Data reported by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) and Vault.com in the fall of 2010, substantiated fears that the effects of the recession would undo diversity gains achieved in the legal profession over the past decades. Similarly, a recent report issued by the New York City Bar documents a slippage of hard-won diversity gains last year at local law firms. The city bar surveyed firms that are signatories to a 2004 statement of diversity principles that articulated both short-term and long-term goals related to the hiring, retention and promotion of diverse attorneys. The survey found that for the first time since March 2004, the percentage of minorities and women had declined at almost all levels. Further, the report noted that if the pace of change is not accelerated, the share of minorities holding partnerships would not equal their representation among associates for 40 years and, for women attorneys, it would take 50 years to catch up. While the report suggests that recent declines are likely related to the recession, it also noted that the voluntary turnover rate has been consistently higher for minority and women attorneys thus highlighting that retention remains a key problem.
The recession has challenged law firms to be innovative and to leverage simple changes in billing into new business and higher revenue. What innovations has your law firm implemented to stretch diversity dollars to avoid suppressing the effort and momentum that has been built over the past decades?
Good business sense dictates that, in a weak economy, diversity efforts must be part of a firm's long-range plans. The global economy is diverse and those firms that realize this fact can maximize the talents and skills that their diverse attorneys bring to the table to add to their bottom lines. What best practices has your firm implemented (either formal or informal) to retain diverse attorneys?