Data for Meaningful Change

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“What gets measured gets managed”, stated management guru Peter Drucker.  Which is true up to a point. Data does tell a story, but we need to make sure we understand that story, hear it and are prepared to make changes because of that narrative.

An area where we need to hear the story that the data is telling us is in DEI (Diversity Equity and Inclusion) in the legal profession.

I’ve been involved as part of my consulting work with InterLaw Diversity Forum in helping drive the adoption of the Model Diversity Survey in the UK. The Model Diversity Survey was pioneered in the United States four years ago by the American Bar Association. Some think that this was adopted to make data collection and reporting easier for law firms – so that there would be one standardised set of data needed, not hundreds of different requests from different clients cut hundreds of different ways.  Whilst that was certainly a side effect of the project, the real driving force was to produce meaningful change in the legal profession by having uniform data to show where this change needed to happen

‘Success’ in law firm is defined by the greatest financial success and that is in turn determined by the greatest access to client relationships and the financial credit that brings. ‘Credit’ for the client relationship may not even correspond with who handles most of the work, The client credit structure precludes diverse lawyers from meaningful participation in economic decision making roles. The ABA Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the profession came up with Resolution 113: this urges legal service providers to expand and create opportunities for diverse attorneys and urges the buyers of legal services to direct a greater percentage of legal spend towards diverse lawyers.

Whilst many in-house lawyers might want to do this – it’s hard to start if you do not understand where the opportunities for creating change are. Hence being able to understand this via a standardised data collection to show where both issues and opportunities lie with legal service providers. In the UK The InterLaw Diversity Forum is managing this process and we have worked alongside the SRA (Solicitor’s Regulation Authority) to align the data categories we collect with the categories the SRA requires UK law firms to report on every two years.

Some law firms are worried, but sweeping difficult issues under the carpet rarely works well as a strategy in business or in life! The message from clients in the USA and the UK is that they understand that no one is perfect in this, including their own teams. But being able to see the data and understand where both challenges and opportunities lie, opens the ability to have informed conversations about DEI and the ability to collaborate to create meaningful change.

Why do we need that change? Study after study has shown that the more diverse companies are, the more they will financially outperform similarly non-diverse peers. Similarly, more diverse leadership teams and boards are less likely make risky decisions. It’s also a talent management strategy – the new challenges of the 21st century demand more creative thinking which only comes from true diversity. Shouldn’t we embrace that opportunity in the legal profession?

Contributed by:

Dr Catherine McGregor MCMI ChMC
Consulting, Thought Leadership, Training
+44 (0) 7753 196264

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