Tag Archives: diversity

Are Your Associates Exiting BigLaw For Jobs In-House? Diversity, Salary & Leadership Opportunities May Be Why.

Minority women are exiting BigLaw. According to some reports, eighty-five percent of minority female attorneys in the U.S. will quit large firms within seven years of starting their practice.

These days, the image of an all-white, male partnership at a law firm, sitting behind mahogany desks with a nautical office motif is so far from reality, it’s laughable. Or is it?

According to a November NALP press release, at just 2.55 percent of partners in 2015, minority women “continue to be the most dramatically underrepresented group at the partnership level, a pattern that holds across all firm sizes and most jurisdictions,” reports the ABA Journal.

There is a variety of reasons minority women are disappearing from BigLaw, and one of those reasons is competition from in-house counsel positions.

Tiffany Harper, esquire, transitioned from law firm life to a post as associate counsel for Grant Thornton in Chicago, for example. She co-founded Uncolorblind, a diversity blog and consulting company after having worked in corporate bankruptcy and restructuring at Schiff Hardin. Her last position was at Polsinelli as in-house counsel, where she looked to broaden her skill set.

“I didn’t see a path for me to partnership at a large law firm. For women of color, there has to be a synergy for you to make partner,” said Harper to the ABA Journal.

“You have to have everything working in your favor at the time you go up for a vote: a practice group that is thriving, the billable hours, people singing your praises, a client base. That has to all come together for you in a way it doesn’t have to for other people.”

But a power shift from large law firms to in-house counsel departments is on the rise for everyone, not just minority women.

“From demands for discounts, using online auctions to select firms, hiring law grads straight out of school, or simply moving more legal work in house, general counsel are pushing back on their outside lawyers,” reports the WSJ Law Blog.

Surprisingly, where salaries for lawyers have generally declined with the economy, compensation of in-house counsel has increased. Where BigLaw is dominated by the same type of person, in-house positions are more diverse in their human resources.

In one survey, 22 percent of in-house counsel are earning more than $300,000 per year in salary, bonus, and other compensation, which is a rise of 16 percent from the previous year, and 57 percent since the previous decade (via WSJ Law Blog).

Casey Flaherty, former in-house counsel at Kia Motors America, says that “in a data-rich world, there’s no reason law departments can’t track diversity using their standard outside counsel management software to establish baselines and measure improvement, just as a law department might track a firm’s efficiency and cost-effectiveness.” That’s why hiring decisions for in-house counsel positions are base don something more:

“Diversity is certainly one of the primary factors you should be considering,” said Flaherty to Law360.

“If you’re not, then it isn’t a priority, and who cares what’s in your policy statement? Who cares if you’ve formed a task force? … To me the diversity discussion and the metrics discussion are the same discussion: What are we prioritizing, and how are we measuring?”

So, if you’re planning a career shift (or have already taken advantage of the recent trend) toward in-house, below you’ll find a few tips for success.

If you’ve changed from a large law firm to corporate counsel, ViXS Systems Inc. general counsel Cheryl Foy emphasizes the importance of learning about the culture of the company you’re working for, including a comprehensive understanding of the needs and challenges of its business.

“Figure out who you’re working with. It’s folly to go in with the idea that ‘I’m the lawyer’—people will argue with your legal opinion. You have to build credibility so assess the culture first,” says Foy (via Canadian Lawyer Magazine). 

In addition, don’t let a power shift in industry dynamics translate to a shift in power at your new position.

When Foy found herself in a situation in a previous in-house job where she wanted to be part of the executive team but wasn’t regarded as such, she received this advice: “You need to be acting like you’re at the table already,” (via Canadian Lawyer Magazine).

Make it clear on hire that a position as in-house counsel is one of management and decision-making. Act like a leader from the outset and you’ll be considered one in-house.

Finally, to fully understand the ins and outs of in-house counsel, remember there’s a big difference between big law practice and a position as in-house corporate counsel.

“Adapt a communication style that reflects that your audience has changed,” advises David Allgood, executive vice president and general counsel with the Royal Bank of Canada (via Canadian Lawyer Magazine).

“Remember it’s the enterprise who is your client now.”

And, with a new 40-60 hour workweek (instead of 60-80 in BigLaw), who can complain about that?



