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A Guide to DEI and Your Law Firm

  • February 2, 2022

Promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion is a priority for employers in every sector today and is a key part of good people management where everyone is valued in an organisation.

The Black Lives Matter movement, the George Floyd tragedy in 2020, and the terrible treatment of three England football team members during the Euros have been pivotal in highlighting how far away we are from being a fair society for all.

From a work context, this is even more disappointing when the data from multiple sources confirm that diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforces drive better business outcomes. Yet, despite a significant focus on DEI in the workforce, some law firms still have work to do.

In today’s post, I want to share some fundamentals of DEI and how this may impact your law firm moving forward.

DEI Definitions and U.K. Legislation

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a term used to describe policies and programmes that promote the representation and participation of different groups of individuals, including people of different ages, races and ethnicities, abilities and disabilities, genders, religions, cultures, and sexual orientation.

As I prepared to write this article, I came across an excellent way to describe DEI from the Chief Diversity officer at the University of Michigan, Robert Sellers.

  • Diversity is where everyone is invited to the party
  • Inclusion means that everyone gets to contribute to the playlist
  • Equity means that everyone has the opportunity to dance

This metaphor by Robert is a way for us to understand that the DEI policy we have for our organisation must work in practice. For example, there is no point in employing female lawyers if they are never invited onto the board, which is the same for every minority group.

The CIPD confirms that while U.K. legislation sets minimum standards overlaying disability, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation, among others – an effective DEI strategy goes further than being legally compliant. DEI implementation benefits employee wellbeing and engagement while adding increased value to an organisation.

DEI and Business Growth

McKinsey have produced several research reports on the business case for diversity since 2014. The latest published report confirms that the case remains strong, and also, the connection between diversity on executive teams and financial outperformance has strengthened over time.

There is a strong business case for gender diversity and ethnic and cultural diversity in leadership teams. The most diverse companies are now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability.

“Companies with more than 30 per cent women executives were more likely to outperform companies where this percentage ranged from 10 to 30, and in turn, these companies were more likely to outperform those with even fewer women executives or none at all.”

Good news about what is possible with support and focus, though the challenging times since March 2020 have impacted diverse groups.

A McKinsey study late last year found that diverse team members have struggled the most during COVID-19 and a lack of awareness around diversity, equity and inclusion issues negatively affect employees right now.

The pandemic has challenged the nature of work, job roles, organisational culture, and business strategy, and from this shake-up, we can carve a new path towards increased success in DEI.

The data confirmed that diverse teams achieve more. Therefore, it is logical to assume that law firms want to attract diverse talent in a competitive business environment.

Interestingly our changing workforce increasingly wants to join teams that embrace diversity. A post last year on the LinkedIn talent blog revealed that employers that posted more about diversity received 26% more applications from women.

This data backs up The Psychological contract concept that first emerged in the 1960s related to our beliefs and expectations of our employers, confirming that employees want to work for employers with good practices where they also feel valued.

Developing Your DEI Strategy

So, where do you start when it comes to developing a DEI strategy for your law firm? Taking a sense check on your current practice is always a good idea, especially in light of remote and hybrid teams.

The is a well-versed quote from the personal development world that what you focus on grows. The converse is true.

Perhaps the last couple of years have meant DEI, and its implementation has taken a back seat in your firm.

Maybe comments go unchecked on Zoom meetings, and your talent strategy and DEI hasn’t been discussed yet with your legal recruiting partner.

As recommended by Stephen Covey, start with the end in mind. Assess your current state and where your desired state will be.

Your overall strategy needs to cover: behaviours in your ‘workplace’, whether that be remote or hybrid working; communication, both the what and the how; your L & D process and finally, how you will review your progress as you reinforce that your firm is the inclusive place to develop your legal career.

Remember that this process will take time, and a diverse team needs an inclusive environment to thrive in your overall strategy.
DEI needs to be a theme across your organisation that aligns with other initiatives such as workplace wellbeing, investors in people and how you are developing your employer value proposition which we will cover in a future post.

Learning and Development

DEI is still a new concept for many, and consequently, we all require a deeper understanding. Start with your management team, who will be pivotal in implementing the process across your firm. Naturally, it goes without saying that ‘walking the talk’ must always start with your leadership team first.

Include diversity concepts and understanding into your induction and onboarding process and programmes. Make sure your values and policies around DEI are transparent and monitored.

Many firms are ahead of the curve and invest in external training to facilitate this process.

Behaviour in Your Firm

Once your staff are trained, they now understand how to include and engage with everyone in the team. Ensure everyone understands the desirable behaviours a diverse team exhibits and be clear about the importance of personal accountability to uphold your firm’s standards and process.

Open Communication Measure and Review

I have recently watched several stories on the news where certain individuals have felt unable to speak out about the uninclusive treatment they received in their workplace.

Don’t let this happen in your firm. Encourage and demand open communication. Develop an open culture with good communication channels.

Use your company-wide meetings, media, and newsletters to reinforce and remind how important DEI is in your firm.

Some partners we are speaking to about DEI also include DEI objectives and behaviours in their performance reviews.

Finally, consistently ask for input and feedback and act on it. Use employee surveys and your audit and benchmark your process against other firms.

What Next?

DEI strategy implementation is becoming more important and must form part of your recruitment strategy as you move forward. Clayton Legal is experienced in partnering with firms to ensure they have a diverse candidate pool to choose from.

Contact Clayton legal here if you would like support to develop your legal recruitment strategy or job search.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country
since 1999 and has built up an enviable reputation for trust and
reliability during that time. We have made over 5,000 placements from
Partners to Legal Executives, Solicitors to Paralegals and Legal I.T.
personnel to Practice Managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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