While the representation of women and people of color in law firms has increased, experts say Legal industry As a whole, there is more room for improvement when it comes to diversity, equality and inclusion.
In fact, women will likely soon make up the majority of associates in law firms, according to a report 2022 Report on Diversity in US Law Firms From the National Law Development Association. But right now, only about a quarter of partners are women. The proportion of people of color working at law firms has risen from about 20% in 2010 to about 28% in 2022. But they represent only about 11% of partner-level staff.
What is Diversity, Equity and Inclusion?
DEI is an acronym for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. In corporate America, the term has become an umbrella term for a range of efforts by companies to promote fair treatment of all current and potential employees. DEI approaches recognize that fair treatment can benefit employees and the company as a whole.
“Diversity and inclusion not only enhances the breadth and depth of perspectives that contribute to solving clients’ complex legal challenges, but also allows firms to better reflect the diverse clients and communities they serve,” says Dennis Quino, Head of Diversity, Equity and Equity. Chief Inclusion Officer at Allen & Overy. “In an increasingly globalized business environment, clients are more likely to seek services from law firms that demonstrate cultural competence and appreciation of different backgrounds.”
Divided into three parts, DEI includes:
diversity: This term refers to the representation of people from diverse backgrounds, including gender, race, and religion. It also includes people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, LGBTQ+ individuals, parents and non-parents, veterans, people with disabilities and others.
inclusion: This indicates a sense of belonging to all employees.
How to increase workplace diversity in law firms
Increasing diversity in workplaces, such as law firms, requires concerted efforts at all levels of the company. These initiatives include getting buy-in and support from executives and company leaders, casting a wider net for hiring and looking for ways to ensure diverse employees see a path forward as they grow and develop in their careers.
5 strategies for creating a comprehensive law firm
While diversity focuses largely on representation, inclusion emphasizes a sense of belonging for all employees. Law firms that want to create a more inclusive workplace can consider the following strategies:
1. Celebrate diversity within the company
Rather than ignoring differences between workers, recognizing and glorifying these differences can make employees more comfortable bringing their “whole selves” to work.
Initiatives that support this goal may include developing programs related to cultural heritage landmarks and supporting the creation of cultural heritage Employee resource groupsor ERGs, through which diverse employees can connect with each other to discuss shared experiences.
2. Set expectations
Ensure that everyone in the company understands its commitment to inclusion at all levels.
This step “starts by creating a policy and procedure manual that lets everyone know that they have the right to be heard and that they are safe,” says Andrew Lieb, Lieb’s attorney at Law PC. “You have to make it known that everyone is welcome, expected, and safe, and you have no favourites.”
3. Check with employees
Regular employee surveys asking colleagues whether they feel included can give a company a basic understanding of where the culture stands. These initiatives may provide insights into areas where more work is needed.
4. Embrace flexibility
Allow employees Flexibility in their schedules (To the greatest extent possible) It can make it easier for people with different needs in their lives outside of work to be productive team members.
“Balancing work demands with personal commitments can be particularly challenging for lawyers, which may impact diversity efforts,” says Servite Shudu Bradley, director of human resources at Mandelbaum Barrett PC.
5. Providing training
In addition to making sure all employees know the company’s rules and policies regarding exclusivity, unconscious bias training can help employees understand and see how they can change their behavior to become more inclusive.
Companies that do not have in-house expertise may consider outsourcing this work to experts in the field, which can have additional benefits for the company.
“Collaborating with professional associations, diversity-focused organizations, and community groups can expand networks and strengthen diversity efforts,” says Xhudo-Bradley.