YourABA July 2012 Masthead

8 tips to increase your firm's diversity

As society becomes more diverse, law firms are recognizing that diversity is an important part of doing business today. In fact, understanding and valuing diversity are the fundamental first steps toward achieving a diverse workplace, says Joe Hanna, a partner at Goldberg Segalla, in Buffalo, N.Y.

The time has come, he says, “to take the next steps toward creating and sustaining diversity in our nation's legal profession. If the legal profession is to reap the many benefits of true diversity, legal employers must turn words into action and implement proactive strategies that further diversity.”

Hanna, who is chair of his firm's diversity task force and president of the Minority Bar Association of Western New York, shares strategies to increase your law firm's diversity in a Section of Litigation Sound Advice podcast.

  • Set the context for change in your firm. Clearly position “the intent and scope of the overall change effort,” Hanna says. “It is imperative that a rationale for adopting change be provided to all members of the firm in order to minimize confusion, build a firmwide understanding and gain widespread support for diversity initiatives.”
  • Reach out to local law schools and faculty. “Practice-group leaders and managing partners should reach out to faculty members as resources for the recruitment of minority lawyers,” Hanna advises.
  • Participate in and sponsor job fairs and diversity seminars.
  • Recruit minority candidates for partner and associate positions. Clients are increasingly demanding it, according to Hanna. For example, Fortune 500 companies such as Visa, Del Monte and Pitney Bowes have begun to implement strict guidelines requiring outside counsel to demonstrate that they have substantive numbers of women and minority lawyers in their upper ranks.
  • Reward lawyers who work to implement a diversity program. “As with any program implementation, measurable results and metrics are key ingredients,” Hanna says. “In firms committed to launching a diversity program, results and financial rewards are linked together so that lawyers who value diversity benefit from proactive efforts.”
  • Include minority lawyers on hiring committees and in recruiting efforts and interviews of minority candidates. Leading minority partners and nonminority senior lawyers should also play key roles in those efforts.
  • Create a multicultural mentoring program. “The most successful mentoring programs are based on two key assumptions: Mentoring must be inclusive, not exclusive, and cross-cultural mentoring is a learning opportunity for protégées and mentors,” Hanna says. “Mentors should assist attorneys in developing important skills, such as writing, networking and understanding business development.”
  • Develop knowledgeable and committed leaders in your firm who will help implement a successful cultural change. “Without this, implementation efforts will be fruitless,” Hanna says. “The more successful diversity efforts are committed to encouraging enthusiastic, visible sponsorship at the senior partner level and providing ongoing executive coaching and education.”

For all of Hanna's tips, download the two-part podcast here, under the heading “Professional Development.”

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