Achieving diversity can seem like a challenge, especially in the predominantly white legal profession. It is well known that the legal industry, law firms, in particular, lag behind in diversity despite a substantial amount of effort. Initiatives educating their staff, crafting diversity and inclusion statements for their websites, and implementing programs that encourage a more inclusive workplace are wonderful progress, but the statistics don’t lie.  Despite the efforts to increase diversity, the legal industry still has a tough road ahead.  

According to the American Bar Association, in a 2019 study of over 1,000 offices of major law firms in the United States, only 35.41 percent of the attorneys in those firms were women.  Only 16.1 percent of attorneys were racially or ethnically diverse. Studies have proven that diverse groups make better decisions and generate more revenue than more homogenous workplaces. It’s an investment that will pay dividends for years to come and simply is the right thing to do.  

Having a clear diversity statement, providing interviewer bias training, and developing a strategic vision for your workplace are essential strategies for diversity recruiting. Becoming a firm that attracts clients that value diversity, and diverse talent, will position your law firm to grow into the future.

 

1. Express Your Commitment to Diversity

Once you decide to bring attorneys from underrepresented backgrounds into your firm, make that commitment part of your company values. Writing diversity into your mission statement lets potential recruits know that you are interested in hiring associate attorneys from diverse backgrounds. It also makes your commitment public, which can help partners hold themselves accountable.

 

2. Confront Your Own Unconscious Biases

Everyone, even people with good intentions, are subject to unconscious biases that can affect their decisions. Implicit biases may impact which resumes attract your attention and who you decide to call for an interview. When hiring associate attorneys and partners, interviewer bias must be considered in order to attract diverse talent. Implementing bias training for partners and associate attorneys alike can help your entire office recognize and confront potential impediments to diversity. 

Some law firms have even embraced “blind recruiting”. Using artificial intelligence software to remove the candidate’s name, law school, and other potentially identifiable information, a resume is reviewed with fair consideration.  While the results of using AI methods are mixed, it’s a step in the right direction.  It is essential to put measures in place to mitigate any potential biases that ultimately impact the selection process of diverse talent.   

 

3. Develop a Vision

It is important to analyze your current culture within each office of an organization.  Survey current employees. Ask the questions regarding where your organization succeeds in being inclusive and diverse, and where it falls short. You will likely find that each office has its own unique cultural experience, which may differ from the organization as a whole. Let that feedback formulate your vision for areas of improvement in diversity and inclusive recruitment, as well as long-term strategies for legal recruitment in the future.  

Once you understand what your strengths and weaknesses are, create an intentional hiring plan designed to address and fill those gaps. Part of the hiring plan may mean additional training for those groups that may not welcome a diverse candidate.  

For open positions, review candidates that you might have passed over in the past. Were there any candidates that were not considered because of assumptions made about their background? Professional organizations dedicated to enhancing the careers of women and minorities can also be valuable resources to help identify potential discriminatory themes.

The scope of diversity recruiting and retention in the legal industry is a daily battle, but an increasingly important one.  Biases are powerful and can be dangerous, particularly when decisions are made using gut feelings. With a cohesive commitment to diversity, bias interviewer training, and a clear vision of your overall strategic hiring goals, the legal industry will move the needle to a more diverse and inclusive workplace.   

If you’re looking to build a richer, more diverse team, MB Attorney Search will help you find the legal talent you need. They offer over 25 years’ experience helping law firms and companies hire associate attorneys throughout the Midwest and recruiting the top talent in the field. Visit their website to learn more about their recruitment services or call (888) 563-5984 to get started.

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