The Value of Diversity in Law


By Taylor Burton Published on February 14, 2024

Estimated reading time: 5 Minutes

In the present world, "diversity" has become a common word. The concept has been around since the 1960s and is defined as the inclusion of people from different backgrounds. That can mean people of a different race, age, gender, ethnicity, religion, class, or even a difference in mindset. Each one of us brings something of value to the table. We often hear how important diversity is, but how often do we hear why? Let's take the time to dive even deeper into the benefits of diversity and the value it can bring to the legal profession.

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To begin, there are three words you often hear together: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). These values are closely linked (in fact, the PBA even has a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Team that works hard to promote and enhance diversity). Equity refers to fairness and justice while inclusion is all about ensuring that everyone's voice is heard. These concepts are tied tightly to the very foundation of being a lawyer. In fact, these policies emerged thanks to the legal term "affirmative action," which sought to prohibit discrimination in the workplace and create more opportunities for minority groups.

Though the number of lawyers of color have slowly been trending upward over the years, the legal world is still less diverse than the rest of our country. A 2022 survey by the MCCA found that 8 in 10 attorneys are White/Caucasian. Another statistic to keep an eye on is the representation of women in law, which is growing at a faster rate and came in at just under 40% of all attorneys. In order to reflect the country's total population, this number should be 50%. If it continues its trend towards growth and more and more women take on this prestigious profession, it should reach that number within ten years.

Luckily, steps are being taken to ensure that these numbers continue to rise. Many foundations and associations offer DEI scholarships to help send students with diverse backgrounds to law school. Law firms are recognizing the importance of diversity and choosing to invest time and money into education, strategies, and initiatives. More and more DEI committees are being created to offer support to diverse attorneys.

DEI is being made a top priority for law firms all over the country. Many younger people seek a workplace that values diversity because they desire a safe place where they can be their authentic selves. In fact, embracing diversity is proven to improve financial returns within the business world. An environment of welcoming is more likely to retain top talent while motivating employees to do their best work. A wider range of people and experiences means a wider range of new ideas and perspectives. You don't want to get caught in an echo chamber saying, "This is the way we've always done it." You need to stay on top of current issues and evolve in order to keep your law firm competitive.

Diversity can also broaden your client base and empower you to better serve whoever might walk through your law firm's doors. A certain client might only feel comfortable approaching a lawyer relatable to themselves. For example, a woman seeking divorce from her abusive partner might feel most comfortable in the presence of a female lawyer.

A diverse legal team will reflect the diversity of your clients and grow their confidence in you. This will aid with the overall growth of your firm and success.

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If you're wondering what actions you can take to promote diversity within your firm, the Pennsylvania Bar Association promotes diversity in its activities and offers an array of resources. This includes informative recordings, committees you can get involved in, and links to other valuable diversity organizations. Click here to learn more.

Many states have made DEI training a requirement. Though it's not a requirement in Pennsylvania, that doesn't change how valuable it can be for your firm. There are a number of excellent diversity training programs that can be found online. PBI also offers courses that recognize the critical importance of diversity in the legal profession and justice system. Project Objection is an interactive program in which participants will explore realistic workplace situations and contemplate the issues, viewpoints, and ethical principles at play. It's available to experience both live and on-demand.

The first step is to educate yourself! From there, you can share resources with your fellow lawyers so that everyone can begin practicing more mindfulness in professional environments. Make diversity a core value at your law firm. Cultivate opportunity and an open mind. Listen to the voices around you and keep the conversation going, because it is an incredibly important one in this day and age.

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America is a melting pot of diversity and has been for quite some time, but lawyer statistics have yet to match it. The legal world must promote and reflect this diversity in order to best represent its people and strive towards a fair judicial system. Every voice deserves to be heard. This is why, perhaps more than any profession, the value of diversity in law is unmatched.