The American Bar Association (ABA) finds that within the entire legal profession only 15% of attorneys identify as racial or ethnic minorities and only 36% identify as women. The lack of existing diversity in the field makes it even harder for corporate law departments to cultivate varied backgrounds and perspectives within their organization. Consulting firm McKinsey & Company has reported on inclusion and diversity for years, and with each release, they reveal an even deeper correlation between financial performance and workforce diversity. In their third and latest report, McKinsey finds that companies with greater gender diversity and greater ethnic/cultural diversity are 25% and 36% more likely (respectively) to have above-average profits.
These results reinforce a message we’ve known for a long time: diverse companies are more innovative and adaptable – especially during difficult times. For those organizations that want to make true headway in this arena, their hiring strategy is of particular importance. Yet even with the best of intentions, the law department is often a stumbling block. In our experience, two strategies are key to diversity in corporate law departments, and here they are:
Consciously Pursuing Diverse Candidates
Years of workforce uniformity, though not always intentional, takes conscious effort to reverse. Diversity in corporate law departments is achieved when General Counsel and other decision makers adopt that particular quality as part of your organizational ethos. Inclusionary hiring is not just something you do; it’s a reflection of your brand purpose and core values.
In practice, law departments need to be active in their outreach. This means building relationships with associations and conferences. Make connections with the National Conference of Black Lawyers, the National Association of Women Lawyers, the Hispanic National Bar Association, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, or any other legal association nationwide. Support diverse communities as well to help improve the flow of diverse candidates into your organization, transforming your business into a mosaic, not a melting pot.
Eliminating Implicit Bias
Whether or not it’s apparent, there are implicit biases influencing all human decisions. Those biases manifest in subtle ways during the hiring process and can incline decision makers to favor people who fit their existing demographic mold. Through these involuntary preferences, it’s far more likely for law departments to remain homogeneous blocks.
One recruiting practice that we prioritize is blind candidate submissions. We thoroughly review temporary attorneys based on their practice area expertise, experience, and potential compatibility with your work environment. Upon submission, all other demographic information is removed to prevent unconscious bias from negating your attempts to create a more diverse and inclusive law department.
By zooming out a layer in the talent acquisition process, you empower your people to make the most objective decisions possible. When you’re working with a legal staffing partner that uses these and other techniques, you not only save money on temporary projects but are able to bump up your profit margins with a fraction of the effort.
Fostering diversity in corporate law departments requires conscious decision-making. Reach out to our team to help you eliminate potential implicit bias in your next temporary placement.