Despite Ambitious Goals, Tracking Diversity Remains a Challenge

Management consultant Peter Drucker once wrote, “What gets measured gets managed.” But this adage is falling flat in the legal profession, as many in-house legal departments fail to establish metrics to track the success of the ambitious diversity goals they put in place over the past year.

Major, Lindsey & Africa and the Association of Corporate Counsel recently polled leaders in 493 legal departments spanning 24 industries and 30 countries on a range of topics, including how they measure progress against their diversity goals.

Overall, just 29% said they use metrics to track the diversity of their internal legal departments. When it comes to outside counsel, only 18% reported using metrics to track the diversity of their external legal teams.

Tracking diversity in-house

While just 29% of survey participants said they used metrics to track the diversity of their internal teams, the number varied significantly based on the organization’s size. Sixteen percent of small companies say they track diversity internally compared to 71% of large organizations.

In the U.S., just 28% of legal departments reported utilizing internal diversity metrics, while almost 40% of companies in the EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) region said the same.

Evaluating diversity among new hires was the most common metric used (94%), followed by tracking the diversity of team members who are promoted (55%) or depart the organization (50%) and those who occupy specific job levels or functions (49%).

Of the legal departments that employ internal diversity metrics, almost 47% said they have a formal strategy to improve departmental diversity with tangible consequences if goals aren’t met; 53% didn’t have such a plan.

Assessing outside counsel

The patterns were similar for tracking the diversity of outside counsel. Legal departments at large companies (53%) were more likely to use metrics to track the diversity of outside counsel compared to small companies (10%).

The U.S. ranks highest in tracking the diversity of outside counsel, though at just 20%, followed by Asia-Pacific (16%), and the EMEA (14%).

When it comes to who legal departments are tracking at outside firms, 74% said they’re measuring the diversity of the teams that handle matters for the legal department, 62% said they look at all lawyers in a firm, and 54% said they’re tracking the firm’s partners. Promotions to partner, leadership positions in the firm, and the makeup of incoming associate classes are also scrutinized.

Just 25% of legal departments that are tracking diversity said they have a formal strategy to improve the diversity of their outside counsel with tangible consequences; almost 76% didn’t have a strategy.

“At this time in history, there is no question that we need to move the needle forward,” said Kendra Abercrombie, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Manager at the Commission on Professionalism. “Simply committing verbally or in writing to improving the diversity of your organization or outside counsel is not enough to bring about change.”

“Legal departments that are dedicated to diversifying the legal field and retaining those diverse individuals must commit to actual action,” Abercrombie said. “It’s vital that they establish clear diversity goals, strategies to reach them, and metrics to track them. By doing this, they’re not only able to identify how to shift their strategies if necessary, but can also hold themselves accountable in reaching the goals they set forth.”

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