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Five Reasons To Relax Maternity Leave Policy

Increasing the amount of paid and unpaid maternity or paternity leave is great for working parents. But, what about the firm?

Here are five reasons why relaxing your current maternity or paternity leave policy will benefit your law firm:

1. Retain qualified employees

“In all parts of the world, working women who become pregnant are faced with the threat of job loss, suspended earnings and increased health risks due to inadequate safeguards for their employment,” says F. J. Dy-Hammar, Chief, ILO Conditions of Work Branch, who oversaw the report, Maternity Protection at Work, reports the ILO.

This threat is intensified in law, as women are already underrepresented in the industry.

This is why it is even more important to show female associates that your law firm supports them. In fact, women make law firms more profitable by making teamwork more productive.

“According to [a study conducted by] Professor [Anita] Woolley of Carnegie Mellon, teams that include women would score higher on tasks than a team of all men because they possess the sensitivity chip necessary to communicate and relate to others more effectively,” reports the Levo League and C4CM.

In addition, female partners are vastly undervalued. This means, for the same level of work, a firm pays women less. Economists will tell you, women provide great bang for your buck. Although the reasoning may be crude, retaining female employees will help maintain your firm’s bottom line. That’s the bottom line.

2. Maintain diversity

Diversity is key to success. When your firm desperately needs new ideas to make or break a case, innovation will emerge out of teams of diverse size and organization.

“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,” writes Robert F. Brands for the Huffington Post.

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 idea. If you keep losing female associates as a result of deficient maternity leave policy, your firm and its earnings from creativity will suffer.

3. Retract work-from-home

Innovation and change can be a good thing. But, not all firms should look alike. Although flexible schedules is a fad these days, it may not suit the needs of your particular law practice.

Nevertheless, it’s hard to deny that women benefit the most from telecommuting policies. Young female associates look for firms that offer work-from-home policies so that they can look forward to starting a family in the future.

However, if you’re a company like Yahoo who values face-to-face interaction between colleagues, work-from-home policies may not be the best choice for your firm. If this is the case, how can such firms continue to attract and retain successful female employees?

The answer is superior maternity and paternity leave. By allowing working parents ample time off once per child, you will ease the concerns of soon-to-be parents without having to resort to ill-fitted Flex scheduling on a permanent basis for all employees.

4. What comes around goes around

It may seem like a nuisance to provide a valued female attorney with six or more months of maternity leave. But, when it’s your pregnancy or your spouse’s, what comes around goes around. The policy you implement today will affect how you take advantage of it tomorrow.

So, help others and help yourself.

5. …. Or else!

If your firm doesn’t support working mothers, then working mothers will find innovative ways to support themselves.

“A period away from work,” an article in Stylist explains, “can be hugely positive–time to learn a language, take up a hobby.” In fact, this is why there’s a rise in a new type of entrepreneur, the “mumpreneur.”

If your firm doesn’t work to retain its female associates, the firm will miss out on the innovative ideas and brainpower of this important half of society. These mumpreneurs may even open a law practice down the street from your own. Your firm loses by losing its female employees.

Over 120 countries already provide paid maternity leave. Qualified working mothers have plenty of choices for work these days, both in terms of other firms or other nations.

Furthermore, if your firm provides scant time off, you may find your law practice has turned into a medical practice. Just yesterday a Labor lawyer gave birth in her office.

“The action took place inside a law firm’s office after a fellow attorney in the employee benefits practice started giving birth, presumably while redlining some rider for the umpteen-millionth time,” reports Above The Law.

“The mother, we hear, was due in the next week or so. According to our tipster, mom was hoping to maximize her hours before having to go on leave. Well, she succeeded.”

When it comes to supporting working parents (and still profiting), ask yourself, has your firm succeeded?


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The New Divorce Court: Where U.S. Laws Meet Foreign Ones?

Family law in the U.S. has never been so interesting.

Notwithstanding changes in the definition of marriage, divorces are currently the subject of debate among state legislatures.

Divorce, and the related legal dissolutions of marriage, provides an excellent example for why Oklahoma and Arizona’s bills to bar the use of foreign (and religious) law—and the several state bills following suit—merit consideration.

Of course, some would argue that these proposals “displace the many subconstitutional rules through which American courts have long tried to accommodate the reality that much commercial and personal life is international.”

This week, an annulment case, Naseer v. Moghal (Va. Ct. App. Aug. 14, 2012), was brought to the public eye.

