Diversity as a business development tool cuts both ways. For those law firms that lack it, there is often frustration in knowing there are matters and clients that they will lose. For those that have it, there are endless opportunities to be rewarded.
It was ironic that the March/April 2017 issue of the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine arrived the same week that I was working on another ABA responsibility—the March 1st implementation of the ABA’s new CLE diversity policy. As chair of the Standing Committee on Continuing Legal Education (SCOCLE), I have had the privilege of being involved in the many years where this policy was discussed, and ultimately adopted. Now I have the opportunity to oversee the implementation of a policy—that quite simply—requires an ABA program to meet a certain diversity threshold among the faculty, or not be accredited by the association. It is not unlike the requirement of many corporate legal departments that will dole out work to diverse lawyers.
My marketing column, Diversity and Inclusion Is a Marketing Tool (and Necessity) in 2017, discusses just how valuable diversity in a law firm’s attorney pool can be to the bottom line. There was a time when simply saying you championed diversity efforts was enough. Later, simply showing diversity in numbers on a form or application passed muster. Now you need to go a step further and ensure that diverse attorneys are actually staffing the matter at hand.
Competition for membership and exposure with organizations such as NAMWOLF, the MCCA, the National Bar Association, and various other “networks” can be fierce. The bottom line is that these organizations often provide a conduit for business between law firms and businesses needing legal services. Greater diversity in the legal profession is slowly growing. If you want to maximize your firm’s ability to compete for these opportunities, be sure diversity is not something you just talk about. You need to hire and retain diverse counsel. You need to align yourself with the right organizations—through membership, sponsorship and active participation. Make sure diversity is working for your law firm, and not against it.