New Year, New Opportunity to Increase Diversity

New Year, New Opportunity to Increase Diversity

While many firms are considering how to improve their delivery service model in the new year, they should also consider improving the diversity among their partners. Promoting more women and people of color not only makes for a more richly diverse team but also it can positively affect the amount of business from the corporate world.

According to a Bloomberg report, despite half of all law school graduates being women, the top ranks of law firms remain “overwhelmingly white and male.” Specifically, women represent about 20 percent of firm partners and minorities make up only 8 percent.

Because of this, there has been a recent effort among corporate law departments to encourage their firms to promote more high-performing women and minority lawyers. In support of an American Bar Association resolution, they’re awarding more business to firms accordingly.

Bloomberg cites an example in which the president and general counsel of Microsoft Inc., Brad Smith, created a program in 2008 that awarded bonuses to their outside firms. The program was a success, raising the percentage of business awarded to women and minority lawyers from 34 to 48. Microsoft’s effort to increase diversity beginning in 2008 was internal, too, going from 48 to 58 percent of lawyers who are women or minorities. Increasing diversity on the legal team can improve the outcome for the client as well. As Smith said, “You need to have diverse legal teams to understand the way the world works, because the world is diverse.”

“You need to have diverse legal teams to understand the way the world works, because the world is diverse.”

But according to a Legal Executive Institute article, most gender diversity programs have accomplished “very little” significant change. For the authors, real progress lies in the organization taking three actions:

• specifying specific numerical goals
• providing meaningful financial incentives to achieve them
• adopting and enforcing a clear strategy for how that is to be done

The many recommendations to increase gender diversity include removing gender identification from all applications and resumes, issuing annual anonymous surveys about job satisfaction that include questions about inclusion, encourage junior-senior pairings that mix genders, annually verify that women and men have comparable experiences and include a significant amount of women on compensation committees.

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