Talent Advisory Board’s Research Highlights Diversity in Law Firms

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Research conducted in partnership with five leading law firms explores best practices for minority advancement

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Law firms are developing new business and related staffing models to better serve the needs of both clients and a diverse workforce

Law firms in the new millennium are experiencing tremendous growth in diversity through both global expansion and merger activity. As the incoming talent pipeline continues to diversify, effective business management that can successfully serve clients and a diverse workforce has become increasingly critical. To assist in the cultivation of such management, Talent Advisory Board Inc., an independent diversity research firm, has released its fourth annual research study, The Path to Advancement for Diverse Attorneys: Business Acumen. The study advances diversity in the legal profession by identifying the best practices used by five of the nation’s top diversity best practice firms – Cooley LLP, Fenwick & West LLP, Latham & Watkins LLP, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati PC.

Minorities today represent approximately 25% of law school students and 20% of law firm associates, but only 7% of all partners and 5% of equity partners at law firms nationwide. The practices of the five participating firms are highlighted, as they have been able to counter this trend and hold a significantly higher proportion of minorities as law firm leaders. Across the five firms, minorities represent 12% of the partnerships, far surpassing the US industry benchmark of 7%. The firms also collectively outperformed the national law firm retention rate of 78% for minority attorneys; and their attorneys leave for other law firms at a far lower rate than the national average of 40%.

During a recent meeting of best practice firms at the Palo Alto offices of Cooley LLP, Tina Shah Paikeday, Managing Director, Talent Advisory Board Inc., further elaborated on the key findings across the group, “The industry talent model has shifted from a historical apprenticeship model to a professional services talent model, and some law firms are developing new business and related staffing models to better serve the needs of both clients and a diverse workforce. In our interviews with minority and women partners at best practice firms, business acumen was at the core of their success. Business acumen traits included an aptitude for client businesses, the leadership ability to generate new business and the teamwork skills needed to work effectively in partnership with clients, colleagues and family.”

Effective talent management strategies highlighted in the study include:

  •     Extensive and deliberative hiring practices with a focus on business skill and interest
  •     An organizational structure enabling the formation of sponsorship relationships
  •     The consistent delivery of high quality work assignments with client opportunity
  •     Early education enabling attorneys to leverage authentic business development styles
  •     A culture of informal feedback to improve performance and disrupt bias

Participants in the third annual meeting of best practices firms also commented on the ability to discuss the findings amongst their peers.

"Cooley is proud to be one of the best practice firms and to assist in the development of strategies that will further the advancement of diverse groups both within law firms and within the companies and communities we serve,” said Whitty Somvichian, a litigation partner in Cooley's San Francisco office, and chair of the firm's diversity committee. "It was wonderful to host the Talent Advisory Board, and to be part of this valuable research process."

“Fenwick is proud to have been the original sponsor of Talent Advisory Board’s diversity best practices survey in the legal profession,” said partner Felix S. Lee, who co-chairs Fenwick’s diversity committee. “The findings of these surveys over the years have been tremendously beneficial to us. We are also optimistic that the dissemination and adoption of these best practices will substantively advance the cause of diversity throughout the legal profession.”

“Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati is proud to be considered a best practice firm regarding diversity and we were honored to participate in Talent Advisory Board’s survey, “added Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati co-managing partner Jack Sheridan. “Diversity has always been an organic part of our culture and we believe it creates an atmosphere that attracts a wide range of professionals to the firm.”

The study combined an analysis of industry demographic, retention and departure statistics to identify where each firm utilized best practice talent management practices in the areas of selection and retention, work assignment, career development, partnership election and alternate tracks. Interviews were conducted with over two dozen diverse partners and alumni from the five firms to calibrate the effectiveness of solutions developed by talent management leaders to address the perceived and real obstacles that face women and minorities including work-life, implicit bias and business development challenges.

The research was co-sponsored by Cooley LLP, Fenwick & West LLP, and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati PC.

To view the study visit: http://www.talentadvisoryboard.com/The_Path_to_Advancement_for_Diverse_Attorneys_Business_Acumen_091913.pdf

Diversity at Cooley LLP
Cooley's 700 attorneys have an entrepreneurial spirit and deep, substantive experience, and are committed to solving clients' most challenging legal matters. From small companies with big ideas to international enterprises with diverse legal needs, Cooley has the breadth of legal resources to enable companies of all sizes to seize opportunities in today's global marketplace. The firm represents clients across a broad array of dynamic industry sectors, including technology, life sciences, health care, venture capital, clean energy, real estate and retail. Diversity is a core value and priority at Cooley.

