LMA Panel: Legal Marketers Can Contribute to Firm Diversity Efforts
© 2018 The Texas Lawbook.
By Terra Davis of Holland & Knight
(July 3) – Legal marketers, human resources professionals, recruiters and attorneys met for lunch recently to listen to panelists discuss the business case for diversity in the legal industry at the Legal Marketing Association Southwest Region’s monthly program in Dallas.
What role, if any, do legal marketers play in turning discussion into action or starting the conversation at all? How do various departments work together to respond to their clients requests in this area? Why does this matter to clients?
These were just some of the questions The Texas Lawbook’s Allen Pusey asked a panel that featured Alan Dorantes, the general attorney for government, healthcare and education at AT&T; Claudia Grillo, the managing director at Vault.com; Michele Meyer-Shipp, the chief diversity officer at Akin Gump; and Jenny Waters, the executive director of the National Association of Women Lawyers.
To understand the role of the marketer in diversity initiatives, one must first understand why this is so important to the legal industry. As shared by Michele Meyer-Shipp, money is a strong driving force behind why so many Fortune 500 companies are demanding that the makeup of their legal teams are more diverse. A diverse legal team reflects their diverse clientele, which in turn brings in more business.
Vault's 2019 Law Firm Diversity scores by metro area
In June, Vault released its 2019 Law Firm Diversity rankings highlighting the top 25 law firms scored (on a 10 point scale, 10 being the highest score) by associates’ based on their individual viewpoints in “categories for diversity as it relates to minorities, women, LGBTQ individuals, and individuals with disabilities.”
Though law firms have not made gains in diversity and inclusion the same pace as businesses in other industries, they are making considerable strides in that direction.
Almost every AmLaw 100 firms has a chief diversity officer, a diversity committee or both responsible for the diversity and inclusion efforts at the firm.
In 2017, 30 firms joined Diversity Lab’s pilot program to consider women and minority attorneys for at least 30 percent of their candidates for leadership, equity partners and hires.
In addition to attracting diverse candidates, law firms now face the challenge of retaining this talent. According to a joint study conducted in 2017 by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association and Vault.com, 11 percent of all lawyers who left their firms (90 percent of participants were from an AmLaw 100) were women of color, a number not seen since the recession in 2009.
When discussing how law firm departments can address these issues, panelists emphasized making recruiting and retention a top priority in a firm’s overall strategy. One way to do so is to reassess the qualifications of candidates, as suggested by Dorantes. Rather than focusing on grades, use other determining factors both prior to and during the interview process.
Dorantes continued by recommending that partners include lawyers with diverse backgrounds as lead attorneys on the matters so they too get credit for the work. The marketing department of a law firm can assist with this effort by recommending these attorneys in proposals and pitch materials. The department can also work with firm management to develop a cohesive strategy.
In February, the Legal Marketing Association launched the Diversity & Inclusion Shared Interest Group (SIG), led by Chief Business Development & Marketing Officer of McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC Iris Jones and Content Pilot’s Vice President of Strategy Keith Wewe. The group provides by a virtual platform that allows its members to engage and share strategy for building more diverse and inclusive firms.
With over 100 members throughout the country, the Diversity & Inclusion SIG hosts numerous webinars on topics ranging from how marketing departments can assist in cultivating diversity initiatives to how to effectively measure success in diversity. Members are also able to connect, pose questions and discuss programming ideas and strategy through the SIG’s online message board hosted on LMA’s website. One way in which marketing departments helping to move the needle with firm leadership is by adding diverse teams to pitch materials and proposal responses for potential clients, a topic discussed on the Diversity & Inclusion SIG board.
As more clients threaten to take business away from law firms that do not comply, the case for diversity and inclusion becomes clearer. The time for legal marketers to be engaged in these discussions is now.