The difficult topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion have been included in conversations at Firm Forward for years. However, in light of recent events throughout the United States, and the world, we want to bring this topic back again to the forefront, even if some may find it uncomfortable or challenging. Our position at Firm Forward is that Black Lives Matter and that the conversations regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion for law firms must continue to be at the forefront in order for change to occur.
Key Events in the Legal Industry
There are some key events in the legal industry that have pivoted the conversation regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion in drastic ways in the recent year. These two examples represent only a small sampling of what the business community in the United States as a whole is moving towards.
Paul, Weiss Case
Last year, the well-known litigation firm Paul, Weiss announced its partnership class. Out of the 12 new members, all were white, and 11 were men. This law firm had DEI policies in place. The backlash was immediate and resulted in over 200 general counsels writing an open letter saying that they would commit to only working with law firms that showcase and operate with minimum diversity standards. The hope was that this would send a clear message that diversity, equity, and inclusion must occur at the highest levels of law firms.
The company, Intel made the dramatic move to directly tie spend at law firms with their minimum diversity standards. As of January 2021, Intel will require law firms they work with to meet these standards or they will simply drop them as a legal partner. This may mean that Intel may stop working with several of their law firm partners. The two requirements regarding minimum diversity standards included the following: (1) 21% of the United States equity partners were female, and (2) that 10% of the equity partners must be from underrepresented minority groups. While you may not partner with Intel directly, this is clearly a bellwether statement that many other companies are expected to adopt throughout the United States in the near future.
What You Should Do If You Want To Address Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Your Law Firm
You may feel overwhelmed and unsure of your next steps even if you do believe you want to make a commitment to address diversity, equity, and inclusion in your law firm. There are several different steps you can take to immediately to address these issues within your law firm listed below.
Make a Statement
If you are a law firm that wants to make a stand regarding the topic of diversity, equity, and inclusion, the first step is to make a statement. Making an open statement either on your law firm’s website or in a press release can be a powerful way for you to showcase your commitment to this issue. Putting out this commitment publicly does not take much effort, but can be the stepping stone to which true change occurs within your law firm.
Promote Open Communications
Promoting open communications also does not cost any money, but can provide an opportunity for you to start down the path of better diversity, equity, and inclusion within your law firm. Make sure that everyone has an opportunity to have their opinion heard (even if they are not equity partners) regarding business development, firm management, human resources, and operational issues can work towards the law firm making decisions that incorporate more inclusivity in the future. Simply inviting everyone to the conversation regarding the current status of your law firm can help you understand better where you need to go in the near and distant future.
There is a lot of material available for free that specifically addresses legal issues and law firms regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion. Simply learning and reading about these complex and challenging issues can help law firms make better decisions regarding their practices involving diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Minority Bar Associations in the United States
Minority Bar Associations in the United States are a wealth of opportunity and information. They can provide free resources, but also provide a pool of exceptional candidates for employment or even as a keynote speaker to your law firm. Minority Bar Associations welcome the opportunity to visit with law firms to help minorities succeed and excel in the legal industry.
Reach Out to Younger Generations Financially
Consider taking the time to develop a scholarship or award from your law firm for the younger generation that would benefit from your financial support. Being involved in minority education at a very young age fosters paths for these students to enter law or STEM fields and be incorporated into these traditionally non-diverse paths from a young age.
Make a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Policy for Your Law Firm
Make a diversity, equity, and inclusion policy and plan and policy for your law firm. Having this type of policy is crucial for your success in the long term. Understand that this commitment is being made by other companies and law firms, and it is important that your law firm joins this movement. Many law firms have lost clients as a result of not having this type of diversity, equity, and inclusion policy. Even if one of your clients has been partnered with you for years or decades, they may be moving in the direction of placing a greater emphasis of only working with companies or law firms that have also committed to these types of diversity, equity, and inclusion programs or plans.
Contact Firm Forward
If you are interested in how best to create diversity, equity, and inclusion in your law firm, we would be excited to visit with you. Take the time to consider the steps and suggestions above, and contact Firm Forward today. We are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion across the board, and would welcome any opportunity to visit with you about how we can help you move in this same direction with your law firm.