diverse attorneys are receiving equitable
access and training to the opportunities that
will develop them professionally and help
them succeed at their firm.
What do these assessments look like?
There isn’t one specific form that a substantive work assessment can take. A substantive
work assessment should be carefully tailored
to be relevant to your firm’s structure, work
distribution practices, and size, among other
factors. Here are some considerations to take
into account when structuring your firm’s
substantive work assessment.
What are we assessing? There are a few common disparities that legal organiza- tions should look into to answer the following non-exhaustive questions that may be applicable to your law firm or legal department: Do
diverse attorneys have access to clients and
matters that are important to the organization? Do diverse attorneys receive challenging
substantive work assignments comparable to
their non-diverse counterparts? Do diverse attorneys have the opportunity to participate in
development opportunities that are important
to their growth?
What should the assessment look like? Several factors should be taken into account when determin- ing the nature of a substantive assessment. In general, a law
firm or legal department may consider an
assessment ranging from an informal survey
to a formal audit.
What is it an informal survey and when is it
effective? An informal survey is a straightfor-
ward assessment type that is underused by
legal organizations given the ease of adminis-
tration and the negligible cost to conduct the
survey. An informal survey may be sufficient
when the legal organization is seeking a
general idea on whether an inequity exists
between the substantive work experiences of
diverse and non-diverse attorneys and when
no formal complaints of discrimination or
inequity have been filed or asserted.
Examples of use. An informal survey
given to a business development professional in a law firm may be an effective way,
for instance, to determine whether diverse
attorneys included on pitches or responses
to requests for proposals as a marketing tool
are actually engaged in any earned representations. Requesting attorneys to provide the
names of the top five clients they billed to
and comparing that to the enterprise or blue
chip clients in a particular practice area or
department is a back of the envelope way to
gain insight on whether diverse associates
have equitable access to premier clients.
What is a formal audit and when is it effective?
A formal substantive work audit is an assessment commissioned to be executed either
by the legal organization itself or an external
consultant to determine whether significant
or preliminarily proven bias exists between
the substantive work experiences of diverse
attorneys or to investigate a formal complaint of discrimination or inequity has been
filed or asserted. Formal audits can vary in
length and subject matter, but they tend to be
carried out in a more methodical and verified
manner than an informal survey.
Examples of use. A formal audit may be
appropriate when the legal organization is
the subject of a lawsuit by diverse attorneys
asserting bias. It may also be appropriate in
myriad non-litigious circumstances. For instance, if a legal organization wants to determine whether diverse attorneys have access
to substantive developmental assignments
similar to non-diverse attorneys, such as leading conference calls with clients, proposing
strategy and legal arguments, writing briefs
and being a named attorney on that brief, or
being given the opportunity to depose witnesses or craft interrogatories. A formal audit
may also be appropriate when there is a concern about a particular partner or managing
attorney not using available diverse attorneys
equitably, and in that case, it may be make
sense to limit the assessment to the distribution of assignments by that person.
A formal audit may also
be appropriate when
there is a concern about
a particular partner or
managing attorney not
using available diverse
and in that case, it
may be make sense to
limit the assessment
to the distribution of
assignments by that