If you want to change how law firms behave, you have to change what their clients want.
Some companies are trying to do just that. Du Pont, Shell, and Wal-Mart have teamed up to publish a list of law firms that are owned by women or minorities. The National Law Journal reports that this list is a just a directory of law firms that the companies themselves have used in the past. But the goal is clearly to push clients towards retaining law firms that place an emphasis on gender and racial diversity.
NLJ quotes DuPont’s general counsel, Tom Sager:
Judges, juries and public officials are becoming more diverse, so companies benefit from using firms that offer a diverse set of lawyers who can identify with these decision-makers.
Sound laudable? Or at least appropriately self-interested? Read about the counterargument after the jump.
As highlighted at Law and More, there is potential for a “pale male backlash.”
While totally disregarding people who are just sexist or racist when it comes to these issues, there is a serious discussion to be had about whether any firm should be hired just because the firm has some arbitrary number of female or minority attorneys. That said, gender and racial equality are important goals in our profession. Creating a directory is hardly synonymous with “preferential” treatment. Knowing which firms have a commitment to diversity seems like a relevant factor that clients might want to consider.
It all comes back to the clients. If clients want to work with diverse law firms, then competitive law firms will become more diverse. If clients don’t care, change will come to law firms with all deliberate speed.
Do you think law firms will balk at this directory? Should they?
Companies Tout Minority Firm List [Law.com]
Corp Push for Minority/Female Lawyers & Pale Male Backlash [Law and More]