Law firm diversityMore than 170 general counsel and corporate legal officers demand big law firms commit to diversity or they’ll take their business elsewhere. The open letter comes on the heels of dismal law firm diversity numbers from the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) and an online debate sparked by Paul Weiss’ all-white and majority male partner class. Paul Weiss has since outlined steps to improve diversity.

The letter, which was shared with ALM Media and posted to a general counsel group page on LinkedIn, says, “We expect the outside law firms we retain to reflect the diversity of the legal community and the companies and the customers we serve.”

The letter states that while the largely white, male partners promoted have no doubt worked hard to be there, they don’t reflect the demographic composition of the associate classes. It goes on to say:

“It is not enough to commit your firm to diversity during the recruiting process or to hire a diversity and inclusion officer and expect that person can effect change without the full commitment of each member of the firm.

Instead, the reality is that you must consciously and personally invest in diversity and inclusion and interview, hire, mentor, support, sponsor, and promote talented attorneys who don’t always look like you or share your background.”

The signatories said they’d direct their “substantial outside counsel spend” to law firms that “manifest results” in regard to diversity and inclusion.

Representatives from large and small corporations including Mozilla, Google Fiber, Heineken USA and Lyft signed the letter.

The document, which is still open for signatures, began in a women’s general counsel group. Michelle Fang, chief legal officer at the car-sharing company Turo, penned the memo.

Improving law firm diversity has beleaguered the legal industry for years. NALP’s 2018 Report on Diversity in U.S. Law Firms found that while women, minorities and LGBT attorneys have made slight gains at U.S. law firms since the recession, representation among Black / African-Americans remains stalled.

Our free online CLE Rebalance the Scales: Implicit Bias, Diversity and the Legal Profession explores how implicit bias results in a lack of diversity in the legal profession. The course also offers strategies to counter implicit bias in our personal and professional lives.

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Laura Bagby is Communications Director at the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism, where she develops and executes strategy to elevate the Commission among attorneys and judges in Illinois. Laura leverages communications channels to educate and engage with the legal community in support…

Laura Bagby is Communications Director at the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism, where she develops and executes strategy to elevate the Commission among attorneys and judges in Illinois. Laura leverages communications channels to educate and engage with the legal community in support of the Commission’s mission of increasing civility and professionalism to enable the administration of justice.