About Diversity and Inclusiveness
Do you know that the legal profession is ranked as one of the lowest among all professions for racial and ethnic diversity?
- Women have made up about 50% of law students for over 20 years, but they only make up only 36% of legal professionals and only 21% of partners at large law firms (NALP, 2016)
- Female equity partners at large firms typically earn 80% of the compensation earned by male equity partners (NALP, 2016)
- Racial and ethnic minorities made up almost 27% of 2014 law school graduates, yet they make up only 14% of lawyers and 8% of partners at large firms (NALP, 2015)
- Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender attorneys represent about 2% of attorneys (compared to an estimated 3 to 5% of the general population (NALP, 2015)
- After eight years, 86% of minority female associates have left the legal profession, and minority females comprise less than 2% of partners in larger law firms (ABA, 2006)
Although the legal profession has focused on improving diversity in recent years, it takes additional knowledge and effort to embrace inclusiveness in the legal workplace. While diversity is about recruiting underrepresented professionals, inclusiveness is about retaining and advancing these professionals.
Inclusiveness is about creating a culture where everyone has a voice and where differences are celebrated in order to achieve shared success. These differences include:
- age and generation
- race, ethnicity, heritage, and national origin
- gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation
- abilities and disabilities
- faith, religion, and spiritual beliefs
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 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.
Our programs give individuals and organizations the tools they need to create inclusive workplaces that sustain diversity in the legal profession.