Gay rights have come a long way over the years, with differences and diversity being valued and understood. With this younger generation growing up in environments where they are accepted, included and appreciated for their differences rather than stigmatized, Attorney Shaun Sperling of Aronberg Goldgehn points out that it is even more critical that professionals in the legal field understand diversity on a much deeper level.
"Legal professionals need to keep up with the times and build diversity within their firms," says Sperling. "The 'social norm' regarding diversity is changing within society. Legal entities should be at the forefront of these issues and understand diversity on a deeper level."
Below are five ways firms can nurture and build a more diverse and inclusive workplace:
Support from the Top
The most important element to creating and building a truly diverse and inclusive background is for the leaders of the firm (partners, CEO's, managing partners, etc.) to demonstrate their understanding and respect for diversity since they control the cultural competence of the workplace. The majority of law firm leaders have been practicing from a time when the majority of attorneys were white males, thus it is imperative for the leaders of a firm to be educated and informed about diversity through seminars or panel discussions.
Evaluate the Hiring Process
Hiring practices can make a major difference when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Simply reaching out to minority bar associations with job postings or attending minority job fairs can widen the breadth of diversity on staff. Interviewers should also feel comfortable asking potential candidates about their involvement with diverse organizations that are listed on a resume during the interview process.
Verify Company Manual Language
Firms should include a statement regarding the firm's non-discrimination policy with language and proof that the firm is committed to a diverse environment. Many firms or organizations do not include a non-discrimination policy, or have policies that are outdated by years. These policies should be updated and stressed to all new and existing employees with language that is sincere and unique to each firm and organization.
Start a Committee or Group
A law firm or organization of any size can increase and build diversity in their firm with a diversity committee, individual minority groups, or even appointing one individual that is in charge of diversity for the firm or organization. Not only does this demonstrate to employees, clients and the legal field as a whole that the firm invests and supports diversity and inclusiveness, it also educates the firm as a whole on current topics, news stories and breaking laws in the area of civil rights.
Acknowledge Backgrounds through Company Messages
This suggestion can go hand in hand with the previous suggestion. A monthly diversity newsletter or email to staff is a great way to keep people informed and educated on issues and events about minorities and diversity. For example, if someone in the firm is doing a race to raise money for a minority organization or cause, it is an opportunity for the firm to be educated on the topic and to highlight the individual. You never know who may have a family member or friend who supports the same cause. In addition, it creates a positive work environment of cultural and diverse competence.