The business case for diversity and inclusion in a law department
Organizations today must navigate a rapidly changing and increasingly complex business and legal environment punctuated by globalization, generational shifts, and advancing technology. While many organizations recognize that a diverse and inclusive workforce gives them a competitive advantage when facing these challenges, the legal profession has generally lagged in the area of diversity and inclusion (D&I).
What is diversity and inclusion?
- Diversity calls for a mixture of differences and similarities among employees, including those concerning age, gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, veteran status, and sexual orientation).
- Inclusion, while closely related, calls for a work environment that values different ideas and perspectives, provides equal access to opportunities and resources, and allows all individuals to contribute fully to the organization's success.
- There is substantial research to show that in-house law departments and their organizations benefit from D&I.
D&I improves the quality of services – and their results
- Diverse attorneys bring different perspectives, experiences, and opinions to identifying, addressing, and resolving legal issues.
- Recent studies found that gender diverse law department teams achieve significantly higher performance ratings (see 2019 State of Law Departments Report, produced by Thomson Reuters and Acritas) and ethnically diverse executive teams are 33% more likely to outperform their peers on profitability.
- Teams with diverse members often are more innovative, creative, and collaborative than teams with members that share similar backgrounds. Teams that follow an inclusive process make decisions twice as fast with half the meetings.
- Diversification encourages team members to consider factors and issues that they might otherwise overlook, undervalue, or dismiss. Inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time.
Diversity and inclusion boost internal operations
- Diverse law department personnel remain engaged in their roles and are employed by the organization because the department promotes, practices, and rewards diversity.
- A 2017 survey of business professionals showed that employees who say they can be their authentic self at work are nearly three times more likely to say they are proud to work for their organization; and four times more likely to say they are empowered to perform their best work.
- Increasing job satisfaction across the department by providing its members with opportunities to support important principles of justice, ethics, and equality.
- Attracting a wider pool of qualified candidates who seek a law department with a strong commitment to diversity. A 2016 survey of millennials showed that 47% of millennials are actively looking for D&I in potential employers.
The Practice Notes, Increasing Law Department Diversity and Increasing Law Firm Diversity, available with a free trial to Practical Law Connect, can help your organization understand how to better promote and increase D&I in your law department and the law firms you engage.