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For Jim Chosy, leading the U.S. Bank Law Division goes beyond serving his company. It also means setting a strong example in advocating for greater diversity, equity and inclusion within his department and in the broader legal profession.
As senior executive vice president and general counsel for U.S. Bank, Chosy manages the Law Division’s 265 professionals. Chosy has served in senior leadership roles at U.S. Bank for 15 years and has increased diversity expectations within the Law Division, with outside counsel firms and in the legal sector. Those efforts have won praise beyond U.S. Bank. Local, national and international organizations have recognized the Law Division’s initiatives to advance women and people of color who are legal and ethics professionals at U.S. Bank, provide legal counsel to low-income people and stand for equity and racial justice.
Last month, Chambers and Partners, a leading international legal research company based in London, featured the U.S. Bank Law Division in its diversity and inclusion North America report for 2021. The report provides best practices and actionable insights for legal professionals to create a more inclusive legal sector. Along with U.S. Bank, the report also featured organizations such as Toyota North America, CECO Environmental Corporation and Human Rights Watch. This followed the Law Division’s recognition in 2020 by the Financial Times’ Innovative Lawyers Awards for North America as a finalist in the In-house Legal Teams: Inclusion, Diversity and Social Justice category (with Apple, AB InBev, Honeywell, and IBM).
In June, Chosy received the National Legal Aid & Defender Association’s (NLADA) annual Exemplar award for his efforts to ensure that all people, regardless of their financial resources, have access to legal representation. This includes his work with Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid.
“Jim leads by example to advance racial equity in his work and community and uses his platform to secure real and enduring change,” said Jo-Ann Wallace, NLADA’s president and CEO. “It has been a pleasure getting to know Jim and U.S. Bank’s dedication and efforts towards justice and equity. We look forward to our continued partnership in furtherance of equal justice.”
Chosy’s co-recipient of this year’s Exemplar award was Jack Salzwedel, chairman and CEO of American Family Insurance, and a member of the U.S. Bank Advisory Board. Past recipients include leaders from Ford Motor Company, Merck & Co, The Coca-Cola Company and the Raytheon Company.
“As a lawyer, I can’t think of a more noble mission than fulfilling the promise of equal justice under the law,” said Chosy. “The needs are all around us, whether in civil legal aid for low-income people or child protection. We need more access, more diversity and more equity in the system. And the responsibility to make the necessary change falls upon all legal professionals. Even those of us working comfortably in law firms or corporate practice, and especially those of us in positions of leadership.”
A greater urgency to drive change
The U.S. Bank Law Division’s diversity and inclusion efforts took on greater urgency in 2020 after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the hometown of U.S. Bank. The company has since committed $116 million in investments and launched U.S. Bank Access Commitment to address economic and racial inequities, including the racial wealth gap.
For its part, the Law Division responded by launching a new Equity and Racial Justice Council, comprised of department members from across the country. The council is focused on standing against racism and fostering change in the department, the broader legal profession and in the communities that U.S. Bank serves.
A notable example of the council’s work is a volunteering opportunity with the Mapping Prejudice project at the University of Minnesota. Law Division members volunteered to map legacy racial covenants in Minneapolis property deeds. In the past, racial covenants prevented African-Americans from buying or occupying property in certain neighborhoods. While such covenants are unconstitutional and unenforceable today, they had a strong influence on how Minneapolis and other communities were established and developed over time.
Under Chosy’s leadership, the Law Division has also strengthened the bank’s pro bono efforts. U.S. Bank lawyers donated 1,400 hours to pro bono work in 2020, which translates to more than $650,000 in legal work for 26 organizations. This includes hosting training clinics to help lawyers assist pro bono clients in expunging misdemeanor criminal records so they can successfully apply for housing and employment opportunities. Members of the Law Division also partnered with the North Carolina Pro Bono Resource Center on a driver's license restoration project to provide relief to individuals with long-term license suspensions stemming from low-level traffic offenses.
Chosy has also led the Law Division in committing to the Mansfield Rule corporate legal department program. The initiative requires the Law Division to consider diverse candidates when hiring and promoting within the department, and when engaging outside counsel for new matters. Additionally, he continues to advocate for the U.S. Bank supplier diversity program by requiring outside counsel to meet diversity objectives and annually the Law Division recognizes one law firm with an “Invested in Diversity” award for its demonstrated commitment to diversity and inclusion.
“As long as I have this position of influence, I intend to do what I can to increase diversity,” Chosy said. “The U.S. Bank Law Division will continue to work with purpose to learn, grow, build community and foster change. There is much work to do.”
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