GCs reinforce commitment to diversity and encourage law firms to do the same
Recently, Paul Weiss posted this on LinkedIn and it caused 170 general counsels (GCs) to write an open letter to their law firms with what is widely considered an ultimatum: improve diversity or lose business.
As the New York Law Journal pointed out, Paul Weiss isn’t the only firm to have a lack of diversity in their partner classes. “Several other elite firms promoted few, if any, women this year. Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian just announced an all-male new partner class of five. Davis Polk & Wardwell’s new partner class, announced in July, includes seven men promoted to partner and one woman who rejoined the firm from the U.S. Attorney’s office. Proskauer Rose promoted 11 new partners, including only two women.”
Of course, this is not a new problem, yet it continues: “the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance, which tracks promotions by large firms, said last year in its most recently available report that women made up 38.1 percent of newly promoted partners—up from 37 percent the year before—while men accounted for 61.9 percent of promotions.”
But perhaps, the lack of diversity that has long been ubiquitous will now balance with some accountability, thanks to the commitment of GCs to begin “voting with their pocketbooks.”
According to this article on Law.com, “general counsel at Facebook Inc., Hewlett-Packard and Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. have all announced in recent months initiatives that will require more diversity among their outside counsel—or put those firms at risk of losing fees.”
While we tend to think of compliance with Outside Counsel Guidelines as a matter of adhering to billing requirements and other compliance terms, they are about so much more. It’s not uncommon for guidelines to include a clause on practices that concern cybersecurity, ethics or diversity. GCs renewed commitment to diversity could mean that the firm’s hiring practices now have a direct impact on the firm getting paid or winning clients.
Building a more diverse firm is not just the right thing to do, it is a win-win for everyone. A recent episode of the podcast Hidden Brain discussed the work of social scientist Adam Golinsky:
“In one study, Adam and his colleagues tracked business school students during a 10-month MBA program. They tested the students using standard creativity measures at the beginning and end of the school term. They found that students who'd dated someone from another country during the term became more creative. In another study, Adam found that even the simple act of reflecting on one's deep relationship with a person from another country caused a temporary boost in creativity.”
The lack of workplace diversity has existed for far too long. It’s simply a bonus that more diversity will help to bring firms into compliance with client guidelines. Bellefield is committed to diversity and encourages firms to work with vendors that embrace diversity in the workplace. On a personal note, I recently learned that there are fewer female CEOs than those named David. I hope to see that change.