Having high standards for your law firm’s equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) is easy. Achieving the results you’re hoping for is hard. There has been more lip service given to this topic than any other in the last decade by law firms and the company leaders who hire them. There is a lot of hand-wringing, and we see widespread frustration with firms’ ability to move the needle in measurable ways – and from buyers of legal services who believe their law firms aren’t trying hard enough.
I am an “expert” in EDI because I am the CEO of Content Pilot, a marketing strategy, design, content and technology company, who wants our office to be highly diverse.
Here’s how our numbers stack up:
And our age diversity is covered – from baby boomers to millennials.
New clients have told us that one of the reasons they hired Content Pilot is because we are so diverse. That’s terrific feedback and it inspires us to work even harder to find the best people that will help us excel – our goal is to create the most high-functioning and creative workforce possible.
Does EDI matter in the hiring of law firms?
With all other qualifications perceived as being equal, does the scale tip to a more diverse law firm by the clients making hiring decisions? As an outside observer, I’d say yes – but it does depend on the person(s) in the company who is making the decision.
Leigh Dance, President of ELD International, works with top corporate counsel around the world and runs a group called the Global Counsel Leaders Circle. We asked her the value of content about a firm’s EDI efforts in proposals and RFPs. Leigh says, “Know your buyer. Buyers from any minority group in the US, including all ethnic groups, LGBTQ and those with disabilities will care more specifically about your diversity & inclusion efforts as they make their buying decisions. They’ll want to know your numbers and how you plan to assemble a high-functioning, inclusive team to interact with them and serve them.”
She continues, “In presenting your approach to D&I, the gender, race and cultural diversity numbers/metrics should NOT be presented in a body of text (unless you’re trying to hide them), but very visibly.
“Aspirational goals also count—check out Eversheds Sutherland’s commitment to reach equality by a certain year. And Accenture and Coca-Cola both have goals in reaching gender-pay parity by a specified year.
“Be succinct and prove that your firm is really walking the talk. ‘Blah-blah’ about diversity and inclusion sounds like ‘Blah-blah’ to most buyers and just takes up space. Today (and I think this will change over time) buyers that are not from a minority group may be interested in a particular firm’s and lawyer’s activities to increase diversity, inclusion, doing pro bono, supporting human rights, etc., from a perspective of social interaction and knowing their advisers’ interests.
“But that doesn’t enter into their decision-making on what lawyers/firms they ultimately choose, unless the company or legal department has a specific standard on gender-parity and diversity numbers, and then it’s just a matter of reaching the required threshold.”
We know that law firms of all sizes are investing in improving their diversity numbers. But “equity” and “inclusion” are not getting as much attention. It requires honesty, transparency and a broader vision of what a reimagined firm could look like.
That’s what we did.