From talent pipelines to origination credits, the legal industry can’t rely on age-old models to fix its diversity issues, said a speaker at Clio’s virtual conference. By Victoria Hudgins | October 15, 2020 at 11:00 AM | Read the original article
Law firms can’t improve diversity with one-off donations to organizations and sponsorships for galas. Instead, addressing legal’s long-standing diversity and inclusion challenges must involve reimagining evaluation models and making metric-based decisions, explained Legal Innovators CEO and co-founder Bryan Parker.
Parker was the main speaker for the “Equity in Practice: Driving Structural Legal Innovation With Data and Diversity” session held Wednesday during the second day of the virtual Clio Cloud Conference.
While leadership commitment is crucial, Parker noted that “change management” being accepted companywide is essential for law firms to make progress on a subject they’ve historically struggled with. “Think beyond the four corners of the page and let’s think as a profession. If we have a pipeline problem and a diversity problem at almost all levels, what are the barriers?” he added.
One driving factor contributing to the dearth of diverse attorneys is the limited pool of top law schools from which law firms recruit. Parker argued that with data analytics and testing, law firms can expand their network of law schools and still retain qualified associates. He explained his alternative legal service provider company leverages data analytics and predictive technology to find associates that meet criteria set by law firm and corporate legal department clients.
“If we can normalize the data across those factors, then when someone from a historical black college or university meets the analytics, we look at their writing sample, and if they write as well, we’ve expanded the [pipeline],” Parker said.
Along with traditional recruitment models limiting talent, most firms’ compensation models stifle mentorship of diverse attorneys, Parker added. Some have argued diverse attorneys benefit from seeing and being mentored by diverse partners and higher-ups. But if you saddle diverse senior attorneys with client matters, book of business building and mentoring responsibilities, they may forgo mentorships to focus on how the firm ultimately measures profitability: origination credit.
Overall, law firms have to set consequences and rewards for fostering diversity, Parker noted.
Additionally, law firms should collect attrition data to analyze if there’s common reasons people of a certain demographic are leaving the firm, he said.
Parker noted that while metric-tracking concerning diversity may be new for some firms, most firms are collecting lawyer data. Now, however, is the moment to apply those metrics to retention and inclusion and not fear the results.
Firms already tracking profit per practice group, software utilization and other metrics ”can say diversity and inclusion [is not just] nice to have, but is a must-have, and have similar metrics,” Parker said.