Creating a Structured Diversity & Inclusion Program for Small Law Firms

June 23

It is no secret that the legal industry is among the least diverse. While law firms may have the right intentions, they often lack the systems and processes necessary to do better.  Smaller firms especially struggle to put together effective programs that will lead to results. 

In this article, we introduce a structure committed to a fair process that includes accountability for progress and improvement. As complex a topic as it may appear, a structured approach to diversity and inclusion with a focus on authenticity can make it simpler.

 

We break down the process into four main steps from 1.) assessment to 2.)planning to 3.)implementation to 4.) results.

 

1.) Assessment

Develop and embrace a philosophy that functions as the foundation and drive of the program.

2.) Planning

Determine a clear approach for the program including a vision and a scope.

3.) Implementation

Apply the program's philosophy and the approach

4.)  Results

The final phase is focused on outcome and control in the form of measures and reports. 

 

View this process as a continuous program, which consists of structural elements (assessments, policies, recruiting strategies, training plans, etc.) and human elements (respect, honesty, reflection, commitment, and appreciation). 

 

The infographic below details these elements and outlines the questions your firm needs to be asking at each step in the process. 

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HR Professional Help

Having an HR professional on staff is a valuable investment for law firms that want to ensure the program is implemented and maintained properly. This position can also handle disputes, grievances, and other interpersonal issues that partners are not trained to manage. However, we understand this might not be feasible for smaller firms.

 

In that case, we suggest forming a committee that will take on these responsibilities. A major success factor of a firm culture’s inclusivity is the employees’ level of comfort being part of the team, and the ability to share problems they might be encountering. They need to know who they can go to with potential issues and that they will be heard, whether related to diversity and inclusion or other concerns.

 

Measuring Program Success

As shown in the infographic above, the final phase of this process is focused on outcome and control in the form of measures and reports.

 

To measure the program's success we need to consider the structure and the people involved. A successful program outcome is defined by a diverse and inclusive organization (structure) that can be characterized by respect, acknowledgment, and appreciation (people).

 

Critical factors for the structure to succeed include a plan, buy-in, well-defined roles and responsibilities, and effective program management.  The structural success can be measured by comparing the goal with the actual makeup of the firm once the program is implemented.

 

The critical factors for the human elements are authenticity and honest intentions. Human success can be measured by recurring self-assessments and employee surveys focused on the work environment, treatment and conduct.

 

The structure of the program is critical for a results-oriented approach, but honest results ultimately depend on the people involved.

 

Interested in developing a structured program for your law firm?

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