Joseph K. West is a partner in Duane Morris’ Trial Practice Group and a member of the firm’s Partners Board. He is also the firm’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. Mr. West practices in the area of complex litigation, handling a variety of matters including, but not limited to, class actions, insurance litigation, commercial litigation, zoning and land use, catastrophic injury, products liability, and labor and employment. He advises domestic and global companies on a wide array of legal issues, and also represents, trains and advises numerous associations and companies, including publically traded companies, their boards and CEOs, on issues related to diversity and inclusion and the compliance, risk management and corporate strategies associated with these issues. He helped establish and manage the first of its kind law firm diversity and inclusion consulting practice at Duane Morris, which has been cited for its innovative approach to crafting sustainable diversity and inclusion programs and solutions for corporate entities. His clients range from startups to Fortune 500 companies and currently include the Dubai-based Al Ahli Holding Group, Mercedes Benz-USA, Altria, Discover Financial Services, Inc. and Jabil Circuit, Inc.
Mr. West has over 30 years of legal experience, having spent more than 25 years in litigation and advisory roles both in-house and in law firms and almost five years focused on diversity and inclusion within the legal profession as President and CEO of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA). His litigation and advisory experience spans various practice areas including commercial litigation, utilities and telecommunications regulatory matters, catastrophic injury/death, product liability, environmental and toxic tort, transportation, zoning and land use, civil rights, labor and employment, and entertainment law. He has tried as first chair counsel over 150 matters to verdict by trial before state and federal courts or decisions by arbitration. Mr. West is also an award-winning, nationally recognized subject matter authority in the field of diversity and inclusion, having lectured and written extensively on diversity and inclusion issues impacting businesses and the legal profession. He currently lectures at the George Mason Antonin Scalia School of Law on corporate leadership and diversity and was retained by the school to develop the first of its kind curriculum on corporate diversity and inclusion. Mr. West has served in quasi-judicial, government roles as an appointed member, and later chairperson, of the Orleans Parish Alcoholic Beverage Control Board in Louisiana (appointment by the New Orleans City Council) and appointed chair of the Louisiana State Board Museum Board (appointment by then-Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco and confirmation by the Louisiana Senate).
Prior to joining Duane Morris’ Trial Practice Group, Mr. West was Associate General Counsel – Head of Global Outside Counsel Management at Walmart Stores Inc., where he was responsible for managing the company’s relationships with all of its outside counsel worldwide, including oversight of over 600 law firms and a budget of over $300 million. He was also a member of Walmart’s Class Action/Complex Litigation Group, where he helped manage and develop litigation strategies for several groundbreaking matters, including the largest class action matter in U.S. history. Before joining Walmart, he served as Assistant General Counsel in the Litigation Group of Entergy Corporation, an integrated energy and current Fortune 500 company. There, he served as lead trial counsel on a number of high-profile jury and bench trials, appellate arguments and arbitrations on behalf of the company. Prior to Entergy, Mr. West spent over 13 years as a litigator and partner in law firms in Louisiana, representing clients in state and federal courts and in arbitration and mediation.
Mr. West developed his extensive knowledge in diversity and inclusion matters over his many years in legal practice and in service to the legal community. At Walmart, Mr. West successfully leveraged his role as Head of Global Outside Counsel Management to establish and meet the company’s diversity and inclusion goals through its outside counsel spend, for which he is recognized as being at the forefront of the business case for diversity, and to facilitate the company’s role as an initial signatory to the Inclusion Initiative with the National Association of Minority & Women Owned Law Firms. As President and CEO of MCCA, he tripled membership in the national advocacy group for corporate diversity and inclusion issues, and created programs focused on expanding opportunities for minority lawyers and women in corporate law departments and within member firms, enhancing legal skills for corporate lawyers and facilitating business development opportunities for corporate lawyers.
