The old excuse, still heard in many law firms around the word, that "diversity is not a priority for our clients or our firm" is not only misinformed, but in some cases could be a formula for long-range failure.
A recent article in the Global Legal Press, about the decision by BASF to require greater diversity in its panel law firms, reminds us that diversity in law firm staffing is becoming a significant consideration in the selection decisions by major international corporations, as well as smaller start-up businesses. Although the extent and depth of diversity as a firm-selection criterion varies across the world, law firms can no longer pretend that "all that diversity stuff does not really apply to us."
Moreover, sophisticated purchasers of legal services are not fooled by raw statistics or affirmations on a law firm's website. Increasingly they are demanding evidence of diversity in action, not just aspirations or commitments.
The ABA Journal also reported yesterday that law firm leaders in U.S. law firms are still "mostly white and male." The article references a comprehensive study conducted in 2020, among 287 law firms with more than 100,000 lawyers, that demonstrated a grossly disproportionate percentage of white men in leadership positions. What is happening to the non-white and female lawyers? Why are they not progressing to senior leadership positions? See the 2021 Model Diversity Survey, conducted by the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession.
Law firm leaders need to ask why --- at least the classic "five times" -- to discover the subtle and often unnoticed factors in law firm career management and succession planning that might account for the failiure of so many law firms to implement well-intentioned commitments and aspirations. Even the best-intentioned "commitment to diversity" will be little more than a slogan if it is not supported by a reliable management and succession planning infrastructure.
Walker Clark LLC can help any firm, of any size or practice specialty anywhere in the world, to conduct a highly cost-effective self-assessment that looks honestly at your career development policies and practices, detects things that you and your colleagues have overlooked, and identifies ways to make a more persuasive, verifiable case about your commitment to equal opportunity for all -- not only to your colleagues but also to your clients.
Make this investment. The future of your law firm could be at stake.