When It Comes to Diversity, Clients Need to Put Their Money Where Their Mouths Are

Our recent annual conference included panel discussions with leaders from all sectors of the legal industry. One common theme that emerged throughout the day was that clients must help to drive diversity efforts in law firms. Speakers and panelists encouraged clients to “put their money where their mouths are” in demanding diverse teams and warned “if diversity is not a priority for the client, then it won’t be a priority for the firm.”

We all know that diverse teams are more valuable for their expanded creativity, their complex problem solving abilities, and the vast array of viewpoints they bring to the table. If diversity is a priority in your corporate legal department you’ve probably created an inclusive team that meets the needs of your corporation and reflects the diverse makeup of your customers. It’s now up to you to demand a diverse legal counsel team that also reflects the needs of your company.

Your first step in helping to ensure that you have a diverse team working for you is to survey your outside counsel and measure where they stand. Be up front with your counsel and let them know how you intend to use the results of the survey (that is, will the results of your survey be part of a decision to hire or fire a firm).

It’s important to ensure that your diversity survey includes questions about diversity and flexibility. Your survey should also include both quantitative and qualitative elements about the diversity of lawyers (race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.), the inclusiveness of the work environment, and the availability and usage of flexible work.

Once you have gathered your survey results you can cross reference the diversity and flexibility data with financial information on your account. This will allow you to determine whether women and other underrepresented lawyers have meaningful roles in your account.

Always involve both the partners who lead your account as well as the firm’s diversity director as both have a stake in ensuring that diverse teams are representing the firm’s clients. Also, make sure to share your results and analysis with both the partners and the diversity director. And finally, make sure that you are clear about your feedback and your expectations for how quickly you’d like to see progress on your team.

The Alliance can help you develop, implement, and analyze surveys, and provide guidance on creating an inclusive culture that leverages diversity and flexibility – contact us to learn more.