Mr. West was elected and currently serves on the board of directors of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. He currently serves as a member of the Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar, which oversees the accreditation of the nation’s law schools. He served on the ABA Commission on Diversity and Inclusion 360 via appointment by then-ABA President Paulette Brown. He was a member of the ABA Task Force on the Financing of Legal Education, and has served on the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession. Mr. West was also a member of the Association of Corporate Counsel’s ACC Value Challenge Steering Committee and has served on the Arts Council of New Orleans and the Walton Arts Center Corporate Leadership Council.
Mr. West was awarded the Diversity Collaboration Award in 2016 by the JTB Pipeline Organization, the Beacon Diversity Award in 2014 by the Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association, the Louis L. Redding Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014 by the Delaware Barristers Association, and the 2014 Minority Business Leader Award by the Washington Business Journal. Each year since 2013, he has been named to the Power 100 list of the nation’s most influential minority attorneys by Lawyers of Color, Inc. Mr. West was named a CUP Catalyst by the Council of Urban Professionals in its 2012 inaugural list and in 2010 he was named In-House Counsel of the Year by the National Bar Association. His contributions beyond the legal community were recognized by ABC and NBC for the personal care he extended to patients stranded at Methodist Hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana, during and after Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the city of New Orleans in 2005.
Mr. West is a graduate of Tulane Law School, where he formerly served as Adjunct Professor of Trial Advocacy. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Southern University.
- Class Action - DUKES V. WALMART – In-house counsel at Walmart Stores, Inc. co-managing this matter, which was the largest class action matter of any kind in U.S. history. As Associate General Counsel for Class Actions/Complex Litigation, provided guidance and input on trial and appellate strategy, assisted in managing the amicus brief process before the U.S. Supreme Court and oversaw post Supreme Court of the United States strategy for “mini-Dukes” state court litigation in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to deny class certification.
- Environmental and Toxic Tort Litigation - GREFER V. ITCO, ET AL. – Lead counsel for Entergy subsidiary, System Fuels Inc. (“SFI”), as a co-defendant of Exxon Mobil in a series of cases stemming from an oilfield equipment cleaning operation in Jefferson Parish Louisiana. Approximately a dozen other cases were spawned from this matter that involved Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials. In the original Grefer case, the plaintiffs were awarded a judgment against Exxon Mobil in the amount of $1.06 billion. Of the numerous defendants in the matter, only one, SFI, paid zero.
- Product Liability Litigation - HANSEL V. TAKATA INC. – Lead counsel for Takata Inc., Takata Restraints, Inc. and Takata Corporation in a very highly publicized case that became the subject of a book and film entitled “Chappaquiddick on the Bayou”. The case involved the death of a 25- year-old student, Shelly Hansel, in a vehicle that was driven into Bayou St. John by Dr. Chris Nabors, who escaped from the submerged vehicle through the sunroof and failed to inform rescue workers that the Hansel remained in the vehicle. The Hansel family sued multiple defendants including various Takata entities, alleging as to Takata that the restraint system in the Eagle Talon was defective and failed to release in a manner to allow Hansel to also escape the vehicle. After years of extensive discovery, motion practice, two mediations and several pre-trial conferences, a dismissal via Motion to Dismiss was obtained for Takata.
- Catastrophic Injury/Death Litigation - JOHN GODFREY V. ENTERGY OF LOUISIANA – Lead counsel for Entergy of Louisiana wherein plaintiff was one of four occupants in a vehicle who all suffered severe injuries as a result of a collision with a utility pole. One individual died in the crash, two others suffered debilitating head and neck injuries and named plaintiff John Godfrey was left a quadriplegic. Having taken over the matter after it had been previously tried to a mistrial, additional discovery was conducted and a zero verdict was obtained for Entergy of Louisiana.
- Transportation Litigation - CRUZ V. DERBYSHIRE AND LOUISIANA DOTD – Lead counsel for Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development in this death case that involved the allegation that poor highway design of a state road in St. Bernard Parish Louisiana contributed to the plaintiff’s death. A dismissal via directed verdict was obtained for Louisiana DOTD and the appeal of this matter was successfully argued before the Louisiana Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
- Labor and Employment - POST-KATRINA LABOR GRIEVANCES – Lead counsel for Entergy of Louisiana in litigation stemming from losses sustained by the company to its infrastructure during 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, which resulted in labor grievances. The labor grievances were presented before arbitration panels in New York State, Vermont, Massachusetts, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. The issues litigated mainly arose from alleged violations of the various applicable Collective Bargaining Agreements and ranged from donning and doffing issues, to emergency deployment restoration working conditions, to violations of plant security procedures. Approximately 30 matters were resolved by arbitration or negotiated settlement within an eighteen month period.
