The legal profession, like many, doesn't have a strong
history of diversity, particularly in leadership positions. A
recent Law Society of British Columbia (LSBC) study shows that,
while more women graduate from law school each year, they typically
represent less than 35 per cent of lawyers in private practice and
fewer than 20 per cent of partners at law firms. And that is just
gender diversity. The picture is no better when it comes to overall
diversity and inclusiveness in the legal profession, alongside
other sectors in the business world. The gap highlights the need
for organizations to design and implement initiatives aimed
specifically at improving diversity and, perhaps more importantly,
inclusiveness performance. Lawson Lundell LLP has devoted
considerable time and effort to developing a strategic plan to
create a more diverse and inclusive workplace, with some success to
date. While more needs to be done, our work to date has provided
valuable insight and lessons, including the need to focus on a few
Understand how change benefits the bottom line. In order to get
buy-in from leaders and senior management, you need to articulate
not only why diversity is the right thing to do, but also that it
can create a competitive advantage. Diversity and inclusiveness
will help your organization not only attract and retain top talent,
but also benefit from a broader range of ideas and varying points
of view. This, in turn, will help to drive ideas, innovation,
efficiency and productivity, which are key drivers for
organizational success. The results are often increased profits,
while at the same time allowing your organization to gain more
traction when looking to implement diversity and inclusiveness
policies and processes.
Review and consider your hiring practices. Start by forming a
diversity and inclusiveness committee to conduct an ongoing review
of your organization's diversity and inclusiveness performance.
Part of the committee's role should be to compare your
organization's hiring practices and educational program
graduate ratios against others. Understanding how you stack up will
provide a benchmark against which you can measure progress. It can
also lead to greater awareness of the need for the promotion of
diversity and inclusiveness within your organization. It may also
influence certain recruitment decisions. An important part of this
process is to recognize and understand the power and prevalence of
unconscious bias, which often leads people making hiring and
promotion decisions to recruit and advance people like
Benefit from other industry organizations. Another way to build
sustainable diversity policies and programs is to leverage the
findings and best practices developed by industry organizations. In
the legal industry, an example is the Law Society of BC's
Justicia Project, a precedent-setting initiative created in
response to evidence that female lawyers leave private practice at
a higher rate than their male counterparts in their first 10 years.
The organization creates best practices policies and guidance,
which have been adopted by the LSBC. Examples include flexible
working arrangements and advancement to partnership.
Be open to the perspectives of younger employees. It's
important to consider, understand and make certain changes based on
the needs and wants of younger members of the organization.
Figuring out what issues affect them, and engaging them in finding
and implementing solutions, can lead to improved retention and
advancement of a more diverse workforce. It helps to foster a more
inclusive culture. An example of this might be the review and
perhaps revision of parental leave policies to reflect and support
the idea of shared parenting, a concept that is increasingly
embraced by younger professionals. Understanding the values and
perspectives of the more junior members of your organization is
essential if you hope to retain a diverse group of future
In the long term, the success of any diversity and inclusiveness
program will require the cultivation of an inclusive culture. This
is no simple task and is a continuous process, but focusing on the
basics has proven to be a helpful place to start.
Originally published by Business in Vancouver
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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