Increasing and maintaining diverse attorney representation at U.S. law firms continues to be an uphill battle. According to The American Lawyer, in their Annual Diversity Scorecard, the share of minorities, for example, working in the United States at the largest law firms inched up to 14.4 percent last year, from 14.1 percent in 2013. The Scorecard also shows no substantial increase in the overall percentage of minority lawyers since 2008, when the share reached 13.9 percent. Even more eye-opening, these shares are far below the approximately 37 percent of the population that are minorities in the United States, according to the U.S. Census.
The truth is, the pool of up and coming diverse attorneys is small and if law firms are serious about ensuring diversity on their teams, they need to be proactive about ways they can attract diverse associates.
#1 — Have an Inclusive Hiring Committee
How diverse is your firm’s hiring committee? Does it include women, minority, and LGBT attorneys? A diverse hiring committee is an invaluable resource in selecting a diverse group of law school students to interview.
Clerkships are another opportunity for law firms to recruit diverse law students. Streamline your recruitment program to appeal to those diverse law students.
#2 — Expand Your Talent Search
If you are waiting for diverse lawyers and law students to contact you, you may be waiting a long time. Your firm needs to go out and find them by expanding its legal talent search. In looking for diverse law students, participate in affinity-group job fairs. Job fairs allow you to interview many diverse law students from a variety of law schools in one day. Your firm can also participate in affinity-group student bar activities. Most law schools have active chapters of minority student bar associations. These groups often host banquets, mock interviews, mentoring opportunities and parties during the year. Involvement by attorneys in your firm will help you identify law students worth interviewing for the summer clerkship program.
In searching for diverse lateral attorneys, often legal recruiters have greater access to high-end talent. When working with a legal recruiter on open associate, counsel, and/or partner-level positions, be sure to share your firm’s commitment to an inclusive firm culture and progressive professional development. Also, be sure to share the success of current diverse attorneys within your firm. Using that information, legal recruiters will work with your firm to find outstanding talent that will be a success with your institution.
#3 — Include Diverse Attorneys During Interviews
Your hiring committee should include women, minority and/or LGBT attorneys when interviewing on campus. Whom you send to interview on campus sends a message to law students. Additionally, studies show that diverse law students will feel more comfortable with the interviewing process if a diverse attorney interviews them. Additionally, include diverse attorneys when conducting in-office interviews. Diverse law students may ask questions of minority lawyers at your firm that they may not otherwise feel comfortable asking.
Remember, diverse lawyers are attracted by the same things that attract all attorneys – good pay, good work environment, and opportunities for advancement. While there is no magic formula for attracting a team of diverse lawyers, the above suggestions will put your firm on the right path.