- Civil Rights Litigation - UNITED STATES V. STATE OF LOUISIANA – Between 1991 and 1994, served as lead counsel for the State of Louisiana’s two HBCUs in the nation’s then longest running school desegregation lawsuit. Other parties included the U. S. Department of Justice, the Louisiana State Board of Education, the Office of the Governor and the boards of trustees of the state’s other institutions of higher learning. Obtained a negotiated settlement that included $117 million in new funding for Southern University and Grambling State University; the elimination of duplicate programs at Southern and LSU, which duplication was having the impact of perpetuating a “separate but equal” system at the university level, and the creation of the state’s community college system to provide an opportunity for students from disadvantaged backgrounds to enter the college system when they might otherwise not have that chance. The settlement was lauded as groundbreaking and received media coverage.
- Entertainment Law - LOU DUVA AND LOU DUVA BOXING, INC. – Lead counsel for boxing promoter Lou Duva in a dispute with an ex-manager of one of his fighters, Alex Bunema, who had enjoined a fight that was to take place on the same day as a result of a fee dispute. Successfully obtained emergency injunctive relief on behalf of Duva after being retained, researching the case, interviewing clients and witnesses, obtaining the requisite affidavits, preparing and filing the Temporary Restraining Order and arguing the injunction all within an 8-hour period.
- Utilities Regulatory - LOUISIANA OVERHEAD POWERLINES SAFETY ACT – Litigated the first matter to be brought pursuant to this law that requires persons working within ten feet of overhead power lines to undertake certain notification steps prior to commencing work. Obtained a favorable ruling as lead counsel on behalf of a public utility, which was upheld on appeal.
- Telecommunications Regulatory– NEW ORLEANS TELECOMMUNICATIONS ORDINANCE OF 1996 – Drafted and argued for passage of this ordinance, which was the nation’s first of its kind city ordinance modeled on the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
- U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana
- U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana
- U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana
District of Columbia bar admission pending.
- Tulane Law School, J.D., 1986
- Southern University, B.A., 1983
Duane Morris LLP
- Partner, Member of Partners Board and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, 2016-present
George Mason Antonin Scalia School of Law
- Lecturer, Corporate Leadership and Diversity, 2016-present
Minority Corporate Counsel Association
- President & CEO, 2011-2015
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
- Associate General Counsel, 2007-2011
- Assistant General Counsel – Litigation, 2004-2007
- Senior Counsel – Litigation, 1999-2004
Tulane Law School
- Adjunct Professor of Trial Advocacy, 2002-2006
Matchett, Verbois, Futrell & Henchy
- Managing Partner of New Orleans, LA Office; Head Litigation Partner, 1996-1999
Wilkerson & Henry
- Partner, 1995-1996
Bryan, Jupiter, Lewis & Blanson
- Partner, 1991-1995
Carter & Cates
- Associate, 1986-1991
American Bar Association (ABA)
- Council on Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar, 2016-present
- Commission on Diversity and Inclusion 360 (appointed by ABA President), 2015-2016
- Task Force on the Financing of Legal Education, 2014-2015
- Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession (appointed by ABA President), 2010-2012
- Spirit of Excellence Selection Committee, 2010-2012
Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC)
- Member of ACC Value Challenge Steering Committee, 2009-2011
National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms
- Advisory Council Member, 2009-present
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
- Member of Board of Directors, 2017-present
Louisiana State Museum Board
- Chair (appointed by Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco and confirmed by Louisiana Senate), 2002-2006
