If we appear to be talking about diversity and inclusion often, we are. We repeatedly reference the Lincoln Derr Advantage (“#LDAdvantage”) on our website and in our social media interactions. The #LDAdvantage asserts experience, diversity, and local roots. Diversity makes our firm’s top three list of core values. What is a distinct competitive advantage for a small firm like Lincoln Derr is a model that can be replicated by any law firm looking to differentiate themselves.
Women attorneys remain considerably underrepresented across the legal landscape. Women comprise just under 35 percent of lawyers at law firms, according the 2017 Law360 Glass Ceiling report. And the percentage of women with equity partnerships is even lower — about 20 percent — and has been for years. The underlying causes for that disparity are complex. Some lawyers leave big firms to go in-house. Some leave the practice altogether. And some decide to join smaller firms — or start firms of their own.
If the initial step forward is motivated by an interest in “checking the diversity box,” go ahead. You have to start somewhere. But in the long run, organizational culture must be consistent with firm values. Sadly, many firms bring a diverse lawyer “to the table” in order to close the deal. Clients no longer tolerate these patronizing efforts. Similarly, firms must promote and include. “Talking the talk” must include “walking the walk.”
As corporate America begins to understand what diversity is NOT, it unfolds a meaning the “vendor diversity policies” never touch. “Diversity policies” are integral. However, in our experience, most of the well-intentioned “policies” are form over substance. When the client sees the impact of human connection in outcome measures, values inevitably change from an “inclusive environment” to an “integral decision.”
So many people still see diversity as an obligation rather than a gift. Though, when a client realizes that hiring a diverse law firm is a real advantage rather than a required quota, word of mouth travels fast and business booms. Our firm often gets a foot in the door because of corporate diversity initiatives. We keep the door wide open because we provide value. While value is usually result-centric to our client population, we believe positive results are achieved because of collaborative efforts of a diverse team of thoughtful individuals.
We challenge you to copy us. Grab the opportunity to change the legal landscape. Let the benefits of a diverse law firm culture be one of the top three factors contributing to your firm’s success.