James L. Lipscomb ’72

Advocate for Inclusion

Winter 2010

In the early 1970s, the relatively new Black Law Students Association (BLSA)
asked to be included in discussions to hire Columbia Law School’s first
tenure-track African-American professor. After the hiring took place without
consultation, the task of expressing BLSA’s dismay fell to association president
James L. Lipscomb ’72

“While praising the selection of Professor [Kellis] Parker, we expressed disappointment about being excluded from the process,” says Lipscomb. “I believe I did that with some spirit.”

Lipscomb has continued to exercise that spirit during his 37-year career with insurance giant MetLife, a company he joined as an attorney after graduation. He currently serves as executive vice president and general counsel, though he has played a variety of roles over the years. As CEO and president of then-subsidiary Conning
Corporation from 2000 to 2001, Lipscomb was responsible for highly regulated investment activities.

“I did not act as my own attorney, but I did give my in-house lawyers quite a rough time as a client,” he says.

Lipscomb believes in allowing employees to create their own work environment. He is proud of the fact that, at MetLife, the employees prefer to have an “inclusive” office atmosphere as a way to recognize the many dimensions of diversity. For instance, the employees initiated ethnic food tastings—an endeavor that has resulted in a law department recipe book. Another program engages presidents of diverse bar associations in discussions that have been effective in helping MetLife attract people of color, says Lipscomb.

“The initiatives are employee-driven,” he adds. “My job is to foster an environment for them to move forward.”