How Directories Drive — or Doom — Diversity

January 25, 2021

We were so pleased to see this very smart recent take on the underappreciated role law firm directories play in advancing the careers of women and non-white lawyers. Submissions to Chambers, or Sullivan’s here in Illinois, as well as nominations for key industry awards, may not be the first thing that comes to mind when law leaders think about “diversity initiatives” that will make a big impact, but in fact directories, awards and other markers of credibility and leadership can be powerful drivers of change within law firms. Your entries in the “who’s who” of the legal world should accurately represent the inclusive firm you are working to build now and in the future. If they don’t, it’s time to change your process.

Without interventions, we know that these directories and awards will continue to replicate the biases of the past and fail to represent the work of diverse lawyers. The good news is, two cohorts have the power to revise the process and ensure the firm is staying true to its values on equity and inclusion:

Individual attorneys (along with support from their colleagues in the marketing department) must advocate for themselves and their careers by embracing the importance of these listings and the impact they make on an attorney’s career path. By taking an active role in the process of compiling information for the submission, attorneys can be sure to highlight their best work from the year and make sure their leadership within the firm and on key cases and matters is accurately represented. Choosing the right referees to advocate on their behalf is also crucial.

Law firm leaders, including practice group heads and marketing directors, can be much more intentional about filling out their roster to better highlight the firm’s diversity and ensure everyone’s contributions are being represented accurately and without bias. Are there ways you can represent more “up-and-coming attorneys,” who are more likely to be nonwhite or women? Leaders might also enlist the expertise of a diversity and inclusion specialist to review the process for creating the submissions, as well as the final product, with an eye toward spotting instances of bias.

High-profile directory listings can supercharge an attorney’s career path and burnish the overall reputation for the firm. Make sure those opportunities are distributed in equitable ways to position your future superstars for success and move closer to your D&I goals.