This article explains the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion and how you can implement them at your law firm.
Diversity is the practice of including people from various social and ethnic backgrounds as well as people of different genders, sexual orientations, etc. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are three pillars every law firm should operate by. Equity is about fairness and providing equal opportunities. Inclusion is the idea of fostering an inviting environment where all employees are able to connect and contribute.
The legal industry has a long way to go when it comes to diversity. In 2022 a study was published by ABA stating that while the lawyer population is up 6.6% over the past ten years, the number of black lawyers remains the same. On a more positive note, the study did indicate an increase in women in the legal industry, they made up only 33% of lawyers in 2012 and now make up 38%.
Over the past ten years, the percentage of lawyers who are Asian increased from 2 to 5 percent, and the percentage of lawyers who are Hispanic increased from 3 to 6%. This shows a slow but steady increase in diversity, but it’s certainly not great.
While women are increasingly entering the legal field, there is a 5:1 ratio of men to women who end up partners in a legal firm. This is likely because women are more likely to adjust their careers around kids than men are. If a woman takes even a few years off to raise her kids, this puts her behind her male counterparts in terms of career advancement.
The legal profession needs more leaders who care about diversity to begin establishing an inclusive culture. Recent studies show that 85% CEOs with a diverse team saw an increase in profits.
Another study indicated that the decision-making from a diverse team outperforms that of an individual 87% of the time. Diverse talents allow for increased creativity and innovation. Inclusive companies are 1.7x more innovative than their competitors.
Happier staff are generally more productive and less likely to search for positions elsewhere, thus reducing employee turnover. When employees feel like their opinion holds weight, this can encourage more team participation. In the long run results in more ideas being shared, and better problem-solving abilities.
You can also connect with a larger audience by having relatable people on your team. Even having employees who speak multiple languages can be highly comforting for clients whose second language is English.
By embracing different backgrounds you will build a dynamic, intelligent, and powerful legal team. A study by Harvard Business Review proved how altering a group’s social majority can lead to a reduction in group think. It has also been proven that gender-diverse teams are 21% more likely to outperform on profitability.
It is said that diversity comes from the top down. By having CEOs, managing partners, and partners who understand diversity and make it a priority, your entire company culture will shift to that being the norm.
You can also connect with Minority Bar Associations when hiring to make your firm more inclusive. Creating a diverse team starts at the hiring process. You have to actively seek out applicants with a range of life experiences. Perhaps even conduct blind applications to eliminate bias.
It has been proven that women are more likely to be hired with a blind application. The same study indicated that men are twice as likely to be hired for a position despite the gender of the hiring manager.
41% of hiring managers believe they are too busy to focus on diversity initiatives. The irony is that diversity should be non-negotiable when someone understands how much it benefits a business. By making the time to prioritize it, you will reap the rewards with a more innovative and profitable team.
After the hiring process is complete, it's important to continue checking in with employees to ensure they feel valued and heard in the workplace. This can happen in multiple ways such as through surveys or one-on-one meetings.
In a survey among US employees, 61% of people state they had witnessed discrimination based on age, gender, race or LGBTQ status in the workplace. This statistic shows how important it is to provide a safe space for employees to communicate with upper management if they have witnessed a situation like this.
There are many additional ways that you can make everyone feel at home in the office. For LGBTQ employees you can provide appropriate healthcare, participate in external events, and offer non-binary gender choices on forms.
For women, you can offer child care, a flexible schedule, and an initiative to help them continue to grow in the legal profession after having children. For employees of color, you can offer a diverse interview panel or participate in blind screenings. One statistic showed that African American interviewees were 50% less likely to receive callbacks than their white counterparts.
For the most part, law firms that embrace diversity do so intentionally. Throughout the hiring process, they seek out minority candidates. They value the principle that people from different backgrounds can improve the workplace and create a more equitable team.
While spending money on tools and resources to make for a more inclusive law firm might seem like an investment, it is well worth it. You'll have longer employee retention and increased productivity.
One tool that allows you to be more inclusive is Intaker’s language rules. You can set it up so that if someone visits your Intaker site from Mexico, the text appears in Spanish. Or if they are viewing your page from Yemen, the text appears in Arabic, and so on.
It’s also great if you have someone at your law firm that speaks another language to have them film a chatbot introduction for a separate landing page. Creating custom pages shows that your law firm is inclusive and eager to work with people from various backgrounds.
Another popular tool is Applied, an ethical and predictive recruitment platform. It improves diversity and predicts the best candidate removing bias from the equation. Applied also benefits managers by helping them connect with the most qualified candidates without spending hours filtering through resumes themselves.
Allie is a slackbot of inclusion at work. It allows employees to leave feedback and take pulse surveys. It also regularly shares content about diversity and inclusion, helping to make those principles part of your law firm’s culture. Allie provides micro training to ensure your team learns and retains the information.
Law firm diversity is important no matter what practice area you are in. An inclusive environment allows for more creative ideas to circulate and greater employee engagement. Diversity is not just a buzzword, but truly a way of operating your business to foster an equitable and inclusive workplace.
By taking time to seek out a diverse range of candidates, check in with employees, and foster an environment of acceptance and community you will see a tangible benefit at your firm. From more innovation to higher profits and less biased decision-making, there is no doubt it's worth taking the time to create an inclusive team.