The case for building a culturally diverse workforce is stronger than ever. Adherence to legislation under the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, in addition to value-driven initiatives such as best practices, have prompted firms to embrace inclusion and diversity. Despite these efforts, statistics indicate that even in today’s culturally sensitive landscape ethnic minorities are often underrepresented at senior partner levels, and many minority groups are still regularly subject to workplace bias. The need for law firms to strengthen their diversity and inclusion (“D&I”) platforms has roots in ethical considerations and business advantages. According to Harrison Barnes, Los Angeles Office Managing Director at BCG Attorney Search, there are two classes of arguments for diversity: social and business1. Developing a culturally diverse staff can lead to increased economic growth due to a) the ability to attract top talent outside of a homogenous group; b) an increased multi-lingual and culturally disparate client base; c) innovation due to the differing perspectives of ethnically rich employees. Further benefits include a philosophically balanced environment populated with people from varied experiences that relate better to clients, courts, juries, and other professionals within the legal community.
Given all the potential advantages of a robust D&I institutional mindset, how can firms improve their diversity? Here are five strategies to increase workforce inclusivity:
- Recruiting: Commit to a diversity-aligned hiring strategy. The intentional practice of identifying candidates from academic institutions and legal associations that include a higher percentage of underrepresented students and professionals is an effective method of attracting culturally diverse top talent.
- Investment: After hiring, it is essential for firms to invest in their diverse workforce through training, equitable work distribution, increased responsibility, and access to key executives. These steps will greatly aid in the inclusion of diverse employees into the workplace, instilling a sense of belonging within the firm’s culture.
- Celebration: Improving workforce statistics is not enough toward the organic growth of an inclusive environment. Embrace diversity by hosting regular events that highlight diverse staff member backgrounds. For example: monthly potluck lunches coupled with brief presentations are excellent opportunities for employees to share their unique cultural traditions and foods with colleagues.
- Communication: Establishing channels of communication is crucial to building a diverse and inclusive law firm. In addition to incorporating D&I in the firm’s mission statement, frequently exhibiting these values to clients and employees through daily practices and professional engagement enforce the commitment toward inclusivity.
- Representation: Firms should ensure that diversity is represented throughout all levels of the organization, including top management. Hiring or promoting diverse employees to occupy executive positions demonstrates a career roadmap as well as validating recognition for hard work, skills, and accomplishments.
The American Bar Association actively promotes diversity and inclusion through a variety of resources, programs, toolkits, and helpful information designed to aid law firms in incorporating diversity into their workforces. Exploring the ABA D&I center is a great way to get started in the creation of a successful D&I program that supports social justice along with the firm’s financial and ethical success.
1From Law Firm Diversity: How Race, Gender, Age, Social and Economic Divisions Impact the Hiring, Retention and Advancement of Law Firm Attorneys
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