Board room pic

Looking back at how firms used to operate (photo taken at a City firm in 2016).


A law firm's diversity policy is only as good as the manner in which it is implemented, according to respondents to the RollOnFriday In-house Lawyer Survey.

For some in-house lawyers, evidence of diversity was vital when it came to instructing firms. "We have a strong push in this area for ourselves (as does everywhere else at the moment) so need to be seen to flow that into our supply chain," said one in-house lawyer. "If I see an all male slate I am not going to be interested in instructing the firm," said another.  

"Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is a commercial imperative for us so why wouldn't we expect the same of those we choose to work with?" said one respondent.

Another client agreed that it was important that their lawyers mirrored their business: "We want to work with firms that match our culture and understand the commercial imperative of diversity".

Diverse staff "from different backgrounds provide different opinions and perspectives, rather than just a narrow view", said one in-house lawyer. "If I see an all male slate I am not going to be interested in instructing the firm," said another respondent.

Others opined that the policy on the tin may not reflect the way the firm is actually run. "Actual diversity is important; a policy is something anyone can write," said one respondent, "I have in the past instructed firms where they have all the right things in their policy, but I never see actual diversity in the people I instruct".

One respondent said: "I don't instruct if the firm does not have a clear diversity plan. Equally, I don't instruct where it is clear they are playing lip service."  Another client seemed to echo this sentiment: "A firm could be paying lip service to diversity, which just misses the point entirely".

For others, diversity played a role, but quality of advice was paramount. "If the quality was top-notch and the firm was all women that's fine" said one respondent. "Equally if it was all white stale males but the quality was good that's also fine. Quality of advice is the only measure."

Some were even more hardnosed about what they wanted out of a firm: "I need good lawyers. Not one who are there to tick a box," said an in-house lawyer.  

A number of respondents commented that while they valued diversity, in reality it had little bearing on instructions. "I would like to make this more of a factor however, there isn't enough data available to make decisions based on this and the pool is smaller to choose from in the regions," said one respondent. "If I made my decisions based on DEI I wouldn't have much choice at all".

One client said that while they thought diversity "matters" the in-house team doesn't "pay that much attention to your panel and how diverse it is. As long as it has other values that loosely align with ours, our decision will mostly be based on how competent the lawyers are, above all else."

An in-house lawyer commented: "Beyond them not being some strange supremacists, I really don't care - it's their business and the diversity agenda is as much about competing for talent as anything else." While one client said that a firm's diversity was "absolutely not our business. Let the firm choose how it best delivers its service. I don't want or need to tell other people how to run their firms."

The survey is still open, so the final findings could swing towards respondents considering diversity to be an important consideration. If you're in-house, fill in the fields in the survey below.


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Comments

Anonymous 09 June 23 09:24

I work for a massive firm with multiple offices. We receive many diversity emails and its all across our intranet and LinkedIn. 

We have one black person and one disabled person in our entire office. The rest is a sea filled with white middle class people. 

Anonymous 09 June 23 09:56

"I need good lawyers. Not one who are there to tick a box," said an in-house lawyer.  

Great to see my comment make it. Any inhouse lawyer who says diversity takes priority over quality of work should be investigated by the SRA.

Anonymous 09 June 23 10:00

"If I see an all male slate I am not going to be interested in instructing the firm,"

It's fair enough.

If I see a firm where everyone is black I immediately go looking elsewhere.

Diversity is so important to me you see.

 

 

Now, pat me on the back for my correct opinions.

Dublin Lawyer 09 June 23 10:02

Here in Dublin the big firms love certain forms of diversity. Socio-economic diversity does not really feature though. Not trendy enough. A working class Dublin accent is something rarely heard.

Enlightened In-House Counsel 09 June 23 10:03

A lot of this rings true for me.

If a team at an external firm was all-female then I would absolutely never instruct them. They wouldn't have enough diversity to make them good. 

I just don't know why firms in this day and age haven't realised that there's no way that a team of nothing but women could be good enough to instruct without having some men on the team to check that they were doing things correctly and adding their diverse and wise views to the mix.

