Law firms dominated by white men may find it harder to attract and retain certain clients.
In the past, a stated commitment to diversity might have been enough. But clients, particularly large clients, increasingly are seeking evidence that a firm is putting their words into action, some firm leaders say.
Vicki Crochet, who chairs the employment law practice group for Taylor Porter and serves on the firm’s diversity committee, says it’s less of an issue for longstanding clients who know the attorneys well.
“But we are also seeing clients being very specific about who is doing our work,” she says, “or saying they would like a diverse team on a particular project or trial.”
Crochet says national and international clients are most likely to be focused on diversity. She says Taylor Porter has looked into pursuing Mansfield Rule certification, which is one way firms show they are working to include historically underrepresented groups.
Kean Miller was the first Louisiana firm to obtain Mansfield certification. Linda Perez Clark, Kean Miller’s managing partner, says diversity inquiries have become a mainstay in many requests for proposals.
She says earning Mansfield certification provides an independently verified way to let clients who prioritize diversity know the firm shares their values, while providing additional internal motivation.
“It just becomes a part of the fabric of how you operate,” Clark says.
Crochet and Clark agree it’s hard to say whether the local legal community is becoming more diverse, with Clark noting that change tends to come at a “glacial” speed. National attempts to measure diversity have found mixed results.
One study found that while firms generally were working to recruit and retain a diverse roster, nine out of 10 managing partners and CEOs were white and 81% were male.