Corporate Counsel recently announced its 2022 Women, Influence and Power in Law Awards and Regions Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary Tara Plimpton was named a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Champion.
The publication’s awards honor general counsel, in-house leaders and law firm partners who have demonstrated a commitment to advancing the empowerment of women in law.
“These women leaders are business strategists, complex problem-solvers and, of course, great lawyers. But what particularly makes these women stand out is their personal dedication to the promotion of diversity in the legal industry,” according to Corporate Counsel’s announcement.
DEI is a both business priority and a personal mission for Plimpton. And she has instituted several innovative programs in the Legal department since joining the company two years ago.
“DEI is a strategic priority at Regions and Tara’s work in this area has strengthened the Legal department and enhanced the work of our corporate DEI Center of Expertise,” said Regions President and CEO John Turner. “Her commitment reflects our company’s mission and values, and I’m pleased she’s being recognized for her efforts.”
Plimpton described how her DEI journey began, early in her law career. “I was working on a corporate client’s acquisition by one of the world’s largest and best-known companies. I was intrigued by the high-performing, diverse team of attorneys I was negotiating with, and I quickly realized that those attorneys were thriving not only because the team was diverse, but because of the diversity of thought, diversity of experience and diversity of background.”
When the acquisition was completed, Plimpton was approached by the buyer, General Electric, to join their in-house legal team. She jumped at the opportunity and spent 18 years at the company, where her DEI focus continued. At GE, she co-led a team that organized more than 10,000 mentoring groups globally. Plimpton also sponsored the Women’s Network for the legal department and for GE’s Energy business. She worked to build diverse teams to ensure that all voices were heard and opportunities for success were available to everyone.
DEI is a strategic priority at Regions and Tara’s work in this area has strengthened the Legal department and enhanced the work of our corporate DEI Center of Expertise.
John Turner, Regions President and CEO
Fast forward to 2020: Just a short time after joining Regions and moving to Birmingham, the murder of George Floyd rocked the country – and her new Legal team. Plimpton’s longer-term DEI strategy gained more urgency, and she began immediately having conversations and implementing several new DEI initiatives within the Legal department.
She worked with the department’s Culture & Equity team to launch a community engagement series, “Birmingham Stands Together,” to drive progress in DEI efforts across the greater community.
Under Plimpton’s leadership, the program’s first event gathered DEI leaders from across the Birmingham legal community to engage, share, ideas, and take steps to bring about progress in this vital area. More than 75 attendees participated, including law firm management and DEI leaders, corporate in-house counsel, and other company personnel charged with executing DEI initiatives.
Following the successful debut Plimpton hosted a second event, a panel discussion where she and co-host Andrew Nix, Chief Governance Officer and chair of the Legal department’s Culture & Equity team, engaged Alabama law school deans in a powerful conversation on the history of racism and the future of the talent pipeline in the profession.
The most recent gathering, held in June 2022, featured local and state bar association leaders in a discussion about how the organizations are contributing to diversity, equity and inclusion in the legal community.
“We can do more if we do it together,” Plimpton said. “Getting local legal leaders together will help all of us ensure our profession is taking steps to make meaningful progress toward a more diverse, equitable and inclusive environment.”
Additionally, Plimpton has prioritized community engagement, including overseeing programs that provide financial education to inmates at an Alabama women’s prison and building a playground for the Boys & Girls Club. The department has also launched an internship program in partnership with several firms for local diverse law students.
We in the Legal department are so fortunate to have a leader like Tara who has made diversity, equity and inclusion a priority area of focus.
Andrew Nix, Chief Governance Officer
Plimpton’s emphasis on DEI is also visible in her day-to-day management of the Legal team.
The Legal team is currently pursuing Mansfield Rule Legal Department certification, which is modeled after the Mansfield Rule for law firms, a well-known national movement to increase diversity in legal recruitment and promotion practices.
Staff meetings feature ongoing dialogue that includes exposure to diverse voices and an examination of the legal and workplace issues surrounding diversity. For example, they’ve re-examined historical civil rights cases and interviewed surviving parties and the filmmakers who covered them. Another example included a frank discussion on the LGBTQ+ advocacy landscape and best practices for supporting and serving the LGBTQ+ community.
“We in the Legal department are so fortunate to have a leader like Tara who has made diversity, equity and inclusion a priority area of focus,” said Andrew Nix, Chief Governance Officer and Chair of the Legal Department’s Culture & Equity Team. “The initiatives that she has introduced and supported are making a measurable difference within the department and beyond. We are very proud to see her honored with this award.”
Aside from her Legal department focus, Plimpton also serves as the executive sponsor for the Regions South Florida DEI Network and was recently involved with the first-ever Women of Regions Symposium, held during Women’s History Month this year.
“I am so excited that Tara is receiving this well-deserved recognition,” said Clara Green, head of DEI at Regions. “She demonstrates her commitment to this work through action. Tara also understands that to drive sustainable change in diversity, equity and inclusion, you must educate and partner with others.”
As a result of her efforts to promote and implement DEI programs and culture for the Regions Legal department, earlier this year Plimpton was selected by the Birmingham Business Journal as a winner in their Leader in Diversity awards.
The recognitions are great, but for Plimpton the urgency and need for change continue.
“Like other industries, the legal profession has seen a great deal of progress in its diversity, equity and inclusion efforts during recent years,” Plimpton said. “But there is still much work to be done.”