A New Strategy to Increase the Diversity of the Legal Profession

Hellooo Happier Better Lawyers, Intrapreneurs and those of you thought the worst part of Steve's Harvey Miss Universe flub was when they took the crown off of Miss Colombia's head in front of everyone on live TV!

            Miss Philippines' face is priceless:  "Really Steve Harvey?!"

           Miss Philippines' face is priceless:  "Really Steve Harvey?!"

Quick Blog Post Summary for my busy Happier Better Lawyers:

There's a stunning lack of diversity in the legal profession, and most of the statistics are getting worse.  

Some eye-opening law firm statistics from recent NALP research:

 Photo credit:  Imgur.com.  Unfortunately, this visual is not that far off from current realities in the legal profession. 

Photo credit:  Imgur.com.  Unfortunately, this visual is not that far off from current realities in the legal profession. 

  1. The percentage of Black associates at law firms has decreased for 5 straight years;
  2. Blacks and Hispanics each only represent 2% of partners and of counsel;
  3. Only 17% of equity partners at the 200 largest law firms are women;
  4. 47% of law firms in the country have zero (0%) minority women partners

 

Blog Thesis:  We can't keep trying the same diversity strategies if we want to get different results. Let's try a new strategy to increase diversity in our profession:

Teach women and minority attorneys the mindset and tools of entrepreneurs.

This "intrapreneurial" approach would be in addition to current strategies being used to address diversity issues in the legal profession.

Why do we need to train lawyers to be more entrepreneurial?

Because the legal profession is not a pure meritocracy. 

In my experience as a former AM Law 100 attorney, General Counsel and entrepreneur, a significant portion of an attorney's long-term success is not directly tied to their personal talent or hard work.  There is a game being played that also materially affects an attorney's success.  Successful game players act more like entrepreneurs than standard W-2 employees. 

Successful players of the game in the legal profession act more like entrepreneurs than W-2 employees.

Women attorneys and attorneys of color (particularly those at law firms) on average lack some advantages and have some structural disadvantages in playing the game.  They often do not have the same networks, tools, and working presumptions that benefit many non-female or non-minority attorneys.  A more entrepreneurial mindset and approach (examples of useful entrepreneurial tools are in the full post below) may help overcome some of those disadvantages. 

A more entrepreneurial approach may help women attorneys and attorneys of color overcome some structural disadvantages they face as lawyers.

Frankly, we should train our law students and younger attorneys of ALL backgrounds -- not just women and attorneys of color -- to think and act more like entrepreneurs while practicing law.

I make presentations and provide intrapreneurial training to lawyers and law students,  and I think learning the entrepreneur's mindset is absolutely necessary for all lawyers and future lawyers. However, I also believe this approach will specifically improve the recruitment and retention of women attorneys and attorneys of color, rather than cause them to leave the legal profession to become full-time entrepreneurs. 

Teaching women and attorneys of color how to be entrepreneurial is not teaching them how to leave, it’s teaching them how to stay.

Teaching women and attorneys of color how to be entrepreneurial is not teaching them how to leave, it's teaching them how to stay.

What do you think?!

-- Calvin

#LetsBeEntrepreneurial

#HappierBetterLawyers


Full Version of the Blog Post:

We've all seen the headlines. 

There's a stunning lack of diversity in the legal profession, and most of the statistics are getting worse.  

Some eye-opening law firm statistics from recent NALP research:

 Photo credit:  Imgur.com.  Unfortunately, this visual is not that far off from current realities in the legal profession. 

Photo credit:  Imgur.com.  Unfortunately, this visual is not that far off from current realities in the legal profession. 

  1. The percentage of Black associates has decreased for 5 straight years;
  2. Blacks and Hispanics each only represent 2% of partners and of counsel;
  3. Only 17% of equity partners at the 200 largest law firms are women;
  4. 47% of law firms in the country have zero (0%) minority women partners.

It's not just NALP researchers making these diversity claims about the profession:

Law is the least diverse profession in the nation.
— Deborah L. Rhode, Stanford Law Professor

Blog Thesis:  We can't keep trying the same diversity strategies if we want to get different results. As my Twitter fave Renwei Chung says in his searing article "Without Significant Changes, Diversity In The Legal Profession Will Remain On Life Support"-- "Diversity is not self-executing." 

Diversity is not self-executing
— Renwei Chung

Let's try a new strategy to increase the diversity of our profession:

Teach women and minority attorneys the mindset and tools of entrepreneurs.

This approach would be in addition to current diversity strategies such as:

Let's teach women and attorneys of color to be more "INTRApreneurial" as lawyers.  (See David K. Williams' thoughts on the essential traits of an intrapreneur for more on intrapreneurship).

Which entrepreneurial tools should an attorney learn? 

  • How entrepreneurs brand and market themselves (and how branding and marketing are different);
  • How entrepreneurs create and leverage their own value proposition;
  • How entrepreneurs leverage & integrate their company's value proposition into their own brand and business development strategy;
  • How to compete socially, not just technically. 

Those are just a few of the entrepreneurial and business-oriented skills (Anyone want to do some math?  Run some numbers?) that lawyers need to be happier and better lawyers.  Ideally we'd start this entrepreneurial training in law school, not after they've become legal professionals. 

It's the mission of Happier Better Lawyer to help lawyers become, ahem, happier and better lawyers. I make presentations and provide intrapreneurial training to lawyers and law students, and I think it's a necessary tool for our profession.

Why do we need to train lawyers to be more entrepreneurial?

Because the legal profession is not a pure meritocracy. 

In my experience as a former AM Law 100 attorney, General Counsel and entrepreneur, a significant portion of an attorney's long-term success is not directly tied to their personal talent or hard work.  There is a game being played that also materially affects an attorney's success.  Successful game players act more like entrepreneurs than standard W-2 employees. 

Successful players of the game in the legal profession act more like entrepreneurs than W-2 employees.

Women attorneys and attorneys of color (particularly those at firms) on average lack some advantages, and have some structural disadvantages, in playing the game.  They often do not have the same networks, tools, and working presumptions that benefit many non-female or non-minority attorneys.  A more entrepreneurial mindset and toolkit (as described above) can help overcome some of those disadvantages. 

Frankly, we should train our law students and younger attorneys of all backgrounds -- not just women and attorneys of color -- to think and act more like entrepreneurs while practicing law.

The benefits of this approach aren't race or gender specific.  This training can help lawyers of all backgrounds get on their own personal trajectory of awesome. I do believe, however, that women and attorneys of color will find special benefit in this training. The profession as a whole will also benefit.

I believe this approach will actually improve the recruitment and retention of women attorneys and attorneys of color, rather than cause them to leave the legal profession to become full-time entrepreneurs. 

Teaching women and attorneys of color how to be entrepreneurial is not teaching them how to leave, it’s teaching them how to stay.

Teaching women and attorneys of color how to be entrepreneurial is not teaching them how to leave, it's teaching them how to stay.

What do you think?!

-- Calvin

#LetsBeEntrepreneurial

#HappierBetterLawyers