What does it mean for a law firm to be “diverse?” When can a law firm truly call itself “inclusive?” Several law firms and legal organizations have taken it upon themselves to answer these questions in recent years, but studies and anecdotal evidence show that there is still much work to be done.
For most law firms that have adopted diversity and inclusion policies, their efforts start with the hiring process. For many of these firms, their efforts end here as well. However, there is much more to diversity and inclusion than who your firm chooses to hire, and there are many more steps that law firms can – and perhaps should – be taking in order to broaden the legal community.
Law firms of all sizes can adopt diversity and inclusion initiatives that touch all aspects of their practices. When implemented effectively, not only can these initiatives serve the immediate purpose of promoting racial, ethnic and gender diversity, but they can improve the firm’s profitability as well. According to a recent article in the ABA Journal:
“The business case for diversity has already been made, proved by every study done on the subject, including seminal research by McKinsey & Co. that shows the correlation between ethnic and cultural diversity and profitability. Similarly, a study by market research house Acritas found that law firms with “very diverse teams” received a 25% greater share of legal spending than nondiverse teams.”
So, if you are ready to make your law firm more diverse and more inclusive, what should you do? Below are some examples of initiatives that firms are implementing currently.
While diversity in recruitment is a cornerstone of any comprehensive diversity and inclusion program, firms must also devote sufficient effort and resources to retaining their diverse attorneys at all levels
All associates should be offered the same clear path to partnership. Associates should be judged based on objective criteria, and it should be clear to associates and partners that all attorneys at the firm have the same opportunity to rise to the partnership level.
Many firms are holding seminars and other events focused on celebrating diversity and inclusion. Oftentimes, they will invite clients’ key stakeholders so that associates can make personal connections, and many firms are inviting notable speakers from diverse backgrounds as well.
Law firms should encourage their attorneys to be actively involved in external diversity and inclusion initiatives and organizations. This includes affinity groups and bar leadership programs.
A key aspect of promoting a diverse and inclusive law firm involves ensuring that all attorneys are aware of the firm’s efforts. Providing education and training on a firm-wide scale can help ensure that all attorneys are truly placed on equal footing.
These are just a handful of the numerous opportunities that exist for law firms to promote diversity and inclusion within their workforces. With the right approach, firms can improve themselves and earn more business while contributing to the growth of the legal community as a whole.