Diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the legal industry is having its moment right now – and the timing couldn’t be more relevant given the national political climate. Continuing the conversation about D&I from this year’s LMA Annual Conference “Diversity and Inclusion Town Hall,” the Capital Local Group hosted “Diversity & Inclusion 2.0: Taking the Next Step.” José Cunningham, LMA Diversity Committee Co-Chair and Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer at Nixon Peabody, moderated a panel including Lia Dorsey, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Eversheds Sutherland (US) LLP, Kathryn Holmes Johnson, Director of Marketing and Communications at Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein, & Fox, P.L.L.C., and Sophia Piliouras, President – Advisory Practice at Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA). Each panelist gave their insight on moving the D&I needle in our firms, collaborating across different functions and from different perspectives to connect the dots. Here are a few takeaways:
Track everything from hits to the diversity and inclusion page of the firm’s website to tracking the teams included in RFP responses and comparing those teams to those that are actually doing the work awarded by clients. Create touch points across the firm in the spirit of collaboration. As marketing and business development professionals, we are encouraged to look at D&I with a wider lens, helping our firms uncover blind spots and opportunities to improve engagement on inclusion through client relations and external partnerships.
Ask the Tough Questions
It’s no secret that one of the internal challenges of D&I can be the willingness of lawyers to self-identify. There are times when the conversation around race, sexual preference and disabilities can be uncomfortable. Marketers should take the time to build trusted relationships with their attorneys. Creating an environment that is inclusive and allows people to be their authentic selves is important in taking the necessary steps to improve diversity and inclusion in the legal industry. This can be done through the use of affinity groups that allow members to create a community of support.
Partner with Clients
Many firms are profiting from the increased attention to and support of D&I initiatives, such as MCCA, ABA Resolution 113, the Mansfield Rule and the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity. It not just the right thing to do; it’s also a profitable endeavor. Not to mention, clients are demanding it and taking measures, such as withholding fees for firms that do not meet diversity requirements, to hold firms accountable. Research shows that firms that include multi-diverse teams are 30% more profitable and at a lower risk of getting a “hand slap” from clients. It’s also recognized that while law firms are getting their act together with regard to D&I, firms can and should work with clients on the clients’ own D&I initiatives as well. Firms should do their homework on companies before responding to RFPs and drafting pitches. Knowing the makeup of a client or potential client’s executive team can provide an opportunity to open the door for a conversation about D&I. Many companies have publically committed to increasing diversity and inclusion efforts, serving as an invitation for firms to start the discussion.
By Tahisha Pearson Fugate, Business Development Manager, Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo PC, for the Second Quarter 2018 LMA Mid-Atlantic Region Newsletter