The Power of Accountability to Achieve Diversity and Inclusion

By on October 19, 2017

Executive Summary of an article written by
Christopher A. Pickett, Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale

Large law firms are the least diverse sector of the legal industry. Diverse teams have been shown to outperform those that are homogeneous, but law firms consistently fail to implement policies or practices that promote it. Law firms, unlike large companies, are not held accountable by shareholders, board members and the public.

Legal departments are now beginning to hold law firms accountable for their lack of diversity, and it’s that accountability and pressure that may ultimately have a positive impact. Some companies have begun reducing fees if law firms did not meet certain diversity metrics, others offer fee bonuses if firms meet certain diversity metrics. These are excellent first steps, but there are additional steps companies can take.

Require that for new work credit, allocation will not be focused entirely on the lawyer responsible for the first engagement, but will also include lawyers working on the file. Require that an attorney of color or a woman not only works on a file, but also is included on communications with the client. Identify attorneys of color or female attorneys and offer them secundments to increase their visibility within the company and enlarge their role within the firm. If the legal industry is going to see real positive change, accountability must be driven by the clients. If companies identify real goals, ask real questions, and seek real change, law firms and the legal industry will finally change for the better.

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