The U.S. Census confirms that the American population is changing. In 2018, more than 50 percent of Americans are female, the median age is around 38 years and many now identify as being a member of two or more races.
This shift in demographics has a direct impact on the legal industry, with more consumers of legal services and decision-makers in legal departments being of diverse backgrounds. This presents the need for law firms to update their marketing strategies with a diverse and inclusive message that will keep them relevant and attractive to potential clients.
The Demand For Diversity
As consumers of legal services change to reflect the demographics of the U.S. population, diversity and inclusiveness are not just buzz words — especially when it comes to legal marketing. Decision-makers have seemingly endless options when it comes to choosing a law firm to solve their legal problems.
As research has shown again and again, people are not influenced to retain a law firm by its reputation but rather the connection with the team of people who will represent them.
By emphasizing the diverse backgrounds and life experiences of your firm’s lawyers and staff, it logically follows that the chances increase of a potential client and someone on your team hitting it off.
Likewise, diversity and inclusiveness are a “must-have” as Fortune 500 corporations are now insisting that diversity be reflected in their outside legal teams.
According to Kathleen Nalty, a national expert on diversity and inclusiveness in the legal profession, companies are much more focused on diversity than ever before because of the research that diverse teams outperform homogenous groups.
“Last summer, the CEO of PwC spearheaded a new initiative to advance diversity and inclusion,” according to Nalty. “Since then, over 350 companies have joined the initiative — called ‘CEOAction!’ Some law firms I’m consulting with have 80 or more clients that are a part of this effort. Law firms simply can’t afford to be complacent about diversity and inclusion anymore.”
Corporate legal departments are asking to meet the outside lawyers that will service their cases, and they are scrutinizing the backgrounds of these lawyers beyond how well they did in law school.
Follow-up throughout the case ensures that the same diverse lawyers initially pitched as service providers are actually getting the opportunity to perform substantive legal work on their matters.
With a clear demand for diversity and inclusiveness, forward-thinking law firms have “gotten the memo,” giving them an advantage in business development.
Caleb Durling, a partner at RBF Law, said, “We’ve increasingly found that our clients and potential clients expect us to assemble a diverse legal team to work on their matters.”
It’s true that change can be hard, but there are painless ways to update your marketing (and your business practices) to reflect a true commitment to being more diverse and inclusive.
That commitment can also have a big impact on your team, and ultimately your bottom line.
Not only its own reward, a robust diversity program is essential if your law firm wants to attract a diverse clientele. Like lawyers, consumers of legal services come in all shapes and sizes. Again, people overwhelmingly choose lawyers — not law firms. If they cannot connect with the lawyers in your firm, they will go elsewhere. This alone presents a compelling reason to look at your firm to see if it is a good place to work as that will determine the types of professionals you attract to employ. Diversity in your law firm should be seen at all levels including staff, partners, associates and administration.
Hiring diverse talent will widen the perspective and skill set of your law firm. Retaining your employees by nurturing their professional development through the implementation of inclusive practices will ensure that they stay.
Update your law firm marketing materials, including website and printed items, to showcase your diverse team.
Pay close attention to the photography on your website, especially with regard to the selection of stock photos used.
Great examples would be whether or not the images of shaking hands and the mix of people sitting around the conference room table send a message of diversity. Marketing materials should also use inclusive pronouns and other words that speak to a diverse population. This might include multiple language options or accessibility for people with disabilities.
Video marketing and messaging on your home page will play a key role in forming a connection between your law firm and lawyers of diverse background as well.
A law firm of any size uses vendors to provide a variety of services such as copying and duplication, marketing, graphic design, office supplies and even headhunting. Modern law firms are enacting vendor diversity policies for those they actually employ. These law firms make a commitment to actively seek out and support minority certified businesses as service providers for their firm. Even without a formal certification of minority ownership, there are many options in Colorado for women-owned, minority-owned, veteran-owned and disabled-owned businesses.
By providing your patronage, your law firm helps these businesses develop their presence in the legal community. Consider making your vendor diversity policy public by publishing it on your firm’s website and including it in your social media campaign as a statement of your commitment to the community.
It is true that law firms are businesses that benefit directly from the communities in which they are located. Rather than writing a check to support your community, make an actual investment in it. Options include volunteering outside the office and allowing your employees to do the same.
Another idea is to choose a nonprofit with a mission that aligns with your law firm’s practice areas, the industries you serve, or the neighborhood you are a part of, and donate a portion of your firm’s profits to it.
The point of this exercise is to confirm that law firms can be more diverse and inclusive when it comes to the organizations that they support.
Law firms often place a statement regarding their diversity and inclusiveness policies and programs on their website for potential clients, and even potential employees, to see. However, many law firms don’t realize that the values portrayed in these statements are easily fact-checked by looking at the law firm’s marketing and recruiting materials.
A lack of female partners or diverse attorneys listed on a law firm’s website will contrast directly with the firm’s diversity and inclusiveness policy found elsewhere.
General counsel and other savvy consumers of legal services are looking for consistency between the statements in a firm’s marketing materials and the actual lawyers and staff that the law firm employs.
Law firms that want to stay competitive in 2018 and beyond will need to update their marketing to reflect a more diverse and inclusive business model.
Creating a modern and inclusive marketing strategy is not difficult and will provide your Colorado law firm a deep advantage in attracting and retaining a wider spectrum of clients.
—Meranda Vieyra is the owner of Denver Legal Marketing. She can be reached at [email protected]