 

Anonymous 09 June 23 10:15

I work in the regional office of a national law firm. The percentage of lawyers in our office who were privately educated is, in my opinion, unacceptably high. The firm is trying to recruit an ethnically diverse workforce. It also makes efforts in relation to disabled and LGBT applicants. However, when the pool from which you are selecting is overwhelmingly wealthy and white there is only so much that can be done. So many applicants for training contracts are automatically filtered out at the application stage because of insufficiently good GCSE results. However, this fails to recognise that someone from an economically deprived area, who had no choice but to go to a failing school, is very unlikely to have achieved the same exam results as Tarquin who went to Eton. We need to do a better job of addressing this issue.

In House 6 PQE 09 June 23 10:20

We only instruct law firms that hire black pansexual Eskimo Muslims in wheelchairs because diversity innit?

DEI Lead 09 June 23 10:27

"Socio-economic diversity does not really feature though. Not trendy enough."

Obviously.

You can't put working class people in the brochure or the pitch document can you? How would people tell? They'd just think they were people like us who had inexplicably failed to get braces in their teenage years.

And nobody wants to come to a night celebrating their achievements so that would be terrible PR too, I mean, what would we even serve as food? They don't eat exotic curries and listen to trendy afrobeats, which I'm totally into right now, that we can theme the evening around. It'd be totally uncool.

Do they even have their own hashtags that we could use on The Socials?

No. They're just paler, less sophisticated, versions of us who can't even ski.

Very little gain to be had from including them at all.

 

 

Now, let's get Mtumbe up here for a photo shoot again to celebrate American Black History month.

Did you know that his dad owns an entire chain of bars in Cape Town?

Anonymous 09 June 23 10:35

"We only instruct law firms that hire black pansexual Eskimo Muslims in wheelchairs because diversity innit?"

Of course! Diversity Is Their Strength.

Anyone suggesting that firms are effectively being obliged to hire them as a box-tick irrespective of talent, and that a process which is essentially crony hiring based on social status rather than talent (while posing as an antidote to precisely that type of behaviour) might be expected to depress their margins and quality level, is clearly doing so because they are a white supremacist neo-nazi who hates democracy and wants to make us all fascists.

I hear your a racist now father? 09 June 23 10:40

"If I see an all male slate I am not going to be interested in instructing the firm,"

What a cretinous mindset. 

In need of a paddle 09 June 23 10:44

Irrespective of the D&I characteristics of the individual, they need to be able to do the job as well as or better than anyone else applying for that role. 
 

Firms looking to landscape their employee population to make them look as D&I as possible without prioritising ability to do the job, quality of service/ accuracy of advice, are really missing the point being made by clients here - the advice is the most important thing - get that right, the rest doesn’t matter to many clients - apart from the stuck up ones who want everything in the supply chain to reflect them… (scoff). 

Anonymous 09 June 23 11:13

Yeah! Judge people by their race and gender!

Clearly any racial groups which do too well need to be taken down a few pegs. Why should there be so many successful Jewish lawyers? One should therefore not hire Jewish lawyers, to promote equality.

Yes, I am sure that is the moral response.

Anon 09 June 23 11:44

"Fashionable racism and sexism is a commercial imperative for us so why wouldn't we expect the same of those we choose to work with.". Yikes.

 

"[Lawyers] from different backgrounds provide different opinions and perspectives" - so, what, that person doesn't think people of different races, classes and sex are equal, and has different expectations of them depending on their biological characteristics and socio-economic backgrounds? Sounds nice.

Anonymous 09 June 23 12:41

This obsession with diversity has reached a near cult-like status. It’s always stated that diversity leads to different perspectives, and therefore better outcomes, but at no point is it ever explained how people with different ethnicities, genders and sexualities provide different perspectives that would be useful to the provision of legal advice. 

Sensible 09 June 23 15:46

“We only hire firms with a strong commitment to diversity.”

“But White Supremacy, Jesus & Handmaid LLP will do this matter for £500 cheaper.”

“Oh, well in that case let’s go with them.”

Diversity / equity / affirmative action / racial preferences 09 June 23 18:27

Diversity / equity / affirmative action / racial preferences is one of the issues falling under the rubric of what many call 'woke'. Personally, I don't like the term - it's  become an empty cliché - but that caveat notwithstanding, some of the following is interesting, particularly the books at the end: 

Woke
\ ˈwōk \
noun or adjective, often capitalized

• Woke, Wokeism, identity politics, diversity, equity, DEI or social justice are all synonyms for the contrivance, fetishization and weaponization of victimhood to gain status, seize resources and destroy political enemies.

