As the world pivots from this coronavirus pandemic, the legal community will be challenged to determine to what extent a diverse workplace will define itself.
The disruption of the business world has created opportunity to reset the table. A new world of possibilities is possible.
Since the great recession of 2008, there has been a decline in the percentage of women and African Americans represented in law. And yet, the number of women enrolled in law school surpassed men since 2016, American Bar Association (ABA).
Women attorneys represent about 23% of the firm’s partners and 45% of associates. There are twice as many men who represent corporations’ general council, 69% compared to 31% women.
Women and lawyers of color face the constant threat of being minimized. Representation of minority women continues to be under-represented in law. Latina and African American women account for about 2.45% and 2.55% of law firm associates and 0.77% and 0.68% of law firm partners, respectively (ABA).
African Americans are also poorly represented in law. The most recent data from a diversity survey (Minority Corporate Council (MCC) reports that blacks account for just 2.1% of the firm and less are equity partners. Consider that 13.4% of the U.S. population is black. These numbers have not changed over the last decade.
Law firms are making a commitment to diversity and inclusion and that will continue. Caucasian women are making consistent advances in the law partner ranks, increasing from 17% to 20%.
Insights from the (MCC) diversity report, indicate that departures of lawyers of color from law firms has escalated. This disturbing truth underscores the inherent problem with how firms are furthering diversity. Lawyers of color find themselves in a culture that does not make them feel equal among colleagues.
“My job is and has always been about matching each candidate’s unique skill set with a firm that mutually benefits all parties.” – Shari Davidson, President of On Balance Search Consultants.
Diversity & Inclusion
There is a growing recognition for the need for diversity, but we still have not figured out how to address it. The problem persists due to due practices that further diminish those from diverse backgrounds.
It’s common place for firms to assign a diverse lawyer to a trial team solely for optics. No one wants to be on the team unless they are making real contributions.
“Our society is guilty of seeing only what they want to see, blind to what they don’t see, or will not defend what is unseen. Recently, the New York Bar has required attorney’s continuing legal education to include credits in ethics, diversity, inclusion and the elimination of bias.” Shari Davidson.
Inside and outside of the firm, women and lawyers of color are all too often acknowledged as the last person during the introductions for a meeting. Subtly demeaning individuals based on color or gender or race in the workplace is unacceptable. It’s offensive and disgusting.
Diversity and inclusion must be intentional and focused.
Will the legal community seize this moment to advance inclusion of diverse talent? Law firms need to be thoughtful about bringing on rising talent that adds to the overall vision and values of the practice.
Clearly communicating the firm’s commitment to diversity must prove by example that the path to success within the firm is on an equal footing for persons of color and women.
The importance of diversity and inclusion must be a priority at every level of the firm. Be known as a firm that champions diversity and compensates their talent equitably.
About On Balance Search Consultants
On Balance offers great insight and industry intelligence. Shari Davidson, president of On Balance Search Consultants, advises experienced attorneys at every stage of their career to take them to the next level. From making the lateral partner move to succession planning.
Shari takes a proactive approach to advising law firms on how to take a firm to the next level and helps rising talent make the transition to the right law firm. On Balance Search identifies opportunities that exist today, not down the road.
Contact us today. Call 516.731.3400 or visit our website at https://www.onbalancesearch.com.
Please note that the content of this blog does not constitute legal advice and is only intended for the educational purpose of the reader. Please consult your legal counsel for specifics regarding your specific circumstances and the laws in your states pertaining to social media and any legal restrictions regarding the law.