By Robert V. Jewell
Managing Partner, Andrews Kurth LLP
While “diversity” as a strategy has come into popular culture during my career, I have appreciated the benefits of diverse perspectives for much longer. I have also seen these benefits translate into business advantages at our law firm.
Let me first acknowledge the accomplishments of my late mother, who was the first woman to get her pilot’s license in New Jersey. Her intellectual curiosity and willingness to stretch herself helped her achieve that goal. Mom had diverse interests and wanted to explore them to their fullest extent.
These same qualities frequently drive successful business entrepreneurs. People who venture beyond their comfort zones are willing to allow their intellectual curiosity to lead them to new discoveries.
In the legal field, we have seen the willingness to look at business problems from different perspectives lead to creative solutions that in turn produce business opportunities. As managing partner, I try to maximize the benefits of the intellectual curiosity of individual lawyers by fostering an environment that values collaboration. Thus, we call upon lawyers with diverse backgrounds, talents, and perspectives to collaborate as a team and explore the boundaries of their thinking to reach a solution.
This is both why and how I became engaged in diversity and inclusion strategy. Yes, from a social science point of view, it may be the “right” thing to do, but from the broader and more compelling business perspective, embracing diversity and inclusion as core values means driving innovative business results.
By focusing on the business advantages of diversity and collaboration, I was able to engage my partners, many of whom are also white males. Once my partners understood that the implementation of diversity and inclusion strategies could contribute to our overall success, i.e., the business imperative, we were able to move full speed ahead. In fact, the firm’s strategic plan incorporates key elements of diversity and inclusion, as does the firm’s vision: “Andrews Kurth will be a nationally prominent law firm with market leading practices and international reach. We will . . . promote our culture of collaboration, diversity and inclusion, personal commitment, and professionalism.”
In the end, we have seen that our commitment to diversity and inclusion has helped us attract new clients and deepen our relationships with existing clients. Once again, the business imperative prevails as a very convincing force.