The facts of the case are complex, so here is a summary by Joe Palazzolo for the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, who also picked up on the case:

“The story begins with a couple, Tahira Naseer and Nasir Mehmood Khan, who married in Pakistan in 2000. The union didn’t last.

The next year, Mr. Khan told his wife three times that he divorced her, under Islamic law. The ‘three times’ rule is considered a religious component to divorce in Pakistan. But the parties still have to obtain a legal divorce. To begin the legal process, Mr. Khan had to give notice to the local government. But he never did.

Ms. Naseer married again in Pakistan in 2003. She and her new husband, Hamid Moghal, moved to Fairfax County, Va., and had a marriage ceremony there in 2004. That union also failed. The couple separated in 2009.

Ms. Naseer had never told Mr. Moghal about her previous marriage to Mr. Khan. But Mr. Moghal found Ms. Naseer’s marriage certificate and took it with him on a trip to Pakistan. When he checked the Pakistani records, Mr. Moghal discovered that Ms. Naseer had never legally divorced Mr. Khan.

Pakistani authorities issued an arrest warrant for her and charged her with bigamy. So she filed a suit in Pakistan to finalize the divorce between her and Mr. Khan. It was done in 2011.

Back in Virginia, Mr. Moghal sought an annulment, arguing that Ms. Naseer had committed bigamy, because she was still married to Mr. Khan when she married Mr. Moghal. Ms. Naseer filed a counterclaim for divorce, in which she argued that the ‘three times’ rule was enough to effect a legal divorce.”

In the end, the trial court sided with Mr. Moghal and the Virginia Court of Appeals affirmed the decision. So, Mr. Moghal was granted an annulment.

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh—the original commenter on this issue—wrote in defense of the ruling:

“And this wouldn’t be because Virginia was being governed by Sharia, or because American Muslims are entitled to have their legal rights adjudicated under Sharia,” Professor Volokh wrote.

“Rather, it’s because Virginia law calls for the application of the law of the jurisdiction where the marriage or divorce took place, whatever the law might be—again, except in rare situations where the law is contrary to Virginia public policy.”

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog called a lawyer for Mr. Moghul, Thomas P. Silis, who restated that the case largely turned on the question of whether a religious divorce could satisfy the legal requirements for divorce in Pakistan.

Clearly, the Virginia court ruled that it could not. And, this decision was based on the expert testimony of a lawyer from Pakistan.

“The concept of marriage and divorce being both religious and legal was interesting,” Mr. Silis said to the WSJ Law Blog. “We’re very happy with the way the court ruled.”

Although a representative for Ms. Naseer could not be reached, it might be assumed that they believe the U.S. courts did not accurately interpret Pakistani law.

Professor Volokh and the WSJ Law Blog appear to be in agreement that it’s sometimes ‘sensible’ for U.S. courts to consider foreign law.

Yet, is this story enough to convince you?

The expert witness in the aforementioned case was a Pakistani lawyer, well versed on Pakistani law. However, he was not a member of the Pakistani court. Although the expert lawyer can argue what he believes to be law in Pakistan, it’s hard to say what a court in Pakistan would actually rule.

In parody, an American attorney in the U.S. can certain tout what he believes to be the law. Nevertheless, it takes going to court to receive a fair and enforceable ruling as confirmation of his opinion. Speaking of, how many times have lawyers disagreed with court opinions? How many times have clients been unhappily surprised by verdicts–especially via jury?

Can U.S. courts truly mimic foreign ones? And, should they try?

The discussion is still open. Surely law firms can use this subject as fodder for a Friday legal symposium (remember how roundtable debates drive a happier, more productive office?).

Between equity partners, this story also points to even more reasons why wide diversity of race, gender, background, and expertise is necessary for the success of your practice.

Law firms—now, not simply corporate or M&A specialties, but family law, too—should look abroad for new associates, litigation consultants, and clients.

As states and legal bodies become increasingly divergent on their opinion the application of foreign law (and foreign accreditation of lawyers), firms should stay up-to-date on pertinent legislation and adapt the composition of their personnel and business strategy accordingly.


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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.


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Commemorating Steve Jobs: Learning How To Live Fully, Work Passionately, And Hire Diversely From Apple

Even in this legal blog, Steve Jobs and his business strategies for Apple have made a profound impact (read here, here, and here). It is not surprising to find that after his death, the nation, the world, are both shocked and deeply saddened.