• Sociology researcher Rob Henderson coined the term luxury beliefs to describe in how affluent, over-educated left-wingers use their politics as a way to display their social status. Social scientist Peter Turchin similarly developed the term elite overproduction to describe the condition of a society which is producing too many potential 'elite' members (in this case, a large and often largely useless cadre of arts and social science graduates) relative to its ability to absorb them into the power structure. Some evidence for this hypothesis includes the facts that (a) whites are actually far to the left of blacks and Latinos on these issues: (b) many woke policies are highly symbolic and performative; and (c) conveniently enough, the downsides of woke policies like higher crime, fatherless families and poor educational attainment in inner cities rarely impacts the places were affluent left wingers live.

• Some have proposed that wokeism, especially corporate wokeism, is about directing the energies of the left away from things that threaten the economic interests of affluent people and towards symbolism. That's certainly been one effect, but slightly conspiratorial. The better analysis is that espoused by Thomas Sowell, that this is simply 'self-congratulation as public policy': emotional gratification over evidence. Similar to German green energy policies. Sowell also noted that "There has been so much gushing about the supposed benefits of “diversity” that we have become conditioned to respond automatically to the word, much as Pavlov's dog was conditioned to respond to the ringing of a bell. But evidence is neither asked nor given. … Much of the social history of the Western world, over the past three decades, has been a history of replacing what worked with what sounded good. In area after area—crime, education, housing, race relations—the situation has gotten worse after the bright new theories were put into operation. The amazing thing is that this history of failure and disaster has neither discouraged the social engineers nor discredited them." (Written in 1993)

• Whatever the term, and the reason, the consistent point is that the analyses are wrong, it is socially toxic, it is throwing the Enlightenment into reverse, it is laying down the kindling to incite a race war, and it is creating a suicidally destructive schism in English-speaking Western societies. Its disciples are ignorant, dishonest, or funded by hostile intelligence services such as the CCP or ruZZians (much of the summer 2020 Black Lies Mob rioting was later found to have been incited and organised by CCP and ruZZian-funded Twitter bot accounts).

See:
- The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture, Heather MacDonald
- Diversity : The Invention of a Concept, Peter Wood.
- Woke: A Guide to Social Justice, Andrew Doyle.
- The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam; The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity; and The War on the West, all by Douglas Murray.
- Diversity, Inc.: The Failed Promise of a Billion-Dollar Business, Pamela Newkirk.
- Woke, Inc.: A Sunday Times Business Book of the Year, Vivek Ramaswamy.
- Affirmative Action Hoax: Diversity, the Importance of Character, and Other Lies,
Steven Farron.

Google: Rob Henderson luxury beliefs

Google: Peter Turchin elite overproduction

Criticisms of diversity as a political movement 09 June 23 18:31

Please see https://controlc.com/baef3cef for criticisms of diversity as a political movement. 

It's too long to post, but here are some excerpts:

• "Diversity is simply a political theory favored by advocates of identity politics. Its origins still define it. "Science" has ever since been playing catch-up-trying to supply a scientific foundation for what is a political objective. The primary function of the business case is to lend a veneer of scientific respectability to the political program of affirmative action for women and non-whites. The scientific evidence does not support the claims made by advocates of diversity in the workplace." Source: Maitland, I. (2018). Why the business case for diversity is wrong. Geo. JL & Pub. Pol'y, 16, 731.

• "…greater diversity along the intersection of gender and race/ethnicity significantly reduced performance" Source: Calder-Wang, S., Gompers, P. A., & Huang, K. (2021). Diversity and performance in entrepreneurial teams (No. w28684). National Bureau of Economic Research.

• “Quotas for women on corporate boards have mainly decreased company performance.” Yu, J. J., & Madison, G. (2021). Gender quotas and company financial performance: A systematic review. Economic Affairs, 41(3), 377-390.

