Thinking Outside The Box To Achieve Diversity

Friday, October 1, 2004 - 01:00
Sarah E. Davies
Elaine M. Rinaldi

Editor: What are law firms doing today to expand diversity?

Davies: Law firms are finally realizing that good intentions
are not enough. We all need to be proactive in expanding outreach, both to
encourage diverse students to join the legal profession and to make ourselves
more accessible to diverse lawyers.

Many firms, like ours, have established active Diversity Committees that are
charged with exploring strategies for making sure we are inclusive. This task
may include working with the Hiring Committee, developing awareness of diversity
issues through diversity training and actively seeking ways in which to support
the efforts of minority lawyers in our organizations and the Bar in general.

Rinaldi: Law firms recognize that clients come from all
walks of life and having a diverse team of lawyers to serve their clients makes
for a successful business relationship. As well as recruiting at law schools
with more diverse populations and attending minority job fairs, law firms are
also looking to retain lawyers of diverse backgrounds and partner with Corporate
Counsel to implement diversity initiatives. Also, the legal community is coming
together to ensure that more lawyers of diverse background remain in our legal
community to practice law. For example, our law firm is a founding member of the
Philadelphia Diversity Law Group (PDLG) which was formed in 2000 to enhance the
recruitment and retention of lawyers of diverse backgrounds to our member
organizations, make offers to them upon graduation from law school and keep them
in our legal community.

Editor: Why should corporate counsel be concerned about their law firms'
diversity programs?

Davies: As the world becomes more and more multi-cultural, there is
value to diversity within corporations and the law firms that serve
corporations. Law firms need to be sensitive to diversity issues so that they
can better serve their clients, and corporate counsel should inquire beyond the
raw numbers into what the law firm is doing to increase diversity sensitivity
and increase its outreach to diverse lawyers.

Rinaldi: It is critical to both corporations and law firms that our
organizations be diverse. We live in a diverse world and successful business
relationships can only exist if they reflect the world in which we live. It also
is important that Corporate Counsel and its law firms partner together to ensure
a diverse legal community. For example, the PDLG is comprised of both law firms
and corporations. Although corporations typically do not hire summer associates,
many of our member corporations have hired a first-year law student (as have the
law firms) through the PDLG's 1L Summer Associate Program. By doing so, the
corporation is not only providing an employment opportunity and great experience
to that student but is working with law firm members to ensure that these
students remain in our legal community to practice law.

Editor: Several surveys rank law firms' performance in many areas,
including diversity. Are these surveys a reliable yardstick - or are there other
things corporate counsel should look into?

Davies: While having some usefulness, surveys rarely tell the whole
story. Knowing what a firm is doing about diversity is more important than
looking at numbers alone. All firms can do better. The question is, really, what
a firm is committed to doing to support diversity in the Bar in general and
within itself.

Rinaldi: I agree. Surveys do not necessarily reflect the real picture
of a law firm. Corporate Counsel should look at the measures and initiatives a
law firm is undertaking to ensure that it is and continues to be a diverse
organization. Look at what the law firm is doing in regard to recruitment,
retention and advancement. Just because an organization's hiring numbers might
look good doesn't necessarily mean that that organization is retaining and
promoting those lawyers.

Editor: What should we as lawyers, whether in a firm or as an in-house
counsel, be doing to encourage continued expansion of diversity within our

Davies: The entire legal community benefits from a diverse Bar. All of
us should work with programs that encourage minority students to pursue legal
careers. We also have opportunities to work with organizations that promote
opportunity for minority lawyers. Our lawyers are actively involved in diverse
Bar organizations throughout the country. Through these avenues, we hope to
support the efforts of talented minority lawyers, and increase their access to
big firm practice.

Rinaldi: One of the most important things we as lawyers can do is to
act as mentors, whether that be to a high school student, a law student or
another lawyer of diverse background. Mentoring is so important in the legal
profession. By being a proactive mentor, a lawyer can have a big impact on the
success of his or her mentee. Mentoring not only will enhance your
organization's recruitment, it will tremendously impact your ability to retain
those individuals in your organization, to continue to attract lawyers of
diverse background to your organization and thus ensure your future as a diverse