Diversity and Inclusion Make Dollars and Sense

April 2012

The Journal Record

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The American Bar Association warns that a lack of diversity within the legal industry threatens our nation’s democracy, business, leadership, and justice system. The Michigan Bar said this is the civil rights issue of our generation.

According to ABA studies, the profession nationwide hosts only 10 percent racial and ethnic diversity. Oklahoma-specific data, though not readily available, is likely less promising.

Diversity involves the recognition that people are similar in that they are unique. Differences are found in race, gender, and age and also in other regards such as backgrounds, abilities, experiences, and viewpoints. Inclusion involves promoting and celebrating these differences.

The value of workplace diversity is more than a feel-good social endeavor. Its value prominently affects the bottom line. The Cumulative Gallup Workplace Studies found that inclusive companies host 39 percent higher customer satisfaction, 22 percent more productivity, 27 percent greater profitability, and 22 percent less turnover.

How? The collaboration of diverse attorneys and support personnel – with their equally diverse backgrounds, opinions, etc. – produces more creative, and ultimately, effective results. Inclusive working environments produce happy, productive employees with a heightened sense of community. These employees stay put, minimizing costs of employee recruitment and basic training. The workplace becomes more skilled and invested in creating quality results. Superior results by those with whom clients have an ongoing, trusting relationship – and whose diversity mirrors the diversity of the client base – create happy, loyal clients, steady business and more profit for law firms.

Creating diversity involves recruiting it. From the get-go, employees need be aware of the value the firm attaches to diversity and inclusion.

A firm’s diversity mission proves only as effective as the acts that support it. Diversity must be retained. This involves decision-makers examining what is important to the workplace’s human capital. A simple suggestion box or an interactive think tank could provide insight into the needs of the workforce. This could also uncover innovative solutions to issues faced by the firm.

Ultimately, a firm’s culture will dictate the best means of communication. Undoubtedly, however, the celebration of diversity and inclusion will make cents and sense in the legal industry.

This article appeared in the April 25, 2012 issue of The Journal Record. It is reproduced with permission from the publisher. © The Journal Record Publishing Co.