3 Tips for Firms Considering “Diversity Billing” Programs

August 5, 2019

Dorsey and Whitney’s new “Diversity Hours” policy is a significant step forward in law firms’ efforts to move from lip service to action on diversity and inclusion. Under the program, attorneys can bill up to 50 hours per year for time spent attending educational sessions, participating in internal groups or representing the firm at diversity-related events. If there’s one thing we know about lawyers, it’s that they will do what they can bill for! Assuming this trend continues elsewhere, here are three opportunities this innovation in billable hours requirements presents:

Capture the data. Not only will this program likely incentivize Dorsey attorneys to devote more time to professional development that will make a real impact on firm culture, but the firm has an opportunity to track data on how these hours are actually being used. In a market where clients want to “see the receipts” backing up firm claims that they take diversity seriously, this data will prove a powerful tool.

Think beyond just D&I. Your firm’s future success depends on the attorneys you have today doing more than just serving clients. What about creating a similar structure to encourage time spent on business development, creating valuable thought leadership that builds your brand, and even best practices around wellness? Allowing attorneys to bill time for all the things you want them to do means you can measure their performance and productivity in a more holistic way—and build a stronger and more sustainable culture and firm.

Get the word out. Dorsey’s move grabbed headlines because this is a truly novel innovation with the potential to make real change. But it’s worth noting that they could have implemented this new system quietly—if they had, we wouldn’t be talking about it now. If you want to position your firm as a disrupter or change-maker on issues like these, it is crucial to team up with marketing and communications professionals to strategize on how to tell the story about your plans.