An article in the on-line edition of The Lawyer on 1 April 2014 paints a disappointing picture of the extent to which women have been able to move up into the senior ranks of partners at leading U.S. law firms in London. From figures compiled in 2013, only four firms -- Bingham McCutcheon, Kirkland & Ellis, Ropes & Gray, and Morgan Lewis -- had more than 25% or more female partners in their London offices.  Two otherwise well-regarded U.S. firms -- Simpson Thacher (15 total partners in London) and Davis Polk (9 partners) -- had none at all.

Although the reasons for this poor showing vary from firm to firm, the bottom line is that these firms -- like so many others in the United States and elsewhere -- continue to ignore the importance of diversity to the business success of their organizations, and a few apparent antediluvians in the legal profession continue to dismiss diversity as irrelevant.

In so doing, these firms are overlooking an important strategic asset.

Perhaps Sallie Krawcheck will change their thinking on this.

The simple truth is that diverse organizations -- whether they are widget manufacturers or law firms -- do better.

Ms Krawcheck is the former president of the global wealth and investment management division of Bank of America, and was regarded one of the most influential women in banking. Recently, Krawcheck purchased the global women's network 85 Broads.

In an interview with Wharton management professor Adam M. Grant, Krawcheck speaks about the "subtle, well-meaning biases" against women, how they can be overcome and why diverse leadership at the top is critical for "higher returns, lower volatility, lower risk, more client-focus and more innovation."

This should not come as startling news. Our research and observation of the professional, financial, and overall business performance of law firms over the past 18 years clearly confirms that law firms that work at having a diverse partnership -- whether defined by gender, ethnicity, nationality, personality preferences, or intellectual orientations -- or hopefully all of them -- identify and evaluate risks and opportunities better, and implement strategies, tactics, and other business decisions with much stronger, sustainable resutls.

Click here to view the interview and read the transcript.

Click here for more information about Walker Clark strategic services to law firms.

Norman Clark