Advancing Diversity and Inclusion in the Legal Profession
Diversity and inclusiveness are important to the business and practice of law. Below are just a few of the reasons legal organizations should continue to make increasing diversity and inclusiveness a priority.
- Organizational Effectiveness. Research has shown that diversity in the workplace leads to increased creativity and innovation. Organizations that are more creative and innovative are better able to serve their clients.
- Economics. Diversity enhances an organization’s competitiveness for both talent and clients. This is especially true in the private sector with corporate legal counsel’s push for more diversity among law firms with The Call to Action initiative.
- Liability. Diverse and inclusive organizations limit their exposure to lawsuits based on discrimination.
- Ethical. The legal profession is the vanguard in our society defending justice and pursuing liberty for all citizens. Thus, it should lead the way toward full inclusion. As Justice O’Connor stated in Grutter v. Bollinger, “Effective participation by members of all racial and ethnic groups in the civic life of our Nation is essential if the dream of one Nation, indivisible, is to be realized.”
“Diversity and inclusion makes for smarter individuals, organizations and companies. There is no denying it. CLI’s goal of helping legal organizations create cultures of inclusion through education and support dovetails directly with every legal organization’s objective of growth and innovation. CLI is essential in helping organizations recognize that the growth and innovation they seek can be achieved through a diverse employee population and an inclusive work culture. CLI offers step-by-step guidance in this area.”
Jennifer Jaskolka, Assistant General Counsel, Xcel Energy
Diversity efforts fundamentally value numbers. Diversity efforts largely focus on getting diverse and female attorneys in the door without significant regard for retaining and advancing them. Due to this, most legal organizations have a revolving door of diverse and female attorneys.
The need to increase the pipeline to law school is imperative. Research shows that diverse students not only are less less likely to graduate high school and complete college, but they are less likely to enroll in law school. Additionally, the bar passage rate for racial and ethnic minorities has been shown to be lower.
The legal profession has not dramatically changed over the decades. If we are to find solutions, we must break the norms that have marginalized diverse populations. If we do so successfully, we not only create greater diversity among attorneys, but greater representation for the vast demographics they serve.
Inclusiveness efforts fundamentally value diversity. So long as the underlying culture of an organization is not inclusive, diversity efforts will fail to achieve any measure of success.
Inclusiveness acts as a catalyst for diversity by addressing deep systemic issues that cause higher attrition rates for diverse and female attorneys. Inclusiveness helps organizations sustain their long-term diversity goals by creating workplaces where diverse and female attorneys will want to stay and will thrive.
In an inclusive workplace, the organization values perspectives and contributions of all people, and strives to incorporate their needs and viewpoints into the organizational culture at all levels. Inclusiveness requires the participation of everyone in the organization. Just as historically underrepresented groups in the legal profession must be included, majority attorneys and staff must also participate in the removal of barriers (mostly unconscious) created by the dominant culture.