Orleans Parish Alcoholic Beverage Control Board
- Member; Chairperson (appointed by New Orleans City Council), 1988-1996
Honors and Awards
Diversity Collaboration Award, JTB Pipeline Organization, 2016
Beacon Diversity Award, Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association, 2014
Louis L. Redding Lifetime Achievement Award, Delaware Barristers Association, 2014
Minority Business Leader Award, Washington Business Journal, 2014
Power 100 list of the nation’s most influential minority attorneys, Lawyers of Color, Inc., 2013-present
CUP Catalyst, Council of Urban Professionals, 2012
In-House Counsel of the Year, National Bar Association, 2010
- AV Preeminent® Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell®
Civic and Charitable Activities
- Walton Arts Center Corporate Leadership Council, 2009-2011
Arts Council of New Orleans, 2003-2005
- Featured in "Diversity Report," The Legal Intelligencer, June 2017
- Author, "Perspective: What We Can Learn From NCAA Diversity," Bloomberg BNA Big Law Business, April 6, 2016
- Featured in "Meet #Superman Joseph K. West," Ms. JD, February 18, 2016
- Featured in "All Inclusive: MCC Interview With Joe West," Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, January 2016
- Featured in "MCCA CEO to Lead Duane Morris' Diversity Initiatives," The Legal Intelligencer, November 5, 2015
Selected Speaking Engagements
Speaker, "Embracing Diversity and Inclusion & Improving the Practice of Health Law," CBA Health Law Committee Meeting Presentation, Chicago, November 30, 2017
- Keynote Speaker, "Implicit Bias," Florida Bar Symposium Plenary Session, November 10, 2017
- Keynote Speaker, "Diversity & Inclusion-2022; Five Future trends for the Next 5 Years," ALA Philadelphia Managing Partners Luncheon, November 9, 2017
- Presenter, "Embracing Diversity & Inclusion & Improving the Practice of Health Law," Illinois Association of Health Care Attorneys Annual Meeting, November 2, 2017
- Speaker, "Legends Breakfast with Bill Duke (Film Legend)," 37th Annual Conference of the Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association, Montego Bay, Jamaica, October 26, 2017
- Speaker, "Implicit Bias," The Florida Bar Standing Committee on Diversity and Inclusion "Path to Inclusion" Symposium, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, November 10, 2017
- Panelist, "Career Tools: Integrating Mentoring, Sponsorship, Coaching, and Networking for Maximum Effect," National Conference of Women's Bar Associations Leadership Summit, New York City, August 11, 2017
- Moderator, National Bar Association 92nd Annual Convention & Exhibits, Toronto, Canada, August 2, 2017
- Keynote speaker, "Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace," Michigan Community Action Conference, Thompson, MI, July 11, 2017
- Panelist, "Implicit Bias in the Courtroom and ABA Resolution on Diversity in Law Forms and Corporations," University of Baltimore School of Law, March 29, 2017
- Presenter, "Implicit Bias," Duane Morris LLP, Los Angeles, January 27, 2017
- Speaker, "Expectations of Corporate Clients - Is ABA Prop 113 a Tipping Point?" International Association of Defense Counsel (IADC), November 29, 2016
- Moderator, "Beauty Contests: Capturing the Crown," 2016 ABA Section of Litigation Professional Success Summit, Atlanta, Georgia, November 15, 2016
- Keynote Speaker, Washington Bar Association's Law Day Dinner, Washington, D.C. May 8, 2016
- Panelist, "Diversity & Inclusion: Your Clients Care and This Is Why You Should Too!," 2016 ABA Business Law Section Spring Meeting, Montreal, April 9, 2016
- Panelist, "A Bridge to 21st Century Leadership and Beyond! The Making of a Diverse and Inclusive Leader," Association of Legal Administrators Webinar, New York City (Streamed Online), March 22, 2016
- Keynote Speaker, DRI Toxic Tort and Environmental Law Conference, New Orleans, Louisiana, March 17, 2016
- Panelist, "Law School Rankings and Ensuring a Diverse Attorney Workforce: Is It Just Lip Service?," ABA Midwinter Meeting of the Employment Rights and Responsibilities Committee, New Orleans, Louisiana, March 16, 2016