel Steering Community (GCSC) in January 2017. Comprising more than sixty progressive general counsel nominated by Fortune 500 board committee chairs, the GCSC was formed to shape an initiative called the Strategic-Asset GC (SAGC). Through a wide-ranging slate of resources such as a webinar series and live meetings, SAGC is intended to inform leading governance practices and create educational programming for NACD. Among the other companies represented on the GCSC are General Motors Co., GameStop, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., Campbell Soup Co., and US Foods.
“His positive influence is felt across our business, and he personifies our company’s brand, which honors the values and legacy of Abraham Lincoln,” Dennis R. Glass, LFG’s president and CEO, said in a news release.
Dechert is pleased to partner with the Lincoln Financial Group team, and we congratulate them on this honor. Dechert is a leading international law firm with a top-ranked investment funds practice. Our lawyers assist funds and their advisers and boards with a wide variety of regulatory, compliance, and securities law issues.