Diversity & Inclusion Help Attract/Retain Legal Professionals, Clients


The Chapter conducts regular engagement surveys that include metrics on diversity and inclusion.

The chapter includes diversity-related matters on the agendas at management/leadership meetings . . . and board retreats.

The Chapter develops, communicates and implements a strategic management plan that incorporates diversity- and inclusion-related elements.

These are just three of the 25 best practices that the Association of Legal Administrators recommended to its chapters last summer to encourage a more diverse and inclusive legal community. The organization has launched a multi-faceted initiative to build awareness of the importance of legal workforce diversity and inclusiveness, including a “Diversity and Inclusion Scorecard” designed to measure progress in eliminating barriers that may limit opportunities for legal professionals to succeed in the m easures underscore that a diverse workforce (in terms of ethnicity as well as gender, sexual orientation, and cultural background) and inclusion (proactively ensuring all employees are valued, treated fairly and offered meaningful work and professional opportunities) are recognized as key factors that contribute to a firm’s growth and long-term success.

According to Liz Mikos, Diversity Strategist at Nesso Strategies, the legal profession has demonstrated progress regarding diversity and inclusion strategies in recent years, but she believes significant progress still remains.

“We say that diversity is a process, it’s not a destination. Conversations about diversity and inclusion need to continue, and we need to regularly use metrics to hold up that mirror and self-examine,” Mikos emphasizes. “We need to say – these are our points of success, let’s celebrate those. But we need to use those successes as momentum and continue to tackle the areas that need more work.”

Joseph West, President and CEO of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, Inc. (MCCA), points to strong diversity and inclusion programs as key to enabling legal groups to attract top talent and clients. “Additionally, they serve as a strong retention tool,” he says.

West points to results from an MCCA research project, “Workplace 2020: What Gen Y Attorneys Experience & Expect.” The report revealed that a majority of survey respondents (approximately 67 percent) indicated that an inclusive workplace is a significant factor in selecting an employer in their legal job search. The data also demonstrated that “the value of a diverse legal profession and a diverse and inclusive workplace are greater for this generation than in previous ones even as the differentials between the represented and the underrepresented continue.”

While West sees that legal organizations are placing more emphasis on diversity and inclusion, he believes there’s been only incremental progress on actual implementation of related workforce programs during the past few years – and on the diversity/inclusion metrics among law offices.

"Mentoring efforts serve as an important foundation to making employees feel valued and engaged,” West emphasizes. And while he sees evidence that most organizations appoint mentors to help develop the skills and knowledge of less experienced legal professionals, West believes adoption of sponsorship programs is critical as well.

Sponsorship of an employee goes far beyond typical mentoring activities, West explains. “A sponsor advocates for the success of an employee, provides developmental opportunities and spends political capital to prepare an employee for higher level leadership positions,” he says.

For example, a sponsor can help accelerate an employee’s developmental opportunities by introducing them to key clients, assigning them to significant projects or placing them on important committees with senior partners.

“Mentoring and sponsorship programs are essential best practices to establishing a diverse and inclusive workplace in today’s law offices,” West says. “As we found in our research, diversity and inclusion are significant incentives for recruiting and retaining the next generation of legal professionals. Understanding that reality is an important step to creating a business environment and culture that employees want and value.”