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Why the introduction of Diversity and Inclusion Officers is crucial

Posted by: Laurence Simons 30/01/17

According to a report from the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), women and minorities made small gains in representation at major U.S. law firms in 2016 compared with 2015. Worryingly, however, representation across both demographics remains below levels recorded in 2009.

The report shows that although women and minorities continued to make small gains in their representation among law firm partners in 2016, the overall percentage of women associates has decreased more often than not since 2009, and the percentage of Black/African-American associates has declined every year since 2009, except for the small increase in 2016.

NALP Executive Director James Leipold commented on the findings saying “National benchmark data is helpful in highlighting the overall progress, or lack thereof, in achieving greater diversity among the lawyers working in U.S. law firms, but the national figures mask many significant differences by law firm size and geography.

He continued “In many ways these stories tell a narrative of difference, with the largest law firms having achieved much greater diversity than smaller law firms. And while it is encouraging to see small gains in most areas this year, the incredibly slow pace of change continues to be discouraging.”

It is certainly encouraging to see that larger firms are making tangible progress in terms of increasing diversity, by investing both financially and culturally into diversity and inclusion initiatives. And such accomplishments can no doubt be attributed, at least in part, to the introduction of Diversity and Inclusion Officers to spearhead such programmes and ensure they are embedded throughout the organisation.

In recent months a series of large US firms have appointed Diversity and Inclusion Officers as they strive to determine how diversity efforts fit into their businesses in a time of uncertainty and an environment where women and minorities are making marginal gains in the legal workplace. However until the entire legal sector comes to realise the importance of appointing Officers to spearhead diversity initiatives, any progress made is likely to be short lived.

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