Friday, October 8, 2021
Bloomberg Businessweek, Diversity at Elite Law Firms Is So Bad Clients Are Docking Fees:
Elite law firms in the U.S. and the U.K., long seen as fusty bastions of mostly White men, are being pushed by some of their biggest customers to change. Facebook, HP, and Novartis are part of a growing number of major global companies that have warned they’ll take their work elsewhere or cut fees unless they see more racial and gender diversity in the law firms they hire. ...
It’s not that the companies pushing for change are models of diversity. Most have their own distinct struggles with representation. But corporate law firms have proved particularly slow to shape up, with many structured as partnerships that give relatively few dealmakers decades of influence over how a firm is run. That’s an increasing concern for clients, who say diverse legal teams deliver more creative and well-rounded advice.
Although many law firms have made public commitments on racial, gender, and economic diversity, they’ve got a long way to go. Women make up a little more than a quarter of partners at 10 of the most prestigious firms on either side of the Atlantic, according to research by diversity-analytics company Pirical. About 10% of partners at U.S. firms are people of color, according to a 2020 survey of 883 law offices by the National Association for Law Placement. Racial minorities make up only 8% of U.K.-based partners at elite British firms, according to Bloomberg calculations based on company data. To put that in perspective, about 12% of directors at the U.K.’s 100 largest companies are from an ethnic minority, data from a government-commissioned report show.
A more diverse pipeline of young lawyers may help tackle representation in years to come, based on law school data and the number of women in lower levels.