How a Better Communication Strategy Can Help You Meet the Demand for Greater Diversity and Inclusion

July 8, 2019

In the latest example of a corporate client putting public pressure on its outside counsel to improve diversity and inclusion, Facebook has embraced something near and dear to lawyers—an award!

In June, the first annual Facebook Law Firm Diversity Champion Award went to Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, which beat out 39 other firms that provide the largest share of legal services to the tech giant. According to the winning firm, “Facebook selected Kilpatrick for its high percentage of women and minority lawyers, leadership opportunities for those employees, and diversity programs to attract and retain top diverse talent.” Competing firms were ranked according to a scoring system Facebook devised by examining their diversity data.

While many corporate clients may not be as technologically advanced in their data crunching as Facebook, most are taking a much more sophisticated approach to assessing outside firms’ progress on diversity and inclusion. As is clear from Facebook’s award and from the vision outlined by the 170 GCs who addressed an open letter on this issue to law firms back in January, improving hiring practices is a good start, but it’s not enough. The partner class needs to become as diverse as the rest of the firm, and women and minority attorneys need to have meaningful opportunities to lead.

Staying competitive in this market will require firms to address D&I issues on multiple fronts, including the recruiting pipeline, training in business development that is tailored to the unique challenges women and minority lawyers face, and a hard look at whether traditional metrics like the billable hour are a fair way to measure success. But in our work counseling firms we consistently see law leaders underestimate the importance of communications and media relations in the effort to improve inclusion.

A sophisticated communication strategy for the firm overall can help get the word out about authentic and effective initiates already underway that are creating a path to partnership for lawyers from underrepresented backgrounds. And a strategic public relations spend on individual lawyers you see as the future faces of your firm, including women and people of color, can help them build their profile, get on the radar of key prospects and pave the way to leadership within and outside the firm.

Firms need to use every tool available in order to meet these client demands. Don’t overlook the crucial role of a great communication strategy in shaping the story about your firm.