Structured Dialogue about Diversity

article I wrote on Bank of America’s diversity program
brings together so many themes
discussed in previous posts.
Target: The Bank has a commitment to diversity. I
share this commitment. But for purposes of this post, it could be any general,
abstract goal.
Measure: The Bank
actually measures diversity internally and externally. The Bank is not alone in
this. But I have been shocked at how many law departments that make public commitments
to diversity take the next logical step of measuring it. Instead, they setup
committees, join task forces, sponsor events, etc. These are all commendable except
they have proven insufficient
by themselves to actually move the diversity statistics.
[Can you imagine the
sea change if every large, corporate client meaningfully measured dollars out
the door to diverse timekeepers in terms of billed services and originations? Add to that some
differentiation by level (e.g., paralegal, partner) and spend with MWBE firms.
Baseline/Benchmark: Meaningful
measurement normally needs baselines and target values. This is where we are at. This is where we want to be. The target
values may, in many instances, need to be arbitrary. But that does not
mean they have to be random. It helps to have a reference class of peers to
measure against each other. Even if your goal is to raise the baseline, you get
a sense of practical parameters.

Discuss: It is
amazing what results can be achieved when a law department asks its law firms
to make verifiable progress against an empirically-established baseline. This structured
begins with the one-way measurement, but it does not end there.

Key to this
self-evaluation is a question that recognizes the dual responsibility of the
law firm and the client: “What could Bank of America do better to enhance
your Firm’s diversity performance/metrics for the coming year?”

Align: As the
Bank of America profile demonstrates, the discussion can go beyond the numbers
to the challenges faced and the other ways in which the law firm is striving to
serve the commonly held goal. The discussions are key for reinforcing the goal,
as well as deepening
the law department/firm relationship
by creating dialogue, a sense of
shared purpose, and alignment in perspectives on the problem being addressed.

Improve: None of
the foregoing matters unless it actually results in improvement. But it does. What
we choose to measure is a form of incentive in its own right. And client
goodwill is of key importance in a highly competitive environment that is so
dependent on relationships.

Understanding they
are falling behind their peer firms has a substantial motivational impact on
legal overachievers. ‘Law firms are competitive by nature. So any constructive
comment on areas for improvement is usually enough to motivate change within
the firm,’ remarks Quarmby.

Reward: Firms
that perform well should be rewarded. In addition to high marks on their
performance reviews and the attendant goodwill, Bank of America actually hosts
an awards dinner for its top performing firms. The winner even gets their award
directly from the Bank’s GC.

Repeat: There is
no finish line. There is a sustained commitment to continuous improvement.


Casey Flaherty is the founder of Procertas. He is a lawyer, consultant, writer, and speaker focused on achieving the right legal outcomes with the right people doing the right work the right way at the right price. Casey created the Service Delivery Review (f.k.a., the Legal Tech Audit), a strategic-sourcing tool that facilitates deeper supplier relationships by facilitating structured dialogue between law firms and clients. Given the current market realities, there is plenty of room for clients to get higher quality work at lower cost while law firms increase profits via improved realizations.
The premise of the Service Delivery Review is that with people and pricing in place, rigorous collaboration on process offers the real levers to drive continuous improvement. Proper collaboration means involving nontraditional stakeholders. A prime example is addressing the need for more training on existing technology. The problem is that traditional technology training methods are terrible. Competence-based assessments paired with synchronous, active learning offer a better path forward. Following these principles, Casey created the Legal Technology Assessment platform to reduce total training time, enhance training effectiveness, and deliver benchmarked results.
Connect with Casey on LinkedIn or follow him Twitter (@DCaseyF).

from Blogger


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s