By Regina Speed-Bost, Partner, Schiff Hardin, LLP
ALTHOUGH THE AMERICAN legal system has directly addressed the barriers that exist for diverse workers, sadly the legal profession has been slow to adopt the very changes that laws we help shape are intended to bring. Yet, as with any profession, time and circumstance have changed the practice of law to recognize the untapped treasure of diverse attorneys. The most significant change has been in the dialogue that exists around diversity. It is refreshing that it is no longer taboo to discuss within corporations, law firms, and government the impact that policy changes and rules implementation will have on diverse communities. Rather than presume no impact or ignore when policies, rules, or regulations may unexpectedly affect one segment of the workforce, diversity is now part of the analysis.
Recognizing that opportunity is the starting point for success, many organizations have developed mechanisms to maximize the opportunities for the diverse members of their workforce. I have personally served on and as chairperson or cochairperson on several diversity committees, including the diversity committee of a bar association, each of which have focused on ways to increase leadership opportunities within those organizations. Corporations have executive and leadership training programs, many of which target diverse populations. In the private practice of law, firms are regularly asked to respond to client inquiries and requirements concerning the diversity within the firm and on the client’s respective service team. Clients repeatedly voice they want to know who is working on their matters, who is receiving the financial benefit of their matters, and that diverse attorneys have the opportunity to do both. To ensure that Schiff Hardin is presenting its best team in all instances, our managing partner now evaluates every new proposal to service a client in terms of subject matter expertise, diversity, and experience.
In the future, reasonable metrics and success measures are needed to track progress. Organizations will need to work to ensure that the initiatives undertaken thus far continue and their level of success is determined. Here, too, the dialogue about diversity and inclusion must continue to ensure that future policies, rules, or regulations do not affect one segment of the workforce to a larger degree or more negatively