The Role of Contract Attorneys in Achieving Diversity Goals

4 Min Read By: Leslie A. Firtell

Historically, the legal industry has lagged behind many other professions in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space. The industry is working to change that today, as DEI-focused recruitment and retention efforts take high priority within the offices of forward-thinking law firms and in-house legal departments.

Executive management and recruiters are embracing every opportunity to build teams that not only fulfill client expectations for diversity but also benefit their own organizations. Research, including yearslong tracking by McKinsey, has repeatedly shown that companies with higher levels of diversity outperform their peers financially, as well as in other areas. When a team includes people of various genders, ages, ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, sexual orientations, etc., it is not only the right thing to do, but it also holds the potential to produce more creative, innovative, and effective results. 

Achieving the diversity goals of your firm or department requires attention on two fronts: attracting a diverse group of new talent and working to support and retain attorneys already on your team. Engaging contract attorneys can support achieving both of these objectives.

How Contract Attorneys Can Help You Retain Diverse Talent

Lawyers’ perceptions of their organization’s culture are built on their experiences in a wide range of areas. Work-life balance, collaboration, equitable compensation, the opportunity to work remotely, and the quality of work they are assigned register high on the list of what matters to lawyers as they determine whether to switch jobs or stay put.

Some of these factors can be particularly important to women and people of color. A recent ABA report found, for example, that 68% of women lawyers and 68% of lawyers of color cited better work-life balance as an important factor when deciding to change jobs. Law firms and legal departments looking to retain top talent, especially in underrepresented groups, must understand these priorities, evaluate where their organizations may be falling short, and enact more supportive policies.

How can engaging contract attorneys help? Contract attorneys fill staffing gaps and lessen internal workload, promoting improved work-life balance and preventing burnout among associates. Contract staff can also reduce the burdens associated with routine tasks, such as document review and discovery, to help ensure associates can do the higher-level work that makes them feel more valued and fulfilled. Additionally, having a blended team of associates and contractors can increase team productivity, fueling higher morale and a greater sense of camaraderie.

Bringing contract attorneys into the mix demonstrates empathy for the challenges the lawyers on your team face and communicates your commitment to creating a nurturing culture where they can thrive.

How Your Alternative Legal Service Provider Can Help You Attract Diverse Talent

When you demonstrate your commitment to diversity and present your organization as welcoming to all, you are much more likely to attract diverse candidates. Again, that perception of your firm or department is created when candidates discover that your culture provides work-life balance, equitable compensation, remote work opportunities, and so on.

If you work with contract attorneys, this perception can also be augmented by your choice of alternative legal service provider (ALSP). Working with a woman- or minority-owned firm, or another ALSP that truly understands and supports your DEI goals and initiatives, can give you a leg up in recruiting diverse talent. In general, reputable ALSPs have access to a deep and diverse pool of candidates, for a number of reasons. For example, they are not limited by geography; they can recruit across a much broader expanse of talent and specialization. They can also offer, through contract work, the work-life balance that is especially important to women and attorneys of color, as well as esteemed lawyers in later stages of their careers, who are often looking to share their expertise on their own terms.

As you connect with these candidates and incorporate them into your staff, you can not only bring diversity of thought to your team today but also tee up the potential for bolstering your organization’s diversity in the long term. While contract attorneys are typically brought on for temporary assignments, you may have the option to convert those who prove to be ideal matches for your organization into permanent staff. Your ALSP can help you recruit and onboard those individuals as full-time members of your team.

Talk with your ALSP about your DEI policies and goals. Let them know what you are doing internally to provide an inclusive culture, and discuss ways they can partner with you to achieve your short- and long-term objectives. A good ALSP will have the capability to connect you with exceptional contract attorneys to energize your initiatives and strengthen your team.

By: Leslie A. Firtell

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