The firm is dedicated to maintaining a truly diverse workplace that values and celebrates differences. Mindful that true workplace diversity goes beyond the mere hiring people of different backgrounds; Cooley offers all employees the tools, training and mentoring they need to succeed, and embraces the importance of diversity on its client teams. Cooley’s Diversity Committee was created to help the firm reflect the diversity present in its client base and the communities within which it maintains offices.

Cooley’s management works with the Diversity and Hiring Committees to promote communication and understanding throughout the firm, and to maintain a diverse and inclusive workforce for all employees. The firm has an active LGBT affinity group, as well as thriving diversity fellowship programs and summer internship opportunities for students with diverse backgrounds. Cooley is proud to have been awarded the Women in Law Empowerment Forum (WILEF) Gold Standard Certification in both 2012, and 2013, a certification that emphasizes the leadership roles achieved by female equity law partners. The firm has also recently been recognized as a “Best Law Firm” and “Best Company” by Working Mother magazine. For more information, please visit: http://www.cooley.com/

Diversity at Fenwick & West LLP
Established in 1972, Fenwick & West works closely with technology and life sciences companies that are changing the world through innovation. The firm has more than 40 years of experience crafting innovative solutions to the business challenges that arise at the intersection of technology and the law. Fenwick & West clients, who range from start-up ventures to global enterprises, value our attorneys' deep industry experience and understanding of their technologies. The firm is ranked by Minority Law Journal as one of the top five most diverse law firms in the United States. The Diversity and Inclusion Committee at Fenwick & West works closely with the attorney recruiting department to increase outreach at law schools targeted to diverse student communities and Fenwick has been actively involved in various groups and activities that work to promote diversity both in the legal profession and the community, including the Asian American Bar Association, Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF), the ABA Section of the Litigation Committee for the Minority Trial Lawyer and the Minority Corporate Counsel Association. The Firm has implemented diversity training, mentoring, assignment tracking and recruiting initiatives in order to strengthen diversity. In its efforts to embrace diverse heritages, the Firm hosts cross-cultural celebrations, including Cinco de Mayo, Chinese New Year and Juneteenth. For more information, please visit: http://www.fenwick.com

Diversity at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati PC
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati is the premier provider of legal services to technology, life sciences, and growth enterprises worldwide. We represent companies at every stage of development, from entrepreneurial start-ups to multibillion-dollar global corporations, as well as the venture firms, private equity firms, and investment banks that finance and advise them. As a law firm that serves a dynamic, diverse and innovative client base, we are well aware of the value that diverse viewpoints, diverse experiences, and diverse backgrounds bring to an organization. We aim to attract, mentor, and retain the best legal talent from all backgrounds, and foster a culture in which all employees are empowered to achieve their maximum potential. More than a third of our partners and over half of our associates are women or belong to a racial, ethnic, or gender minority group. We frequently have been recognized for our commitment to diversity: In 2013, the firm ranked No. 3 in The American Lawyer’s Diversity Scorecard—which annually recognizes the achievements of the nation’s 250 largest and highest-grossing law firms—with 26 percent minority attorneys and 20 percent minority partners. Internally, women and minority attorneys hold leadership positions on key management committees, including the board of directors, the Policy Committee, the Nominating Committee, the Compensation Committee, and the WSGR Foundation’s board of trustees. Further, the firm is actively involved in several external programs promoting diversity, including the Asian Law Caucus, Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom, the Silicon Valley Japanese Entrepreneur Network, and the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs & Executives, and the WSGR Foundation has provided financial support to numerous diversity-focused organizations, including the Asian Law Alliance, the Equal Justice Society, La Raza Centro Legal, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. In addition, in 2008 the WSGR Foundation began providing support for the California Bar Foundation's Diversity Scholarship Program, to assist incoming first-year law students from groups historically underrepresented in the legal profession who have committed to attend a California law school and have a financial need and a desire to make an impact in the community. For more information, please visit http://www.wsgr.com

About Talent Advisory Board Inc.
With the social mission of fostering a greater understanding between people of diverse backgrounds, Talent Advisory Board Inc. is a boutique research and consulting firm focused on advancing workforce diversity. The firm's researchers and consultants have experience in human resources strategy, diversity programs and employee research, and they provide leading edge diversity research and management consulting services to law firms. The firm uses an analytical approach to solve the most challenging diversity problems including recruiting, retaining and advancing diverse legal professionals. Talent Advisory Board enables diversity to be a powerful asset for clients to leverage for competitive advantage. The firm is minority-owned and woman-owned. For more information please visit http://www.talentadvisoryboard.com.

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Erica de Guzman
Ameredia
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Tina Shah Paikeday
Talent Advisory Board
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