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How can law firms ‘raise the floor’ for diversity, equality and inclusion?

Posted by: Laurence Simons 15/03/17

While there is a more or less a ubiquitous understanding of the benefits of diversity and inclusion throughout the legal profession, it’s no secret that progress is not being made at a sufficient pace.

Firms have committed to increasing diversity at both ends of the profession, but unfortunately good intentions simply aren’t enough when it comes to making tangible changes. 

The legal profession is by no means alone in its drive to increase diversity, across the globe the science and technology sectors are facing similar challenges. 

Last month, Megan Smith and Laura Powers, two influential figures from the US’ Office of Science and Technology, created an Action Grid to help increase diverse, inclusive, and equitable workforces, and there are a number of tangible steps that could be taken by law firms to replicate this.

To help increase engagement of senior and mid-level management, law firms should work towards creating concrete engagement plans for senior partners, and replacing existing mentorship schemes with sponsorship programmes. Firms should also strive to create cultural change by embedding diversity in the strategy.

In terms of improving the retention and upwards mobility of diverse talent, leaders need to identify any potential obstacles for minority associates, and establish how best they can support employee resource groups. Smith and Powers suggest educating the current workforce on the importance of diversity and social mobility.

In order to strengthen pathways for candidates into your workforce, law firms can conduct deliberate outreach projects and update their candidate screening systems to eliminate any chance of unconscious bias, and work to expand points of entry into the firm.

Finally, Powers and Smith suggest building external constituencies of support, establishing networks across firms to share best practices and accelerate change across the profession. They believe that creating allies across aligned organisations can provide opportunities for visibility and encourage individuals to lead change internally.

While it’s certainly encouraging seeing so many firms reaffirm their commitment to improve inclusivity, without taking action and making tangible change firms won’t yield the benefits of a truly diverse workforce.

Tagged In: Diversity, Global view
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