Ms. JD

The Business Case for Diversity Research Project

The Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession (“IILP”), along with the Association of Legal Administrators (“ALA”), launched the Business Case for Diversity Research Project to examine how the business case for diversity has thus far impacted corporate clients, law firms, and diverse partners. Over the course of five months, data was collected from the following: 52 corporations representing 10.4% of Fortune 500 corporations; 391 law firms representing 65.8% of law firms with 501+ lawyers and 39.8% of law firms with 251-500 lawyers on the National Law Journal’s list of 250 largest U.S. firms; and, 1,032 diverse partners.

From the Executive Summary:

The study found that while a business case for diversity exists, understanding what it means and what expectations flow from it differ dramatically from one group of stakeholders to the next. Corporate clients express a commitment to greater diversity and, intentionally or not, imply to outside counsel that continued or additional business will flow as law firms manifest support for and commitment to greater diversity. However, corporate clients, at best, use diversity as one of many criteria in selecting outside counsel and rarely implement strategies to reward in-house counsel for choosing diverse outside counsel or bestow more business upon those firms that are succeeding in their diversity endeavors.

For law firms as a group, the lack of measurable increases in the amount of business they receive in recognition of their diversity efforts has resulted in a relatively uniform approach to diversity where few firms find it worthwhile to step outside of the parameters of acceptable diversity programs and activities. Structurally, law firms as a group are following an unremarkable strategy of diversity efforts with little impetus to attempt anything that might be considered particularly dramatic or innovative, until one firm or another is able to demonstrate that a new approach might merit consideration.

 To read the report and access a complimentary copy, click here.

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