Law firms team up to encourage minority participation: Bingham McHale forms alliance with Coleman Graham & Stevenson

July 2, 2007

A surge in the number of corporations seeking minority participation on contracts has prompted an alliance between two local law firms looking to capitalize on the trend.

The June affiliation between Bingham McHale LLP, the city's fifth-largest practice, and Coleman Graham & Stevenson LLC, a minority-owned upstart, resulted from mutual friendships within the two firms, said Toby McClamroch, Bingham McHale's managing partner.

"The marketplace is becoming more complex, and the business community is demanding and expecting a multicultural and diverse representation," he said. "We are responding to that, in trying to reflect the diversity goals."

Indeed, agencies such as the Indiana Business Diversity Council and Historically Underutilized Small Business Coordinators help Coleman Graham and other minority-owned firms get in front of corporate decision makers. Most contracts awarded by Eli Lilly and Co., and others require at least 10-percent minority and female participation.

But having Bingham McHale in its corner gives the small firm the clout to compete for projects that otherwise would be impossible.

In contrast, Bingham McHale can boast that it brings minority participation to the table.

"We think that the alliance will allow us to handle larger, complex legal matters and resolve any capacity issues we would have as a small law firm providing work to Fortune 500 companies and other emerging businesses," said Howard Stevenson, a partner of Coleman Graham.

Stevenson, along with Gerald Coleman and Clayton Graham, founded the firm in May 2005. Its expansion to eight lawyers caused the firm to outgrow its former space on Fall Creek Parkway and move in October to downtown's Market Tower, where Bingham McHale also resides.

Coleman Graham concentrates on commercial, real estate and labor and employment law, as well as municipal finance work.

Bingham McHale has 123 lawyers at its downtown office and counts locally based developers Simon Property Group Inc. and Duke Realty Corp., both of which are public companies, among its clients.

Both firms are touting the alliance as a first within the city's legal community. They say their research uncovered similar relationships in Chicago, Detroit and Atlanta, but none in Indianapolis.

Rod Morgan, a partner at Bingham McHale who serves as board president of the Indianapolis Black Chamber of Commerce, helped forge the alliance.
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