For Law Firms, Diversity Drives Dollars

While celebrating International Women’s Day, it’s a reminder to think about how our workforce has changed over the past few decades. Even this past month, the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates rejected a measure to make bar passage harder for law schools. Their reason: Diversity.


In many law firms and corporations, the same desire for diversity is also being pushed.


“Diversity is the future; embrace it or you’re obsolete,” said Andrew Glincher, Nixon Peabody’s managing partner in Forbes recently.


According to the National Association for Law Placement, which tracks legal industry statistics, women make up less than 20 percent of firm partners, and minorities just slightly over 5 percent. To improve this, the national firm Nixon Peabody even instituted its own version of the NFL’s Rooney Rule, where league teams have to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs. Now, when Nixon hires its new associates, at least 20 percent of them must be diverse.


And whether it’s a bet-the-company litigation or transactions, Hewlett Packard’s general counsel said that she’s still going to go with the firm that staffs diversely.


“It applies to anybody who is going to work for us,” Kim Rivera, HP’s top lawyer said, adding that firms not following their diversity mandate will see their invoiced fees withheld by 10 percent.


Many GCs drive diversity efforts within their companies, and now are demanding to see the hard numbers behind diversity efforts at law firms before engaging them as a client. They also demand the appropriate level of technical ability, making the search more nuanced. Some general counsel even say that in a data-rich world, there’s no reason that law departments can’t track diversity using their standard outside counsel management software just like efficiency or cost-effectiveness.


But GCs know it’s not a monolith. It’s always a balancing act between ensuring technical ability and giving diverse lawyers the ability to have meaningful career opportunities.


So, if law firms want to win corporate business, boosting diversity numbers might be one way to do so. For interesting facts on how women in particular have positively effected the work force, please click here to see how Day Without Women Could Cost the Country $21 Billion.

D. French Advisors helps law firms and businesses identify outstanding talent and position that talent with great opportunity to succeed. For more information please visit