• [Black economist] Roland Fryer on using data not feelings: “One of the most important developments in the study of racial inequality has been the quantification of the importance of pre-market skills in explaining differences in labor market outcomes between black and white workers. [...] Derek Neal, an economist at the University of Chicago, and William Johnson were among the first to make this point in 1996: “While our results do provide some evidence for current labor market discrimination, skills gaps play such a large role that we believe future research should focus on the obstacles black children face in acquiring productive skill.” …the key step that is missing in every DEI initiative I have seen in the past 25 years: a rigorous, data-driven assessment of root causes that drives the search for effective solutions. In other aspects of life, we would not fathom prescribing a treatment without knowing the underlying cause. …Solutions that yield measurable results can be substantiated into company policy, while those that don’t should be discarded.” Source: Fryer, R (2022). It’s time for data-first diversity, equity, and inclusion. Fortune magazine, 20 June 2022, https://fortune.com/2022/06/20/data-first-diversity-equity-inclusion-careers-black-workers-gender-race-bias-dei-roland-fryer

• “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”- Chief Justice Roberts, "Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1", 551 U.S. 701; 127 S. Ct. 2738; 168 L. Ed. 2d 508; 75 U.S.L.W. 4577; 20 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 490. https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/pdf/05-908P.ZO

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” - Martin Luther King, 28 August 1963, Washington DC.

Senor Gamon 09 June 23 20:10

Lucky none of us chaps in the ROF comments gets easily triggered like those fragile, DEI snowflakes out there!

How dare those in-house lawyers giving us their money indicate that us whitey-males aren't sufficient?! OK we might not reflect wider society or our clients and OK it might not give diversity of thought, opinion or strategy but we are the best at law I tell you! No one can do the law like us lawmen! To say otherwise is really very mean and wrong.

My favorite is when I get told that I'm really clever and good at law.       

Good intentions 09 June 23 21:56

I sat in an all white male partners' meeting a few years back and some bright spark noticed we needed some women partners.  Nothing about different races.  Nor lesbian or gay.  Let's stick with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" for them.  Let's mention women because that's wholesome, and everyone will agree.  And they did.   

Things have changed but D&I has a way to go.  

People resorting to sarcasm do so because they are losing 10 June 23 00:09

Senor Gamon 09 June 23 20:10: Lucky none of us chaps in the ROF comments gets easily triggered like those fragile, DEI snowflakes out there! How dare those in-house lawyers giving us their money indicate that us whitey-males aren't sufficient?! OK we might not reflect wider society or our clients and OK it might not give diversity of thought, opinion or strategy but we are the best at law I tell you! No one can do the law like us lawmen! To say otherwise is really very mean and wrong.

When people's arguments lack grounding in reality, they often resort to insults and censorship. It is easier to stifle discourse than to face inconvenient truths.

Yours are exclusively strawman arguments. There are serious differences of opinion about these issues, and conservative (small 'c') views have the merit of actually being backed by evidence. As Margaret Thatcher warned, The facts of life are conservative. This is why left-wingers routinely resort to emotion, blackmail, and censorship: if you know you can't win using evidence, it is better to smear and silence your adversaries. Your comment is in that spirit. It seeks to belittle and misrepresent anyone with whom you disagree, in an ineffectual attempt to undermine them. It is transparent and reflects only on yourself. I'll leave you with a Thomas Sowell quote:

"Emotions neither prove nor disprove facts. There was a time when any rational adult understood this. But years of dumbed-down education and emphasis on how people 'feel' have left too many people unable to see through this media gimmick."

The social media age has amplified and rewarded 'this media gimmick'. The Left in both the US and UK seized control of the means of discussion and inflicted immense damage.* Fortunately, the backlash has begun.

* Colin Wright's cartoon tweeted by Elon Musk last year usefully captures this phenomenon: https://images.wsj.net/im-535576. Full article explaining the background: https://www.wsj.com/articles/elon-musk-tweeted-my-cartoon-woke-progressive-left-wing-media-right-viral-twitter-politics-culture-liberal-center-11651504379

 

Mikey2 11 June 23 00:14

I can think of many organizations/groups - particularly armies of military conquest - which were fairly successful despite having no diversity whatsoever. Maybe the history books I read were wrong? 

Senor Gamon 11 June 23 17:33

People resorting to sarcasm do so because they are losing 10 June 23 00:09….

