Lack of diversity in the legal sector is a persistent problem. Law firms have been slow to move the needle on partnership attainment and other indicators of law firm success for women and people of color. Similarly, the number of women and PoC in general counsel or chief legal officer positions at top companies has remained stubbornly low.
(For more information and statistics on the landscape of diversity in legal, see our page The Corporate Legal Department: Diversity & Inclusion.)
Corporate legal departments are being called on to lead the charge in solving this problem in the legal profession, in part by requiring more diversity of their outside counsel. Standards around engaging diverse outside attorneys are shifting, too. In-house legal departments must not only assess a firm’s overall diversity composition, they increasingly are looking to actually track diverse timekeepers and support the advancement of individual diverse lawyers.
As in-house legal seeks to execute on these goals, they are being met with data challenges.
"As the drive for legal diversity becomes an imperative, so too does figuring out the nuts and bolts of how to collect and examine this data," Zach Warren wrote for Law.com.
More Individualized Data; More Complex Decisions
In-house legal departments can lean on resources such as the ABA’s Model Diversity Survey and request top-line diversity information directly from law firms. But translating high-level firm information to performance of a company’s work requires a much heavier lift, and in-house departments must manage and evaluate a greater volume of more granular data to achieve their goals.
More legal departments are considering the diversity composition of their teams on a matter-by-matter basis, and at the individual lawyer level as well as understanding attribution credit rules within law firms. This is a different type of data than is currently being routinely provided by firms, which is often firm-wide reporting of a firm’s overall composition of diverse partners, counsel and associates.
Legal departments are also focusing more on ensuring their teams are diverse at the outset of an engagement. This means that in-house professionals are looking for a mix of criteria: on lawyer expertise, experience and jurisdiction along with diversity factors. Matrixing this data to present the overall best outside counsel options can be a challenge for in-house departments seeking to operate efficiently.
How Technology Can Help
Technology platforms are uniquely positioned to help solve these data issues. Priori’s platform collects information on a lawyer-by-lawyer basis and connects thousands of data points about attorneys to help in-house counsel make these complex decisions quickly. Our platform contains diversity information about our lawyers and law firms, along with a volume of other structured data, which makes it easy for legal departments to connect with qualified, diverse outside counsel.
The billing and invoicing functionality on our platform also facilitates monitoring diverse timekeepers to ensure diverse attorneys are being given opportunities to tackle high quality work.
Priori Use Cases
Priori has helped many legal departments engage diverse outside counsel and meet diversity & inclusion goals. For example:
A recruiting company leveraged Priori to source diverse outside counsel to provide overflow support with high volume commercial and vendor contracts
A multinational technology company used Priori to match them with firms to handle segments of the company’s litigation who met strict diversity criteria in terms of minority and female ownership.
A logistics company used Priori to match them with diverse trademark counsel to replace current firms in managing trademark clearance review and trademark prosecution.
A technology company used Priori to match them with diverse commercial litigation counsel in Canada to support the company with local breach of contract claims.