Thousands of commemorative articles have been written about his passing. On the White House blog, President Obama wrote,

“The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.”

A particular speech by Jobs—the 2005 Stanford commencement address—has been circulating the Internet. In it, Jobs references his own death and mortality. Especially poignant considering recent events.   However, his comments on life and living from the same speech deserve equal attention.

For example, one of the stories Jobs tells is about dropping out of college. After officially unenrolling from school, Jobs began auditing only those classes that interested him. One such class—on typography and calligraphy—seemed irrelevant at the time, albeit fascinating, to all of his professional goals. Still, he pursued it.

It turns out, quite the contrary was true. Jobs mentions how this understanding of typography greatly influenced the aesthetics of Apple products when founding the company. Today, one of Apple’s undeniable legacies is the prolific use and popularity of sans-serif fonts.

In the commencement speech, telling these stories, Jobs hoped to inspire graduating students to develop those secondary and tertiary passions.

“Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition,” said Jobs.

Other than a heart-felt reminder of the lessons Steve Jobs has offered young minds over the years, his speech has practical applications to legal minds today.

Creativity is directly linked to successful leadership and productivity. And, even though law may be your field of professional practice, it does not mean your individual knowledge of hard sciences, history, or sports will not come in handy one day.

In fact, during the hiring process, those qualified applicants who spent four years eating, drinking, and breathing law, and law only, may not be the best choices for your firm.

Here’s why. When you take on an important patent-dispute case, you’ll need the expertise of that first-year who graduated with a degree in Engineering before becoming a member of the bar.

When your next client is involved in an invasive tax audit, you’ll rely on the knowledge of the ex-Art History major when reviewing the auditors notes on family-heirloom paintings.

Finally, when there’s a second oil spill near Alaska or in the Gulf, it’ll be the paralegal who spent a summer as a Derrickhand that will become an indispensable source of information for the case.

Steve Jobs—whose company is (ironically) iconically known for its clean, white palette—was making an important point about people with colorful backgrounds. Professionally, diversified interests are valuable assets. Personally, multiple passions help a person know and love life fully.

As an attorney, strive to achieve both. As a law firm administrator or hiring partner, seek more colorful lawyers.

And, the greatest tribute that can be paid to Steve Jobs today is exactly the above: learning from his extensive knowledge and expertise.


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Three Cost-Free Ways To Support Working Mothers At Your Firm

Women make up 47 percent of law school graduates, but still only compose 31 percent of the industry’s lawyers, according to The American Bar Association (via WSJ Law Blog). One of the major factors in leaving the practice of law? The stresses of motherhood.

“I’m like so many other lawyers who are mothers, trying to fit into a culture . . . that collides directly with our needs and schedules,” said Laura Mattiacci to the WSJ. Mattiacci founded the Philadelphia chapter of Mother Attorneys Mentoring Association, or “MAMA,” which is a nationwide organization that aims to:

  • enhance the recognition of mother attorneys in the community;
  • promote the advancement of mother attorneys within the profession;
  • facilitate the achievement of work-life balance;
  • provide a forum for informing members and the legal profession about issues of particular concern to mother attorneys; and
  • support mother attorneys contemplating alternative work schedules or extended leaves of absence; and, increase the interaction between mother attorneys of diverse backgrounds and practices.

When looking at the above list, it’s not difficult to see that these goals could easily overlap with those at your firm.

Promoting more women in law makes sense ethically, in terms of gender equality, but it also makes sense professionally. Both female equity and non-equity partners are compensated less on average than male partners, despite operating at equal productivity levels, according to a Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper. This means for less money, your firm has the same work output.

Also, statistically, women perform higher than men in team exercises, including tasks, such as brainstorming, moral reasoning, puzzle-solving, typing and negotiating.

But, like all lawyers, female attorneys are not exempt from work while at home. So, those with children need extra support to manage this heavy caseload.

“There are unexpected urgencies – client emergencies, new cases that come in the door, the need to seek a restraining order from the court,” Mattiacci explains about managing her time as a lawyer and mother.

