Our Civil Rights & Racial Equity Assessments team is experienced in conducting both public-facing civil rights and racial equity assessments and internal, privileged assessments for publicly traded and privately held companies, as well as non-profit institutions and governmental entities. Our clients trust us to guide them through sensitive matters and business environments in a way that prioritizes and enhances their progress with respect to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within their business model.
Evidence Based. Applying our project management skills, we manage quantitative and qualitative data review, prepare detailed and comprehensive reporting, manage tight timetables, generate achievable recommendations and communicate with key stakeholders ranging from shareholder funds, board representatives, senior managers and general counsels in a pragmatic manner.
Independent. We approach our civil rights and racial equity engagements through an independent, evidence based, investigatory framework. The leadership of this practice includes diverse practitioners who have, over decades, devoted themselves to the study and practice of internal investigations. (Two of the senior team members have served as instructors on the topic of investigations at Duke University School of Law and Wake Forest University School of Law.) The result is a team that is results-oriented, and focused on delivering feedback that can be operationalized by the clients that we serve.
This independent, investigatory approach is different from a prosecutorial mindset. Our team is thorough and persistent in our pursuit of the facts. But we do not approach these matters and our client’s employees from an adversarial perspective. In additional to our years of experience working with clients, our team is aided by lawyers with decades of in-house experience that know how to provide clients with recommendations in a manner than can be executed.
Longstanding Values. Our practice is led by Valecia McDowell, an attorney who has dedicated a significant portion of her career to civil rights and racial equity issues. She has been frequently recognized for this work, having been named both Charlotte Woman of the Year and a North Carolina Woman of Justice in recent years. In addition, she is a past recipient of the Julius L. Chambers Diversity Champion Award and has also been recognized for excellence in the law by Chambers USA and Best Lawyers. The balance of our team shares the same commitment to justice and equity. Among us are: a Henry Luce Foundation Scholar, who assisted the Malaysian Bar Foundation in implementing its Domestic Violence Act (Josh Lanning), a recipient of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund Award of Excellence (Ed O'Keefe), and a founding member of the National Survivor Law Collective, working closely with the United Nation's Finance Against Slavery and Trafficking ("FAST") Initiative (Sarah Byrne). Two-thirds of the team is diverse based on race, gender or both. The team also consists of multiple members of the firm’s Diversity Committee.
Client Praise for the Civil Rights & Racial Equity Assessments Practice and Leadership
“It goes without question that Valecia is an incredibly bright, creative and steadfast lawyer. And her contributions to the community embody what it means to be an attorney who is a social engineer, using her legal skills and compassions for the betterment of all of us.”
- Kenneth Imo, Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion, Adobe Inc., and Author of “Fix It: How History, Sports and Education Can Inform Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Today”
"Undertaking a Board-led racial equity audit is a key to holding companies accountable to their racial equity pledges. It is critically important that such audits be conducted with unfettered independence, objectivity and expertise. The team at MVA, led by partner Valecia McDowell, is setting the standard for excellence in this critically important work. Beyond the table stakes of thoroughness, depth and efficiency, this team brings a passion for this work that is driven by life experiences and deep commitment to equity. I would highly recommend them to others that have a sincere commitment to this work. "
- Anne Mariucci, Board Member for CoreCivic
Media coverage highlighting the firm’s Civil Rights & Racial Equity practice include:
Firm formally names civil rights, racial equity practice, North Carolina Lawyers Weekly, November 2022
Moore & Van Allen Formally Names its Civil Rights & Racial Equity Assessments Practice, Attorney At Law Magazine, November 2022
Moore & Van Allen Formally Names Its Civil Rights & Racial Equity Assessments Practice, citybiz, November 2022
Racial Equity Audits
- Conducted a racial equity audit on behalf of CoreCivic, the nation’s largest private owner of correctional, detention, and residential reentry facilities, in response to a shareholder fund demand. In conducting the audit, MVA analyzed CoreCivic’s impacts on nonwhite residents, their families, CoreCivic employees, and local communities, and generated a public audit report. The report details MVA’s findings, as well as our recommendations to enhance CoreCivic’s current practices and improve outcomes for CoreCivic’s stakeholders of color. Click here for more information on this engagement
- Conducting a racial equity audit of the policies, practices, operations, and initiatives of a municipality
InternaI, Privileged Civil Rights Assessments
- Conducting an enterprise-wide internal, privileged civil rights assessment for a Fortune 50 company
- Evaluating health equity impacts on a Fortune 50 company’s employee base in conjunction with an international consultancy
- Conducting an internal, privileged assessment of race-based complaint management policies and procedures on behalf of the DEI Committee of a publicly traded company’s Board of Directors
Other Relevant Engagements
- Advising a municipality in connection with potential investigations into the death-in-custody of a Black resident
- Conducting an enterprise-wide review of conduct management practices for a national bank, including manual risk-based assessments of more than 2400 individual conduct allegations, (including those relating to discrimination and harassment) and reporting findings, trends, and recommendations to key internal stakeholders and relevant regulators
- Presiding over evidentiary hearings and issuing findings of fact and conclusions of law in amotion proceedings to remove an elected official from office. See James v. City of Monroe, No. 3:22-cv-00178-RJC-DSC, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 142176, at *1 (W.D.N.C. Aug. 10, 2022)
- Valecia McDowell and Elena Mitchell Quoted in SHRM Article: “Equity Audits Address Racism in the Workplace”08.2022
- Valecia McDowell, Chassity Bobbitt, and Jonathan Gilmartin author Westlaw article: Diversity culture clashes: the desire for and backlash to DEI audits and interventions02.2023
- Valecia McDowell and Elena Mitchell’s article published by Bloomberg Law: Racial Equity Audits: The New ESG Frontier04.2022