After reading About Stats, Gaps, and Biases, a blog post written by my colleague, Laura Rogora, wherein she discussed our personal biases and invited readers to take an implicit bias test to help identify one’s own personal biases, I began to think about biases in law firms. In particular, I wondered how law firms can get beyond the biases that inevitably invade the recruiting and hiring processes and, more importantly, how a law firm can go from well-meaning to well-doing.

In that regard, two follow up questions came to mind:

  1. What can law firms do to meet their “well-doing” objectives?
  2. How do law firms know that their “well-doing” objectives are being met across the firm?

Well … after much thought, the answers became very clear. I’m sure you’ve all heard the phrase: in order to know where you’re going, you must first know where you’ve been. In this case, let’s take it a step further and say that in order to know where you’re headed, you must first know where you are. What that means is that law firms that want to continue to be viable in an ever-changing global economy have to start culling and analyzing their own data now.

Law firms must see where they stand in comparison to their competitors, both nationally and locally before steps to “well-doing” can be taken. Not surprisingly, there are a number of organizations that are willing to help shed some light on how law firms and legal departments compare to one another.

Many organizations like the Women in Law Empowerment Forum (WILEF), creator of the Gold Standard Certification, the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA), creator of the Sager Award, and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), creator of the Corporate Equality Index score exist in the United States and have initiatives directed toward certifying, publicly recognizing, and broadly publicizing eligible law firms and legal departments that have integrated women and minorities into the highest leadership positions. They also recognize those firms and legal departments that have policies and practices in place that reflect a true commitment to diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.

These national organizations accomplish their goals by conducting research and compiling their own data, which is why law firms and legal departments need to do this as well. They start by inviting law firms and legal departments to participate in both large and small diversity and inclusion surveys, scorecards, and questionnaires which include very specific questions that relate to diverse representation in employment and leadership, policies that effect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) employees, working parents and caregivers, as well diverse vendor representation for supplies and services that law firms and legal departments use every day.

Once the organizations receive completed surveys, scorecards, and questionnaires from outside law firms and internal legal departments, the organizations compile the data, analyze it, and compare the results, which is how awards and achievements are awarded. Some organizations like the National Association of Legal Career Professionals (NALP) and MCCA take the time to publish their findings online and in hard-copy print for researchers and diversity and inclusion professionals to use in their ongoing efforts to integrate women, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, LGBT, and disabled attorneys in the legal profession.

For example, below are the requirements, in 2012, for WILEF’s Gold Standard Certification:

20% of the firm’s equity partners must be women;

10% of the firm chairs and managing partners must be women;

20% of the firm’s primary governance committee must be women;

20% of the firm’s compensation committee must be women;

25% of the firm’s practice group leaders and/or department heads must be women; and

10% of the top half of the most highly compensated equity partners in the firm must be women.

Just taking the time to pull the internal metrics necessary to complete a survey or questionnaire provided by any of the before-mentioned organizations, gets the “well-doing” ball rolling. Although it may take some time to get publicly recognized for diversity and inclusion initiatives, earn a score of 100% on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, win MCCA’s Sager Award, or earn the Gold Standard Certification given by WILEF, at least your firm will know where it stands and where it’s headed. The firm also will know that its “well-doing” initiatives are being met across the firm when it starts receiving national publicity and the recognition the firm deserves.

Resources:

WILEF Certification emphasizes the leadership roles achieved by equity women partners, rather than the policies or practices of the firm or the overall number or percentage of women in the partnership.

MCCA was founded in 1997 to advance the hiring, retention, and promotion of diverse attorneys in legal departments and the law firms that serve them. MCCA accomplishes its mission through the collection and dissemination of information about diversity in the legal profession.

NALP is the premier resource for information on legal employment and recruiting. Analysis of data sources such as the Employment Report and Salary Survey, the Associate Salary Survey, the NALP Directory of Legal Employers, and others allows NALP to provide comprehensive information on a variety of topics. NALP published a report in January 2012 of its findings regarding the representation of women and other diverse groups among partners and associates at law firms.

Launched in 2002, the HRC Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index has become a roadmap and benchmarking tool for U.S. businesses in the evolving field of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality in the workplace.