Nearly 4 out of 5 law firms want to improve on diversity primarily to enhance their own reputation. According to the results of a webinar poll conducted by the InclusIQ Institute and the e-learning provider VinciWorks, 79% of legal sector staff surveyed said it was among the top three reasons they needed to improve. This reminded me of a conversation I had with the a group of Partners from a large UK based firm a few years ago, who had conducted ‘brand recognition’ research. Turns out they had good recognition and reputation amongst while male legal professionals and this was a point of pride. However, they were shocked to see the picture was much murkier amongst female legal professionals; their target employees – who had limited brand recognition for the firm, and a less positive reputation. This was a wake-up call for the firm and a signal of how far they had to go in promoting diversity internally for the message it could send externally. As we have often told professional services clients, doing nothing on diversity and inclusion will not even maintain your status quo. Your competitors, not to mention clients, are making headway on these areas, particularly on improving gender balance at senior levels.
When asked what their top 3 reasons for their firm addressing diversity and inclusion, enhancing reputation was top followed by employee (61%) and client demand (58%). In a land where ‘client is king’ we were delighted to see firms responding to the priorities of employees, which closely matched those of clients. Risk of government regulation or legal action (45%) and the bottom line benefits of diverse workforces (42%) were important to nearly half of those surveyed, but were not the main drivers. The message seems to be clear: be good to your clients and employees and you’ll have your pick of both.
If you want to see how you stack up against other firms in terms of priorities and practices around diversity and inclusion, download a free copy of the webinar ‘Beyond Protected Characteristics’ which had over 110 representatives from different UK and European law firms in attendance.