Law firms ignore this question at their peril.
Law firms who continue to ignore the importance of diversity on their teams may soon see this choice affect their bottom line. At a recent Chicago conference on women in the courtroom, a panel of general counsels for major corporations vowed not to do business with firms that do not staff their teams with women lawyers.
Because corporations are exquisitely tuned in to public opinion and what matters to their consumers, they are sensitive to the optics of entering business relationships with organizations that do not share their brand’s values. A law firm can be replaced much more easily than a corporation can repair damage to its brand.
The lead-up to mergers can also uncover reputation liabilities as the merging firms open their records as part of the due diligence process. Firms with a poor record on diversity in hiring, with a pay gap that hasn’t been addressed, with harassment accusations that have yet to be resolved, are going to be held accountable.
This goes without saying, but I’ll say it again anyway: Diversity in your ranks—and especially at the top—makes your firm more innovative and better able to solve problems for your clients. And that means diversity allows you to provide more value to your clients.
Don’t let lack of diversity in your firm make you a liability for your clients or potential partners. It’s time to move beyond superficial efforts at inclusion and make a real commitment to recruiting and retaining lawyers from underrepresented groups.