Forming the Right Diversity and Inclusion Strategy for your Legal Department

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The diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategy has been important for many companies. Law firms, specifically, have been having discussions about D&I in their companies for a while. The rise in D&I conversations continues as companies conduct webinars, panels, and one-on-one discussions regularly. Employees are encouraged to speak up about issues concerning D&I, and with the current re-mote/hybrid working situation, firms are finding innovative ways to continue the growing discussion.


Define the business case for implementing diversity and inclusion within your department’s strategy

There is an ongoing discussion in the legal industry on how companies can lay a better foundation to improve D&I in the legal sector. Organizations are defining business cases as a guide to developing a strategic D&I plan. This is usually aligned with the organization’s mission, values, and business objectives. Some questions to consider are:

  • What kind of concerns are you addressing to your internal and external stakeholders in your D&I business case?
  • What business objectives should this D&I business case support?
  • What D&I-related changes are needed in your workplace that can help meet your business objectives?

Once you define the business case for including D&I in your legal department, you can plan out the next steps.

To do this, you will need to discuss it with the leaders and the board. This discussion will outline the key business objectives of the questions above. You can use the information to assess the current situation of D&I in your department and how you can best address any gaps.

Develop a cross-functional committee

Developing and establishing a cross-functional committee can be helpful in actioning the steps mentioned above. D&I functions are often reported to the human resources (HR) department. However, diversity and inclusion are not distinct missions – they should be fully integrated into the company.

Therefore, having a cross-functional committee helps ensure that D&I matters are discussed across the board and the company. This means including every team member from your legal department in the discussion. Here they can voice their concerns pertaining to D&I in the team and company and offer any suggestions. This cross-functional committee can also help oversee and address any D&I matters within the organization and conduct business cases for various departments’ D&I strategies.

Establish executive sponsorship

A D&I sponsor presents a long-term commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion within the department. Reaching out to employees within the department, leadership teams, and other people within the company can help promote the broader conversation about D&I. The person being approached must be aware of this executive sponsorship and the weight it carries. According to Linkage, “Sponsorship is an effective way for organizations to achieve greater diversity in their leadership ranks and helps create better business results.” Sponsorship is a step above mentorship, as it is more formal. It is a commitment to taking on the challenges posed by D&I.

Create an actionable and transparent plan

Once all steps are in place and there is a better understanding of the D&I situation in your department, it is important to create an actionable and transparent plan to implement changes. This plan should be done through cross-functional collaboration, along with a commitment from the top. Some key areas to explore in your plan are:

  • Training and development in D&I
  • Educating new employees on D&I during onboarding
  • Having a strong commitment to communicating about D&I across the team and company
  • Establishing an executive sponsorship
  • Looking at D&I with both internal and external stakeholders.

In conclusion, with a committed and cross-functional team in your department, you can start and carry on fruitful discussions about diversity and inclusion. You can then implement positive changes based on what is learned from these discussions. This will help form the right diversity and inclusion strategy for your legal department as well as help achieve key business goals aligned with this strategy. Diversity and inclusion are of utmost importance and should be prioritized in all legal departments regardless of size or tenure in the industry.

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