Diversity in the Law: Giving Credit Where It’s Due

At Bodhala, we enable our clients to make data-driven decisions that lead to more inclusion and promote corporate social responsibility by giving visibility to attorneys on diversity across firms and matters.

Corporate Counsel e​ditor Kibkabe Araya wrote over at Law.com​, a thought-provoking piece addressing the status quo of legal origination credits is harming the advancement of minority and women attorneys at law firms. Needless to say, this piece added to the ongoing discussion in our office Slack channel on the pressing need to change the culture around diversity in law.

While every firm nominally expresses their own “commitment to diversity,” Araya writes that some longstanding practices are holding the status quo in place. In particular, Araya highlights origination credits​, that is, the often lucrative collections percentage bonus entitled to the attorney who brings about (or “originates”) the business with the firm. Throughout the piece, she calls out areas where client-side innovators are recognizing failings in the market and taking steps to rectify them.

When it comes to women partners getting their fair share, numbers point to a cultural problem​.

Nine years ago, the American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession, Minority Corporate Counsel Association and Project for Attorney Retention released a report that found women lawyers and lawyers of color had been bullied, threatened or intimidated over origination credit​. It also found that pay for the entire or large portion of the work goes to the lawyers who originally brought the client to the firm.

Jeanine Wright, the Chief Legal and Administrative Officer for podcast marketing startup Simplecast, recognized this inequity in origination credits when working at another company. She decided to take the matter into her own hands.

She started distributing a survey on the diversity points she was looking for in a firm…She then included a question about the firms’ percentage of women, people of color and white men and how the compensation broke down within their positions as associates to partners with descriptions of any firm diversity and inclusion initiatives.

All of the firms to which she reached out responded. After digging into the responses, she discovered some irregularities in the billing,​ seeing the names of attorneys she’d never worked with​. She successfully went to bat with her current, primary point of contact, earning her rightful credit.

The story goes on to show how large companies like ​Walmart​ and ​Wells Fargo​ are recognizing how bad practices in awarding origination credit are harming women and minority attorneys at far greater rates.

While these initiatives are important, our internal Slack discussion often revolves back to a simple premise. ​Our data science team is building a system that can surface, highlight where to focus, ​and correct for​ these inequities. And this outcome is achieved in a fraction of the time and the cost of these earnest, but limited, processes.

In other words, we are building a platform that can correct for the status quo in origination credits.

At Bodhala, a groundbreaking legal technology platform enabling corporate legal teams to analyze, interpret and optimize their spend, we’ve built a one-of-a-kind database of legal talent that can show matter expertise, educational or previous work credentials and the diversity of the lawyer. Further, using data ​you already have​ from your legal bills, we can highlight the positives and negatives of your diversity against goal, and dig deeper to find if the credit is going where it’s due.

Give us a call at 212-594-1475 or email [email protected]. and we can talk about how to change the culture around Big Law for good.


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