By Scott E. Pacheco, marketing and communications manager at Lerch, Early & Brewer, Chtd.
The events of the past year have led firms to reevaluate the way they approach Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in their leadership ranks, in their interactions with clients and in hiring.
Building a culture of inclusion requires more than just having a DEI professional lead diversity efforts at your firm. Innovative strategies are key to standing out in the crowd.
Law firms – for good reason – have placed a huge emphasis on differentiation, and it’s important not to overlook the opportunity. I recently connected with Tahisha Fugate, senior manager of DEI client development at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, and she shared five ways firms can differentiate themselves through technical and creative innovation:
1. Add a function to attorney bios with an audio recording of names, similar to LinkedIn.
The pronunciation of someone’s name is very important. Taking the guesswork out of trying to pronounce someone’s name before you meet them – particularly before a critical client meeting – can help you make a great first impression and the technology exists (see LinkedIn).
2. Create opportunities for intersectional programs and events.
Through intersectionality – recognizing that people experience discrimination based on multiple and intersecting identities, e.g., race, religion, ethnicity, etc. – we can all support each other. Creating authentic opportunities to get to know and experience other cultures is important to include in your firm’s DEI strategy.
3. Inclusive affinity groups that include legal professionals and lawyers.
These groups – composed of those who share similar experiences – allow everyone to come together, regardless of title, in an organized way to support and encourage each other.
4. Allow attorneys to list their pronouns on email signatures and website bios.
An optional pronoun policy is an inexpensive, highly visible action that can have a big impact. It also encourages others to respect preferences.
5. Remove education information from bios – only include bar info.
This will remove bias in pre-screening and increase consideration of lawyers who have taken alternative routes to law school. Approaching how we are defining qualifications and what is considered “top tier” is very important for inclusion.
Whether you’ve done one or all of these things, or none at all, it’s important to recognize the business advantage that differentiating your firm in the DEI space can bring, from hiring to retention, earning new business, and ultimately delivering a higher quality work product.
Fugate sums it up succinctly: “The future and growth of your firm depends on new and innovative approaches to creating a culture of inclusion.”