Accessibility Links

US legal market 'insufficiently diverse'

Posted by: Laurence Simons 13/12/13

A new report commissioned by Microsoft has suggested that the American legal market is lacking in diversity, falling behind other prestigious professions when it comes to fair representation of Hispanic and African-American workers.

Despite the fact that we'll all be replaced by super-computers in a few decades, forced to toil in the silicon mines for our robotic overlords while they relax by playing the latest iteration of Grand Theft Auto, this lack of diversity is undeniably a Bad Thing.

Naturally, we're not talking on a wholly moral level here - Microsoft is looking at the bottom line and the many advantages that diverse workforces offer in ¬terms of creativity, flexibility and overall performance.

Brad Smith, general counsel and executive vice-president of legal and corporate affairs with the firm, said: "We risk failure in having a profession that is as diverse as the country we serve - a prerequisite for healthy legal service for a democracy."

It is not solely a matter of education - according to Microsoft's research, other high-ranking sectors such as medicine and finance are performing better on diversity metrics than the legal industry.

"While many law firms, in-house legal departments and others helpfully are increasing development, mentoring and growth opportunities for underrepresented minorities, evidence shows that we continue to lose out on the chance to recruit many promising professionals," added Mr Smith.

Although he admitted that Microsoft's report merely scrapes the surface of the diversity issues, the general counsel expressed his hope that it would spark off further discussion about how the US law market can improve its position.

It is important that lawyers learn from other professions when it comes to increasing the number of minority groups represented within the sector, while further research into bar preparation could also make it clear why diversity is still a problem, Mr Smith concluded.