ing perception that law firms have yet to reflect their
client’s emphasis on the importance of diversity in the
hiring and retention of their attorneys.
To make matters worse, that is, for law firms
underperforming on diversity, law firms are now competing for business in a more educated legal market.
Specifically, general counsel who are the key decision
makers in the purchase of legal services are not just
highly experienced lawyers coming from the ranks of
large prestigious firms. They know how businesses
work. They are well-attuned to many of the systemic
obstacles that make it difficult for them or their firms
in effectively increasing their diversity. As a result,
these general counsel recognize that the historic
size and prestige of a company or firm does not
necessarily guarantee that it will actively promote
diversity and inclusion in the hiring and retention of
How Can Law Firms Compete?
So, what are law firms missing in this numbers game
of diverse equity partners and diversity throughout
the ranks of legal service providers? Increasingly, a
key element in the business of growing and maintaining successful brands is the development of meaningful
culture of diversity and inclusion and diversity throughout the organization. Period. It starts with executives,
managers and supervisors. It continues with the larger
ranks of core providers of the business’s services, the
support staff and even who sits at the reception desk.
It extends to the vendors with whom they choose to do
business. In corporations, successful diversity means
leadership from the top down. In law firms, that means
there must be diversity not only in the leadership ranks
of equity partners, but diversity in every strata of legal
service provider in the firm. By way of example, in the
top 100 law firms in Boston, the ranks of chief operating
officer or law firm administrator include just two African-Americans (the co-author being one of them who
previously worked at a law firm).
Law firms will miss a significant window of opportunity if they seek to simply impress general counsel
with industry accolades about improvements in their
general law firm culture but fail to make measurable
progress elsewhere. General counsel are diving much
deeper below the surface in order to measure whether
the law firms they are choosing to handle their legal
matters are worthy of representing their brand. “Times
are a’changing”—fast! ■
MARTIN ERVIN (
email@example.com) is a Law Firm
MARK ROELLIG (
MRoellig49@massmutual.com ) is Executive Vice
President & General Counsel, MassMutual Financial Group.
As a result, these general counsel recognize that the
historic size and prestige of a company or firm does not
necessarily guarantee that it will actively promote diversity
and inclusion in the hiring and retention of its attorneys.