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Podcast Ep. 153: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Trends in the Legal Industry

by Natalie Moe • February 24th, 2022 • Uncategorized | Podcast

In this episode of the Legal Marketing 2.0 podcast, Guy Is joined by Lloyd Johnson. Lloyd is the visionary and CEO of Chief Legal Executive LLC. He also founded the Black In-House Counsel. Lloyd continued his work in women’s advocacy with the creation of the groundbreaking Women, Influence & Power and the Law annual conference, which has grown to become the premier global forum for women in the legal profession. Lastly, he launched the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, which he was executive director of from 1997-2000. Lloyd joins us today to discuss diversity, equity, and inclusion within the legal industry.

1. How do you see the DEI space? Where do you see the challenges that remain, are they the same ones as when you started? What are the trends that will impact diversity initiatives in law firms? 

There are many different initiatives in the DEI space today. Starting an initiative today would be difficult because of frustration, resentment and diversity fatigue. I think you will hear those three words a lot when talking to people in law firms. Underlying all that, there has been an extraordinary amount of money and resources that has been directed to DE and I. Despite this, the needle has not moved yet as it should have. 

2. Do you think many law firms are still focused on easy wins and performative diversity? What are the dangers of it?

The short answer is yeah. Think about the short term focus for a publicly traded company. The company can be so focused on meeting its numbers for the next quarter that it loses sight of what is important. Take Exxon for example. Last year and the previous years, they were so focused on meeting their quarterly goals they forgot to invest in important things such as renewable energy. All of a sudden there was a systematic change and they did not have the ability to move quickly enough, as well as they lost much of their credibility. Things like that are more about optics than substance. They go back to their clients and say “Oh well, we’re working really, really hard. We had six partners of color and they’ve all left but we’ll get some more”. If you don’t have the credibility for people to stick with you, why did you make those transitions? 

3. You mentioned diversity analytics? What are the best practices on asking for data, giving data, and using data?

That more general counsel will take the hard line view that if you don’t give us the data you’re not going to get any new work. They’re now starting to go public with it. It may take three years, maybe two. I guess in terms of attrition and other data related to law firms, it is theirs. But what are the consequences of not sharing it? Hopefully, they see this is not a law firm problem or a law department problem. From where I sit, the next two to three years will be more impactful than anything since the 1980’s. 

4. What would you say to legal marketing advertisers who want to reform their company’s DEI plan to make it just more than fluff. What advice do you have for them?

Law firm leadership needs to take a close look and see if there’s anything they are doing that could be causing the issues that they are facing. So say we have higher turnover within a particular group of people. If they went to another firm we could see what different things we could try at a firm management level. In terms of law firms and DEI professionals, these next 12-18 months will be difficult because they will get stuck between the log law and law firm departments in terms of collecting data and what that data means. Surveys will start to go away and they will be replaced by diversity analytics, which means there will be more efficiency on the law department side. 

Takeaway:

To keep up with the times, firms have to prioritize diversity and inclusion. Creating an authentic DEI initiative is important to maintaining the credibility of any firm. D EI data may be difficult to acquire, but in the next few years, it will become central to running any genuine DE and I initiative. 

You can find Lloyd Johnson on LinkedIn.

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