Forewarned – On How Firms Sell Their Diversity

Thankfully, the majority of folks you’ll deal with as a Law Firm Administrator have already made peace with the fact that diversity is here to stay. If they haven’t yet embraced the concept, there’re all kinds of reasons for them to do so.

Let’s review:  

1.  Through the advent of technology and high-speed travel, this is rapidly becoming a global world.  The more groups of people you know, the better you’ll be able to expand your social AND business horizons. (What is there to know?  Cultural differences should be examined and respected, no matter how subtle.) 

2.  “It matters for social justice,” says Above The Law’s “Insight Straight” blog, whose author also reminds us that…

3.  “Folks are tracking it,” and that…  

4.  It matters for your defense team, as you will want to have the members look “at least slightly like [your] jurors”.  

There have also been certain cases where employers (a.k.a. clients) have been known to want a member of a certain demographic group representing their case, as the employer perhaps seeks to add balance to the nuanced and not-so-nuanced issues.  For example, says the author “in my old product liability life, we may have wanted women to defend breast implant or hormone replacement therapy cases.  Or we may have looked for female expert witnesses…”

Now, what if you needed to pitch your firm’s diversity to a would-be client?  How would you sell it?  First of all, it’d be best to examine your culture, to see if your firm truly is a good representation of diversity and, if not, do all that you can to remedy that. For example, do you have women on your management committee, or executive committee or board?  Is it otherwise inclusive?    Do you and those who go out and represent your firm really believe that women and other “groups” are on a par with men? Because, try as you might, your real view of these demographic groups can not be disguised.  

The author, chief counsel of litigation at Aon, makes a spectacular case-in-point when he tells the story of how a female colleague and he were taken out to lunch by two white male representatives of a firm soliciting their business.  Afterwards, the woman mentioned being offended by the way the men expounded on how diverse the firm was, when it was obviously a case of “say one thing, and do another”. 

“Don’t just tell me about your women,” says this irate female colleague. “Bring one along!”  And, “It’s much easier for [them] to give up money than it is for them to give up power…Don’t tell me that you pay a few women a lot of money.”  Finally, says, the colleague,

“[t]hey asked me about my kids, but they never asked about yours!” 

As the author says, “Forewarned is forearmed.”

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