Diversity in the Law: Leading the Way

According to a Harvard Business Review​​ poll, half of all diverse employees stated that they see bias as part of their day-to-day work experience.

Approximately half of LGBTQ employees are still closeted at work.

A preponderance of professional women said they wish their company gave them the tools to balance career and family responsibilities.

Clearly problems with regard to diversity and inclusion persist, but many corporate leaders are adopting strategies to address these shortcomings. As companies seek to align these values with their vendors, finding diversity in legal talent and outside counsel spend is a big priority for legal departments.

Context and Prologue
There’s a lot of historical challenges to this drive to create a culture of inclusion in legal talent.

– Law is still one of the ​least​ diverse industries. According to the American Bar Association, only 30 percent of lawyers are women. Minorities make up only 16 percent​ of the law firm workforce, according to the Minority Corporate Counsel Association.
– It’s hard to expect a profession like the law to self-regulate, leading at least one writer to ​call for industry-style regulations​​ for the practice.
– There’s a lack of a functioning marketplace, especially in the practice of Big Law. This leads to a market opacity, and a lack of actionable insights to fixing endemic problems like the insufficient diversity and inclusion.>

There are advocacy leaders in the space working to change the culture, like NAMWOLF​​, the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms, and NGLCC​​​, the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. Among other things, they create resources​​​​​ for corporate members to help guide decisions in real-life situations like sourcing and values alignment.

Business Takes Charge
Corporate leaders, including some of the biggest spenders in outside legal, are adopting these measures, and taking the ball further down the field.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra is on a mission to change the way the car company does business. This mindset has led to sweeping changes​​, to the way they approach legal spend. According to ​Corporate Counsel,​ the manufacturing giant is collecting data to keep tabs on spend diversity goals. They’ve created an online dashboard in house that tracks diversity talent.

“Our goals around diversity and inclusion are not merely aspirational,” GM Compliance Counsel Natalie Lockwood said. “We are in fact holding the firms accountable in the sense that we’re collecting data from them on composition of the teams that will be working on GM matters and the roles that those various attorneys are playing on those matters.”

Lockwood later admitted, however, it’s an ongoing process and they must review problems on a case-by-case basis.

Microsoft developed an in-house program to increase diversity. In 2008, the company created the Law Firm Diversity Program, the incentives of which helped diversity in legal talent rise from 33 percent to 48.2 percent in six years. They’ve since shifted their focus to include a greater emphasis on leadership.

Read more about the program here

Taking the next step forward
These examples are giant leaps for an industry that has been so resistant to innovation and change, but there are active steps a forward-thinking legal department can take to close the gap faster.

Bodhala is a groundbreaking legal technology platform created by lawyers to transform the half-a-trillion dollar global legal industry. Our platform refines organizational processes by empowering your legal team with deeper insights that allow you to better analyze, interpret and optimize counsel spend, trailblazing a new era of legal market intelligence.

Our proprietary platform allows general counsels and CLOs get an immediate 360-degree look at their talent, including levels of legal diversity, with actionable insights to hit goals and enhance spend value.

Shoot us an email at [email protected]. and let’s talk about how we can get a deeper, practical understanding of your legal billing.


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