Teresa Bult, administrative partner and general counsel at Constangy, was featured in a Q&A published by the Nashville Post offering insight on what it takes for law firms to make strides in achieving their goals related to diversity, equity & inclusion in a legal industry that still has a long way to go. Bult, who is also the founding chair of Constangy’s Women’s Network, answered five questions that shed light on the perspective, leadership buy-in and efforts needed to have the success in this arena, highlighting the work that has allowed Constangy to become an industry leader for providing a culture and workplace with a clear focus on diversity and equal opportunity (learn more at https://www.constangy.com/firm-diversity).
In addressing what firms need to understand to make sure their recruiting practices encourage diversity, Bult shared several tips for firms to consider. Those included getting involved in diverse organizations, attending and sponsoring diverse conferences such as Lambda Legal or Hispanic National Bar Association events, deliberately asking whether you have considered diverse candidates or cast a wide enough net to encompass diverse candidates and more.
It is well known that the legal industry at large struggles with diversity more than most sectors, and Bult discussed some of the barriers that create challenges across the recruiting spectrum. Starting with the cost of legal education and an outdated methodology for law school rankings that impacts economically disadvantaged students and results in fewer diverse students in law school, Bult addressed other systemic issues, including:
- Lack of representation at the partner and management level that offers “no line of sight” upwards;
- Inclusivity challenges for firms that don’t think about how conversations and traditional policies might make diverse attorneys feel excluded; and,
- Persistence of the “Old Boys Club” in the profession.
To keep diversity at top of mind for partners and those aiding in recruiting, Bult says Constangy makes a deliberate effort to talk about it – a lot. “Sometimes just awareness and keeping the conversation going about the importance of diversity and diverse recruiting goes a long way,” she said. “When someone comes to us with a possible candidate for a position, we will try to ask whether they also considered diverse candidates and cast their net wide enough to ensure they were reaching diverse candidates and not just their small network of people, which may or may not be diverse. While we do not ever want to exclude non-diverse candidates, we want to make sure we aren’t ‘missing’ a quality group of candidates because we aren’t thinking about the bigger picture.” Additionally, the firm has discussions about the importance of diversity in Executive Committee meeting, and is in the Mansfield Rule process.
On the importance for encouraging diversity, Bult says reasons range from it simply being the right thing to practical impact on running a business well. It is important because it’s good for society, because the firm can provide better client service and representation because it is diverse by seeing the world from different perspectives, and because corporate clients also see the value and incorporate it into their law firm hiring decisions. “Finally, if we don’t focus on diversity, we miss out on some of the best legal candidates for hiring,” Bult added.
On the final question related to how the legal industry has succeeded or failed compared to other sectors, Bult pointed to a Washington Post article that referred to the law profession as “the least diverse of all American Professions.” While that article was from 2015, she noted the problem persists. “However, we should recognize that we are increasingly seeing good-faith efforts and significant investment to make strides in promoting a more diverse and inclusive industry and a more equitable legal system, including initiatives from independent law firms, in-house legal departments, nonprofit organizations and bar associations at the local, state and national level,” she concluded.
To access the full Q&A online with a subscription, please click here. To access a PDF copy of the article, click the link below.