To build a truly inclusive law firm, it’s not enough to hire diverse attorneys—both clients and firm leaders have to know who they are and give them opportunities to do great work. LCLD Member firm Reed Smith LLP hopes its Diverse Attorney Directory will help fill that gap.
In early 2018, Reed Smith launched a new diversity website as part of a holistic effort to upgrade the firm’s messaging around diversity and inclusion, with its new Diverse Attorney Directory in a prime spot. The directory lists most of the firm’s diverse attorneys, with contact information and practice areas, and the firm hopes it will help women and minorities, as well as LGBT, disabled, and veteran attorneys, gain exposure both internally and externally.
“I had a meeting with a client who said they wanted opportunities to send more work to diverse attorneys, but that it was hard to identify the right people,” said John Iino, Global Chair, Diversity & Inclusion, and Chief Diversity Officer at Reed Smith. “The client thought it would be helpful to have at their fingertips a directory of diverse attorneys who could work on their matters.”
See below for Iino’s tips on creating a diversity directory.
1. Don’t limit the audience.
Initially, Reed Smith put together an internal directory listing attorneys who were members of the firm’s affinity groups and who had consented to share their information with a specific client.
“But as we started to think more about the firm’s overall messaging around diversity for the website, we thought, what more could we do than introduce our diverse talent to the outside world?” Iino said. “We thought about the whole audience—clients, recruits, potential laterals. Not only did we want to help these people gain more opportunities and access to clients, but we wanted potential hires to find people that they could identify with.”
2. Streamline the approval process.
Over several months, a team made up of representatives from D&I, marketing, and human resources reached out to the firm’s diverse attorneys and asked for permission to publicly share their information and identification as part of a minority or affinity group.
“For other firms considering this, that’s probably the biggest challenge,” Iino said. “It’s easy in concept, hard in execution.”
Moving forward, Iino said Reed Smith plans to add new questions to the onboarding process for new attorneys—asking whether they identify as part of any minority or affinity group, whether they want to join one of the firm’s resource groups, and whether they’re willing to have that information made public.
3. Build the directory into a broader diversity strategy.
Adding the Diverse Attorney Directory to the firm’s website is only the first step, Iino said. Now, Reed Smith is thinking about how to make sure internal decision-makers, like practice group leaders and relationship partners, are utilizing the directory.
“We have pitches and requests for proposals and client relationship partners that always need more diverse partners and associates, so getting the practice group leaders and marketing team aware of who we have available is that first line of education,” Iino said.
The firm is also always looking for ways to help diverse attorneys become more than an entry in the directory—providing opportunities for them to engage with clients through events like CLE programs or cocktail receptions.
For more information on the Diverse Attorney Directory, or other diversity and inclusion initiatives at Reed Smith, contact John Iino at firstname.lastname@example.org.