Firm Seeking to Establish Uniform Standards in Legal Procurement Process

The law firm Gibbons P.C. is raising the bar with a recommendation to the New Jersey State Bar Association seeking state-wide adoption of uniform standards in the legal procurement process.

Its Uniform Diversity Questionnaire (UDC) seeks to create fairness through uniform guidelines in the legal procurement process, an area the firm believes has fallen short of expectations.  The UDQ is a key component of the final recommended diversity plan for the statewide bar.

In the legal profession, a considerable percentage of legal work is contracted through request for proposals (RFP), while the actual data requested and metrics used to evaluate prospective firms vary significantly from organization to organization.

Fairness in Comparing Performance

“The lack of uniformity in D&I measurement significantly burdens law firms seeking to comply in good faith,” Gibbons’ Chief Diversity Officer Luis Diaz said. “Without uniform metrics, the process doesn’t effectively compare that performance in a fair and equitable manner,” he added.

The UDQ includes a set of metrics for the fair and accurate comparison of legal vendors with regard to their respective policies, as well as flexibility to accommodate changes to the metrics as organizational needs change with market conditions.

“Much like the Common Ap, a standardized admissions application currently used by prospective students to apply to more than 500 colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad, the UDQ serves as a baseline for best practices in assessing diversity and inclusion for the legal industry as a whole,” Diaz said. “Establishing meaningful and uniform metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of DI efforts is critical,” he added.

The UDQ serves as a baseline for best practices in assessing diversity and inclusion for the legal industry as a whole. The intent is to promote a more equitable comparison and evaluation of law firms while promoting goals of universal inclusion and greater diversity. “We see the potential to impact the business procurement process and drive change in the industry. They change agents are the clients,” he added.

The procurement process organizations use today to retain legal work typically involves a formal request for proposal (RFP) that specifically seeks to measure law firm diversity performance. However, absent uniform metrics, the process does not effectively compare that performance in a fair and equitable manner. For example, some RFPs request firm-wide numbers and seniority levels of minorities, while others seek delineation of the roles diverse attorneys will play in the relevant matter, and still others establish requirements for diverse attorney utilization.

This lack of uniformity burdens firms that are seeking to comply in good faith with information requests, while rendering it difficult for the prospective client to fairly gauge the relative performance of various firms.

The UDC includes composition and matter staffing as well as supplier diversity metrics.

UDC key metrics can be broken into six areas:

  1. General law firm demographics.
  2. Law firm leadership demographics.
  3. Matter staffing demographic profile for attorneys working on the matter.
  4. D&I workplace practices.
  5. Strategic plan and diversity initiatives.
  6. D&I supplier diversity practices, including applicable minority and women owned certification and/or partnerships the law firm is or has been participating.

Uniform Metrics and Efficiency to Law Firms

In defining uniform metrics, the UDQ provides more efficiency to law firms. A firm would complete one UDQ annually to be automatically submitted with all RFP responses that year. For the organization seeking legal services, a major benefit in defining uniform metrics is the inclusion of specific and ascertainable factors that indicate a robust commitment to diversity and inclusion, and the exclusion of factors that do not meaningfully assess a law firm’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

In recent years, Gibbons P.C. has repeatedly been singled out for recognition for its signature programs demonstrating its unique culture of inclusiveness and outreach. With about 220 attorneys, Gibbons is a leading law firm in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware.