From ‘Usual Suspects’ To Team Innovation: Embracing Diversity In Law Firms

Law firms are not necessarily known for their diversity. But, quite the contrary, the field of law attracts a variety of eclectic backgrounds—just look around the office.

Businessmen turned juris doctors, myriad foreign citizens of different nationalities and languages, and expertise in unexpected areas walk the halls of your firm, often unnoticed.  

But, for law firms hoping to innovate, embracing this diversity is key.

“While the organization’s leader may be tempted to call in ‘the usual suspects,’ people with a history of success in that field, it is important at this point to include fresh faces in the group,” writes Robert F. Brands for the Huffington Post.

In the same way, when assigning cases to attorneys, don’t rely—again—on the ‘usual suspects.’ Don’t give the same cases to lawyers who typically handle the them. Add fresh opinions to stale teammates by assigning new, young associates to the group.

Circulate a form that asks your associates more in-depth questions about their background and interests. For example, ask whether or not your young associates are interested in patent law, or which ones speak Spanish.

When teams are created for the case, give the forms to senior attorneys and partners on the case. That way, leaders know exactly what assets are in their arsenal.

“Creating a diverse environment of both men and women from different geographic regions, ethnic groups, age groups, and from a variety of functions will offer greater insight. This type of crowdsourcing opens the arena for new ideas within the organization,” continues Brands for the Huffington Post.

Of course, to some extent, the schedules and expertise of a lawyer will influence their placement. But, be careful creating a firm solely from lawyers specialized in certain industries. When one or more of them chooses to leave the firm, you’ll be in a hiring frenzy, looking to cover their casework.

Not only does cultivating diversity among teams grow the idea-generating legal machine, but they also increase the competitive edge of your firm by introducing new products and ideas.

“A team of ‘usual suspects,’ experts in their field driven by past successes, may be able to take a product or service to the next level and create an incremental benefit. However, to create true ground-breaking ‘disruptive technology,’ the process must start from a blank slate,” concludes Brands. 

So, if you firm is experiencing trouble within a certain case, throw a wrench in the usual cog by reassigning the second chair. It may seem like duplicative effort at first—retraining employees and getting new additions up to speed—but it will pay off in terms of innovative solutions and positive outcomes.

-WB

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