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Jump-Start Your Law Firm's Diversity Program

From MCCA – We highly respect their work!


Top Ten Diversity Recommended Practices for Law Firms

1. Develop and communicate the business case
The most important driver to an active commitment to diversity is a strong business case. Most participants agreed that their key driver was client demand, but there may be other existing or potential business reasons as well. It is imperative that these are examined and the strongest business case possible is presented to senior partners along with the rest of the firm.

2. Have senior partners take the lead
Designating a senior partner to lead this effort removes several obstacles, such as the lack of senior partner involvement and ownership, or weak, decentralized efforts with few results, or diversity committees staffed primarily by women and minorities. 

3. Mandate top-down diversity training
Training in diversity and inclusion is essential to build awareness and create a common language and understanding within the firm.

4. Establish accountability
Firms serious about diversity have to reward and hold staff accountable for the success or failure of the recruitment and retention initiatives. Incentives include creating a time bank to reward attorneys for their work on the firm’s diversity programs or tying the results to incentive pay for senior partners. 

5. Develop mechanisms to have an effective mentoring program
In most law firms, mentoring occurs all the time, through informal relations at work and social networks outside the office, for example, on the golf course. The challenge is to make effective mentoring accessible to all attorneys. Group mentoring sessions and reciprocal mentoring should be explored.

6. Emphasize lateral hires
The more senior minority attorneys, the greater a firm’s chances of recruiting and retaining new attorneys of color. With more senior attorneys, a firm will be more desirable to entry-level attorneys and better positioned to minimize attrition. This practice is much more likely to succeed as an integral part of a firm-wide diversity strategy. 

7. Promote work-life balance
Firms must find creative ways to retain women who are both mothers and attorneys and committed to succeeding at both. Firms also must ease the dissatisfaction that all attorneys report with their work environment. Options include an on-site day care center, establishing flexible hours and other options, like telecommuting. Firms should make the quality of life of all attorneys a valid, urgent work issue. Part-time partners are important role models who provide a positive incentive for women who worry that the price for a successful career in a law firm is sacrificing family commitments. 

8. Expand recruitment
Recruitment tactics may include: advertising in minority professional publications; offering scholarships to first-year minority law students; increasing recruitment at historically black law schools; revising outdated hiring criteria; and becoming more involved in community activities to enhance name recognition. Campus recruiters should have diversity training to help them interact more effectively with diverse students. Involve minority attorneys in the firm’s decision-making process, for example, reviewing minority resumes. Also, the firm could take advantage of professional and personal networks by offering a bonus for referrals of talented minorities and women who can be recruited to the firm. 

9. Make diversity-related activities billable
Law firms that understand the business case for diversity will make these initiatives worthwhile for the attorneys who drive the firm’s diversity program. By making a portion of the hours spent on diversity activities billable, management acknowledges that diversity contributes to the firm ’s bottom line and to the advancement of its attorneys. 

10. Equal treatment programs
Focus on creating a plan to ensure each minority attorney gets significant client visibility and gets to develop relationships with senior law firm management.