If motherhood and the time and emotional constraints it places on women is the sole greatest inhibitor to more women in law, there are ways your firm can help. Even if you are unable to provide tangible benefits, such as free childcare, try implementing these three cost-free ways to help retain working mothers at your firm:

  1. Listen. As administrator or managing partner, you may or may not be aware that school started this week. But if you stop to listen to some of the personal stories and anecdotes of young mothers around the office, you’d be more than informed. Then, when a female attorney arrives late this Monday morning, you don’t overreact. This will limit her emotional stress, which is likely already high.
  2. Be Flexible. Many firms are already instituting FLEX scheduling for their employees. Show your support for working mothers by allowing them to work from home one or two days per month. More than likely, she’ll already be forced to take a day off when it’s time to bring her child to the doctor’s office or run other (necessary) motherly errands. Plus, lawyers who work from home are shown to still add value to the firm.
  3. Do Your Research. There are ample other services, like MAMA, that offer support to working mothers. Do your research, and find pertinent events in your area. Advertise them through company resources, and allow your female attorneys the time to attend. In addition, before choosing your employee’s benefits packages and healthcare options, investigate which healthcare companies are best suited for working mothers (and for that matter, working fathers) and their children. Choose accordingly.

Across the board, juggling work and family is difficult. Showing support for your struggling associates is not.


Interested in ideas to increase the firm’s profit as well as employee satisfaction? Try CCM’s Worklife Flexibility CD Box Set, which combines two of its most popular programs into one complete and invaluable collection, featuring: Flextime Strategies that Boost Productivity and Your Bottom Line and Telecommuting: Protect Company Interests and Increase Employee Satisfaction.

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Lawyers of Color – Arriving at “a Glacial Pace”

America is a land of diversity but it is widely acknowledged that, when it comes to culturally recognized accomplishments, much disparity still exists between the races in the actual world of business and, yes, of law.  This gap begins in the education process, where “the diversity within law school graduation rates does not mirror population demographics,” per a report for Diversity Insider by Sharon E. Jones, a lawyer and diversity consultant.

“For example,” Jones explains, “Asians represent 7.9 % of law school graduates.”   That’s not an accurate representation of their proportion in the general population, she notes, which is approximately 4.4%, per the American Bar Association. (Guide to ABA-A Law Approved Law Schools, 2008 Edition.)

“Correspondingly,” she notes, “Blacks and Latinos are underrepresented from a population demographic point of view. Id.   Following on the heels of these numbers, law firms which have hired associates of color have proceeded along the lines.

“According to NALP, for the largest firms in the country, the percentage of associates of color in 2009 was 19.7% (NALP, Law Firm Diversity Demographics, 2009).

Partners of color represented 6.1% of the partners in the largest firms in 2009 and women[-]of[-]color partners were 1.9% of all partners in 2009. Id.”

In the corporate world, it’s pretty much the same story. Jones comes up with figures that show that the 6.6% of racially diverse General Counsel closely tracks what’s going on in law firms nationwide. (Law firms are trending at a figure of around 6.1% of partners of color.)

Interestingly—and a huge boon to the culture of diversity within both law and Corporate America—three Fortune 500 CEO’s are lawyers of color.

The first two lawyers to claim that honor were: Kenneth Chenault, of  American Express, which, according to its site, is “the premium network for high-spending cardmembers”, and  Clarence Otis, Jr., of  Darden Restaurants, the company that owns all those Olive Garden chains.  (Darden also own Red Lobster, LongHorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze and Seasons 52.)

Chenault and Otis, Jr. were most recently followed by a third African-American lawyer.  In December of last year, Kenneth Frazier (pictured)–formerly president of the global healthcare leader, Merck–was tapped as CEO when the then-CEO stepped down and took the role of Chairman.

The Root  had this to say about the appointment:   “Naming a lawyer rather than a scientist as the head honcho has become commonplace at the Big Pharmas, [which] face increasing regulation, battles over health care reform, and litigation over patents and injury claims. Frazier was credited with engineering the multibillion-dollar settlement following the Vioxx recall.”

“Although the number of racial and ethnic minority lawyers has been increasing, the pace has been extremely slow—some would say it has moved at a glacial pace,” Attorney Jones of the Diversity Insider says.

But a glacial pace is still indicative of change…of a gradual thawing of die-hard traditions.  That’s progress.   Upward trends—even when they’re made with baby steps—go a long way towards forging a land of true diversity, with a legal culture of all-out inclusion.


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