TL;DR big boy. Pls Fix - work on brevity with your supervisor. Thnx. 

Out of touch 11 June 23 18:18

@Senor Gamon 09 June 23 20:10

‘Lucky … How dare those in-house lawyers giving us their money indicate that us whitey-males aren't sufficient?! OK we might not reflect wider society or our clients and OK it might not give diversity of thought, opinion or strategy but we are the best at law I tell you!’

This has to be a better situation for the client than a law firm that is really diverse but whose lawyers don’t understand the law. 
The point is really that diversity must come second to getting the law right. The focus should therefore be on getting people in who can do the law, irrespective of whether they are white male or otherwise. If both candidates know the law and one ups your D&I rating, of course, you can go for D&I, but you shouldn’t and can’t go choose someone who doesn’t know the law/can’t do the job. 

Anonymous 12 June 23 12:15

@Out of touch

Is that the point?

I think that for me the idea of any system in which I'm scored, or expected to score others, based on their sex and/or the colour of their skin is one that I'm deeply uncomfortable with.

We'd all recoil from a system in which we were asked to conclude that a firm had just a few too many women to be competent... but could be taken seriously again if it promoted some more men to the partnership so as to ensure that their 'diverse views' were being brought to the table to keep things in check.

Likewise, "All blacks, minus ten points. Come back when you've hired some whites like a decent firm" would rightly have us shouting racism.

But dress that exact same discriminatory behaviour up as 'DEI' and people will look at you in horror for suggesting that it shouldn't be a standard part of the procurement process.

 

 

It's just racism and sexism dressed up in a tatty rainbow flag. 

Anonymous 12 June 23 12:19

Also, given the fact that women now greatly outnumber men as entrants to the legal profession, and that flex/hybrid-working is increasingly normalised, place your bets for the day that a firm with an overwhelmingly female partnership gets dinged for DEI in a procurement and loses its collective minds in the media over it.

 

"I didn't think the leopards would eat my kind of face!"

Anonymous 12 June 23 13:20

Out of Touch…

As an in-house lawyer I agree with you - the standard of work should be paramount. 
 

It upsets private practice lawyers to hear this but the work product we receive from firms isn’t as disparate as you might think. It’s almost never that one firm will get complex legal matters wrong and another firm with “brighter” lawyers get it right. Usually what separates the wheat from the chaff is the ability to influence and relate to our top execs. 
 

I don’t really have a dog in this fight but the theory goes that people with different lived experiences have slightly different approaches which can be beneficial. I think it probably makes sense but as always there needs to be a nuanced approach and any problems of lack of diversity at the top is emblematic of wider societal issues.  

Out of touch 12 June 23 16:53

@Anonymous 12 June 23 12:15

‘’@Out of touch

Is that the point?

I think that for me the idea of any system in which I'm scored, or expected to score others, based on their sex and/or the colour of their skin is one that I'm deeply uncomfortable with.

We'd all recoil from a system in which we were asked to conclude that a firm had just a few too many women to be competent... but could be taken seriously again if it promoted some more men to the partnership so as to ensure that their 'diverse views' were being brought to the table to keep things in check.

Likewise, "All blacks, minus ten points. Come back when you've hired some whites like a decent firm" would rightly have us shouting racism.

But dress that exact same discriminatory behaviour up as 'DEI' and people will look at you in horror for suggesting that it shouldn't be a standard part of the procurement process

It's just racism and sexism dressed up in a tatty rainbow flag.’’

I agree with your first para - we shouldn’t be judging people on race or colour - but rather on talent and ability to do the job - which is my point. I wasn’t suggesting otherwise and not sure what it was you read that made you conclude that way?? I’m not sure I follow the rest of your argument - are we at cross purposes or am I missing the sense of your message?

I don’t think anyone agrees with discriminatory recruitment based on race or any other characteristic - but my point is really that the primary consideration for any vacancy is that the candidate can do the job? i.e. for a lawyer role, you must in fact be a capable lawyer (and not an accountant, some other profession, or a lawyer but not a very capable one).. otherwise what is the point of recruitment?

Serious Man 12 June 23 17:11

Seriously though, can I offer my daughter a training contract or will RoF laugh at me?

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