Diversity and Inclusion from the Client Perspective

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Haynes and Boone Business Development Specialist Brandice Johnson shares what legal marketers and firms can do to push D&I in this 2019 LMA Annual Conference recap.


It’s 2019 and our clients are increasingly becoming diverse, reflecting the greater trend in our society. This diversity is valued by our clients and helps them assemble highly effective teams to solve some of their most complex business issues. Law firms need to recognize this and consider how the firm’s diversity is viewed by its clients. While the legal sector is making efforts to address its overall lack of diversity, still much more can be done.

Law firms should look for ways to partner with their clients to provide value in diversity and inclusion (D&I). This can take a variety of forms. Some suggestions include:

  • Partnering with clients to develop their D&I survey, which the clients can use in their RFPs, moving forward.
  • Creating mentor-partnership opportunities. Many in-house counsel previously came from outside firms and are familiar with the D&I challenges in the legal industry. Clients may be able to provide guidance for younger outside counsel attorneys, helping to establish long-term relationships.
  • Identifying speaking opportunities for clients, including firm panels and affinity groups, as well as opportunities with external organizations.

Many corporate legal departments are utilizing the American Bar Association’s Model Diversity Survey, requesting their outside counsel complete the survey in order to ensure steps are being taken to move the needle in diversity efforts. The survey, first released in 2016, will eventually provide a measurement tool for the legal profession, and can help facilitate discussion between clients and outside counsel regarding diversity.

When pitching an existing or prospective client, law firms must consider what’s important to the client and how the firm will address these priorities. Clients not only want a proposed team that is diverse and inclusive, they expect that same team to handle the proposed work.

Business development and marketing professionals assisting with pitch opportunities should remember to emphasize any D&I differentiators that will help set the firm apart from its competitors. For example, has your firm achieved the Mansfield Rule? If so, this should be highlighted in your pitch materials.

The proposed team should not only be prepared to discuss the substantive areas of law, but also be informed of the firm’s D&I efforts so they are able to discuss this intelligently with clients. In addition, it’s important for firms to make sure their messaging matches their optics: in marketing collateral, at client meetings, and on social media.

Additionally, firms should have an inclusive environment. All constituencies should be respected, have their voices heard, have opportunities to progress, and feel included in firmwide initiatives. Inclusive leadership training continues to be an area of growth and is something for firms to consider implementing in their pursuit of advancing D&I efforts.

Law firms need to be proactive and regularly evaluate their D&I progress, asking questions such as:

  • Are we doing all we can in our D&I efforts? If not, what else should we do?
  • Are we offering enough professional development opportunities, so attorneys want to stay and continue building their careers here?
  • How else can we partner with our clients on D&I initiatives?

In the continuously evolving legal industry, law firms should strive to be representative of their clients, as well as their clients’ customers.

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