As we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and reflect upon his legacy, it’s an important reminder that the legal industry has more work to do to advance diversity and inclusion.
We all know about the continued lack of minorities, women, people of color, disabled people and other underrepresented groups in the law – whether it be as employees or in senior positions of authority and influence.
As we think about opportunities to advance greater diversity and inclusion in the legal industry, here’s three points for us to keep in mind:
The Important Business Case for D&I: There have been plenty of science and studies by leading management consulting firms that have demonstrated time and time again that diverse teams outperform teams that are less diverse. I’ve seen this firsthand over the years by being part of and leading an incredible team of high-performing diverse lawyers and legal professionals at Microsoft who continue to deliver high-impact legal support to our sales, marketing and services teams across the United States in our constantly changing technology marketplace. More importantly they have also demonstrated remarkable grit and resiliency during the incredibly difficult times that we have experienced as a society over the past year.
Let’s all remember that while embracing diversity and inclusion for any organization is the morally right thing to do, it’s actually the very smart thing to do. As teams who work in the legal space think about how they can better serve their customers, ignite innovation and be more competitive in their marketplaces, one of the most important investments they can make is in recruiting, developing and retaining a diverse and inclusive workforce.
Please Don’t Ignore Hispanics: Hispanics make up 18% of the population in the United States and they are the largest minority group in our great country. Of course, as we all know, Hispanics don’t make up 18% of “Big Law” law firm partners and General Counsels. In fact, despite the existence of terrific Hispanic talent in the legal area, an argument can be made that Hispanics don’t seem to be actively considered for key positions – especially for senior level roles.
As a proud Hispanic whose Grandparents were born on the beautiful island of Puerto Rico and migrated to the United States mainland, I encourage law firms and legal departments to accelerate the visibility of Hispanics, provide them with opportunities to lead and to please avoid ignoring them – especially since customers are increasingly of Hispanic origin and it’s estimated that Hispanics will make up a quarter of the US population by 2045.
In addition, if we are to see improved and sustained inclusion of Hispanics in the legal world, it will be incumbent upon Hispanics to do more. We need to be bolder, be more visible, be better organized, help each other, build relationships with key career sponsors, learn from others, speak up, and amplify the positive impact we drive as legal leaders to our respective management teams.
Let’s Accelerate & Embrace Change: Ever since I started my legal career over 20 years ago as a young lawyer in the IBM legal department, progress on diversity and inclusion in the legal industry over that period of time has remained slow. What that tells me is that if we want to truly advance greater inclusion in the legal vertical we need to change what we have been doing, learn from others, be more empathetic, try new ideas and not fear making any mistakes.
Of course as we know, change isn’t easy. It can be hard. Sometimes very hard. Let’s all be sure to be guided by what Dr. King told us many years ago: “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”