According to the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) Chief Legal Officer (CLO) 2018 Survey, ACC members are being more assertive about diversity demands and are “a lot more interested in using the ultimate penalty” if their law firms don’t deliver. Much has been written about how in-house counsel are driving diversity and inclusion (D&I) with outside counsel; even given that, there is a lot of thinking, but not a lot of action.
If your CLO has not made the commitment yet at the organization level, in-house counsel who hire outside counsel have the ability to achieve change own their own. Here are a few suggestions:
- Before reaching out to potential outside counsel, consult the law firm’s commitment to D&I. Though be forewarned — every law firm web site that I have checked proudly states its commitment to diversity.
- Talk to your manager about your desire to bring about change. You can start out with saying, “I am concerned about the diversity of the legal representation that we hire. I want the best lawyers on the team, and it is a fact that the best results come from a matter team that is diverse.” Indeed, a recent Acritas survey suggests that corporate legal departments value diversity because diverse teams at law firms are more than 1.5-times as likely to achieve a “perfect 10” performance score and receive more than 3-times higher Net Promoter Scores (Bain & Co. client satisfaction index).
- Keep your own diversity scorecards. You work with the same firms often. How do they stack up to your expectations? If you have autonomy in which outside firms to hire, then hire those that demonstrate support for what you value. The majority of your peers will be with you. Fully 66% of in-house counsel say it’s a priority for them to allocate more work to firms that proactively show value.
- Invite the law firm for an in-person pitch meeting; and from the outset, set the expectation for diversity. Invite the potential matter team from the firm to a get-to-know-you lunch to discuss their approach. That way, you have the opportunity to get acquainted with the lawyers who will be performing various tasks on the matter. It also allows you to put a name with a face.
- Follow Up. Monitor the matter team to make sure the law firm is being held accountable. Check the bills to make sure the attorneys you met during the lunch are the same ones working on the matter.
If you work in a corporate law department, you have the ability to impact D&I positively, whether as part of the general counsel’s strategy or as a personal commitment. You are empowered to accelerate change.