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Bridge Partners advice, key to assigning legal roles to diverse leaders

Firms such as Accion, Humane Society of the United States, Sierra Club and the Southern Poverty Law Center benefited from the arrival of outstanding talent.

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The minority-owned executive search firm focused on corporate inclusion recently announced major appointments of outstanding women in their respective fields, hires that champion the advancement of women and people of color at the highest levels of the legal profession.

Ryan Whitacre, Partner at Bridge Partners, stated:

The past two and a half years ushered in a swift and significant change in how people work and in how they value workplace culture.

The Ideal People For The Job

These are the chosen ones to take on these new and challenging roles:

Angela Ciccolo, Chief Legal Officer at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS); María Hermida, General Counsel of Accion; Erica McKinley, Chief Legal Officer of the Sierra Club; and Derwyn Bunton, Chief Legal Officer at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

“Younger generations want to bring their whole selves to work, and increasingly demand that their employer’s mission and vision align with their own. Add to this the changing social, economic and political landscapes, where women’s healthcare is now considered a job benefit and there’s an uptick in nonprofit unionization, and it all means organizations seek a very particular skill set in their legal executives. This rapidly changing world necessitates a new kind of leader, one who is flexible, embraces change, and has the emotional intelligence to foster an environment in which open and respectful conversations can occur among those with differing opinions. Angela, Maria, Erica, and Derwyn exemplify this new kind of leader,” added Whitacre.

New Challenges 

Angela Ciccolo joined HSUS in August, reporting to President and CEO Kitty Block. She is a member of the executive leadership team and serves as an advisor to officers and boards of directors. Most recently, Ciccolo was General Counsel and Secretary for Special Olympics International, where she also served as co-chair of the organization's Diversity and Inclusion Task Force.

María Hermida, who started with Accion in April, oversees all legal areas of the global nonprofit's work, spanning investments, partnerships and operations. Prior to that, she served as director of compliance for anti-bribery and corruption, legal, conduct risk, and regulatory remediation programs for the United Services Automobile Association (USAA). Previously, she was Citigroup's Global Ethics Director and General Counsel for Citigroup Women & Co., a multi-channel platform serving the financial planning needs of women.

Erica McKinley joined the Sierra Club in April as an advisor to the organization's executive director, board and staff, and is a member of the executive leadership team. She also served as General Counsel and Chief Legal Officer for the Big Ten Conference, where she was a key advisor to Commissioner Kevin Warren. Other positions include legal director of the University of Mississippi, Chief Operating Officer at the National Basketball Players Association, Associate General Counsel of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., and Chief of General Litigation and General Counsel for the D.C. Department of Human Resources.

Derwyn Bunton joins SPLC to lead the entire impact litigation strategy for the organization, serving as part of the executive leadership team while advising CEO Margaret Huang. Bunton will work from the SPLC office in New Orleans, where he has practiced since he graduated from law school. He most recently served as Chief District Defender for the Orleans Public Defenders (OPD), an organization he had led since 2009, following major statewide reforms in public defense and a comprehensive OPD reform after Katrina. Prior to OPD, Bunton served as Executive Director of Regional Juvenile Services, the first independent juvenile advocacy office in the U.S.

“Progress on DEI has been slow in GC/CLO roles, but we are excited to have partnered with these incredible organizations to increase DEI on their leadership teams. Placing four GC/CLOs of color, Ciccolo, Hermida, McKinley, and Bunton in the top legal positions at HSUS, Accion, Sierra Club, and SPLC respectively, with immediate impact on their executive teams, is something we are very proud of,” highlighted Debbie Tang, Partner at Bridge Partners. 

About Bridge Partners

Founded in 2003, Bridge Partners is an executive search firm led by a diverse team of women and leaders of color with extensive experience and credentials in senior leadership and recruiting.

With leadership experience on three continents and 15 countries, as well as a deep understanding of the multifaceted needs of its clients, it currently leads general counsel searches for two major philanthropic organizations: Wellspring Philanthropic Fund in New York, and Sequoia Climate Foundation in the West Coast.

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