Learn how to advance D&I at your firm with key takeaways from a packed panel.
Diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the legal industry is having its moment right now.
Continuing the conversation about D&I from this year’s LMA Annual Conference Diversity and Inclusion Town Hall, the Mid-Atlantic Region’s Local Group hosted “Diversity & Inclusion 2.0: Taking the Next Step.” This thoughtful and engaging program, moderated by LMA Diversity Committee co-chair José Cunningham, chief marketing and business development officer at Nixon Peabody, included diversity and inclusion change agents who gave their insight on moving the D&I needle in law firms, collaborating across the different functions and from different perspectives to connect the dots.
This article highlights a few takeaways from the panel that should help you take the next step in your firm.
1. Leverage data to uncover blind spots and opportunities.
Lia Dorsey, director of diversity and inclusion at Eversheds Sutherland (US) LLP, provided some tips for using data and keeping that information in front of decision makers. Tracking everything from hits to the diversity and inclusion page of the firm’s website to tracking the teams included in RFP responses and comparing those teams to those that are actually doing the work awarded by clients. In her current D&I role, Lia uses her business development background to create touchpoints across the firm in the spirit of collaboration. As marketing and business development professionals, we should be encouraged to look at D&I with a wider lens, helping our firms uncover blind spots and opportunities to improve engagement on inclusion through client relations and external partnerships.
2. Ask the tough questions.
It’s no secret that one of the internal challenges of diversity and inclusion can be the willingness of lawyers to self-identify. There are times when the conversation around race, sexual preference and disabilities can be uncomfortable. Kathryn Holmes Johnson, director of marketing and communications at Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox, P.L.L.C., suggests that marketers take the time to build trusting relationships with their attorneys that allow them to feel comfortable. Creating an environment that is inclusive and allows people to be their authentic selves is important in taking the necessary steps to improve D&I in the legal industry. This can be done through the use of affinity resource groups that allow attorneys to create a community of support.
3. Partner with clients.
Many firms are profiting from the increased attention to and support of D&I initiatives, such as MCCA, ABA Resolution 113, the Mansfield Rule and the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity. The business case is clearly there for diversity: It is not just the right thing to do; it’s also a profitable endeavor. Not to mention, clients are demanding it and holding firms accountable through the withholding of fees from firms that do not meet diversity requirements. Research from McKinsey & Company shows that firms that include multi-diverse teams are 30 percent more profitable, and at a lower risk of getting a “hand slap” from clients. It’s also recognized that while law firms are getting their act together with regard to D&I, firms can and should work with clients to help them, as well. Sophia Piliouras, president of advisory practice at Minority Corporate Counsel Association, advises that firms should really do their homework on companies before responding to RFPs and drafting pitches. Knowing the makeup of a client or potential client’s executive team can provide an opportunity to open the door for a conversation about D&I. Many companies, specifically signatories of such initiatives as ABA Resolution 113, have publically committed to increasing D&I efforts — so firms essentially have an invitation to start the discussion.
As co-chair of LMA’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, José addressed some of the internal challenges of retention and promotion of diverse legal marketers and what the LMA is doing by way of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and the SIG to foster more inclusion among legal marketers. Engaging in and continuing the D&I conversation is progress in the right direction. D&I 2.0 establishes the steps needed to institute further change.
The legal marketing profession continues to experience much growth, and while I’m grateful for it all, the call to action on D&I is growth that should make us all proud.
For more information on LMA’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, please reach out to co-chairs José Cunningham and Holly Barocio. And check out the Diversity and Inclusion SIG page for helpful resources and conversation around D&I.
For the last 15 years, Tahisha Pearson Fugate, a business development manager at Mintz Levin, has guided Am Law 100 firms through strategic initiatives at all phases of the business development life cycle. At the forefront of diversity and inclusion in the legal industry, Tahisha serves as a member of Mintz Levin’s Diversity Committee as well as LMA’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Connect with Tahisha at email@example.com or LinkedIn.