Sunday, August 2, 2009

Evolving Diversity Policies in Law Firms

Most major law firms provide legal counsel to Fortune 500 companies. Most Fortune 500 companies have strong diversity policies in place and many try hard to utilize/hire diverse outside counsel to meet the objectives of that policy. Outside counsel are required to provide annual reports to relevant clients regarding their firm's diversity. However, many outside law firms remain unsatisfied with their internal/firm diversity numbers/statistics. All over the country I hear "Our firm is just not as diverse as we would like, so we are hesitant to pitch it or even bring it up with clients/prospects". But, there is more to diversity than just analyzing a firm's partnership composition and/or employee base. Some firms have realized they can gain an advantage by implementing a supplier diversity policy of their own - to name a few: Warner Norcross & Judd, Weil Gotshal, Sonnenschein, Saul Ewing, among others. So at the end of the year, even if they have not hired more minority partners or employees they can still report to clients an increase of X% in their use of diverse vendors, suppliers, expert witnesses, sales training and coaching specialists, etc.(DISCLAIMER - I have a not-so-hidden agenda since our company is a Certified Women Owned Business, and could be included in any such diversity statistic by a firm that uses our services). If outside vendors and suppliers to law firms are comparably qualified with similar track records, hiring a diverse/minority company/entity/professional could help the law firm "look better" to its clients. Food for thought.

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