Diversity – And the changing view of our landscape

The business case is being made day after day that diversity will make money for law firms. Said another way, diversity will prevent law firms from losing clients.

Many businesses in Corporate America are beginning to look like and respresent their community of interest. And, of course, America has always been called the “Melting Pot.” Corporate America is beginning to demand that we, law firms, look like it.

They are expecting that not only do we have associates and partners in the law firm hierarchy that are attorneys of color and women, but that these same folks also work on the matters for which Corporate America engages the law firm.

There is an interesting series of articles, beginning with Moms, Law and Change that talks about women, specifically, and the law.

The issue of diversity is being taken seriously now by major law firms. Last year, and again in Spring 2006, a group of 15 – 20 of the largest and best law firms in the country, members of my Managing Partners Roundtable, will participate with LawBiz Management in hosting a symposium about the challenges facing attorneys of color and the managements of these law firms in effectively dealing with these challenges.

David Wilkins, a Harvard professor, last year said that the Diversity issue cannot be studied on the basis of numbers. Rather, he said, the issue must be viewed person by person. In other words, when you start the year with a person of color, where was he/she at the end of the year. Was this person still with the firm? Did this person progress? Did this person work on exciting and interesting matters for and with the firm?

Another interesting observation:While he didn’t claim expertise on the gender issue, he did say that with more and more graduating law classes being heavily populated (oftentimes more than 50%), the gender and color issues may merge to be one issue in the not-too-distant future!

Professor Wilkins certainly opened my eyes wider.

During the WWII, women made great strides, only to see them wiped out afterwards. With the strides being made by women today, I don’t think we’re going to back-track. Women won’t let us this time. And that may be good for all of us … men, women and children!


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