In recognition of Black History Month, Texas Lawbook has published an article by Muskat Devine attorney Mariah Berry on law firm diversity. “Law Firm Culture: Inclusion Is Not Assimilation” (subscription required) discusses why the biggest impediment to achieving true diversity in the legal profession is not recruiting diverse attorneys but retaining them. The reason: lack of real inclusion.
Ms. Berry writes, “More often than not, attorneys, regardless of race, leave law firms because of culture, not because of workload or compensation. Therefore, firms must learn how to emphasize true inclusion to have a long-term impact on their diversity profile.”
The problem, Ms. Berry writes, is that the inclusion part of “diversity and inclusion” has become synonymous with assimilation. And when firms say they want attorneys who fit into their culture, they really want attorneys who can assimilate into their archetype. This, unfortunately, does not result in growth or retention.
“Inclusion is not assimilation,” she writes. “Including diverse attorneys in firm culture means the firm’s culture should include diverse cultures. Including diverse attorneys means accepting and supporting their hobbies, hairstyles, headdresses, music, food, interests, and values.”
In the article, Ms. Berry says it’s time for traditional law firms to reflect on their authentic in-office culture. She encourages firms to foster honest discussions about attorneys’ experiences and the ways in which they can be supported.
“Most firms are closed on Christmas, but do attorneys feel comfortable taking time for other religious holidays or even daily prayer? Invite and adopt their recommendations on recruitment, team building, and marketing activities. Consider an anonymous suggestion box and implicit-bias training.”
Ms. Berry says the bottom line is that a firm’s culture should evolve to include the ideas and interests of its attorneys. “When diverse attorneys feel seen, accepted, and integrated into the firm, only then is there true diversity and inclusion. Only then, will diverse attorneys stay.”
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