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In-house appetite for diverse teams strong

Law firms are being urged to rethink their business model and internal culture to meet the diversity demands of in-house clients.

If money talks, then findings that reveal in-house favour for diversity speak very loudly. Not only are law firms with diverse legal teams considered to be better performers, they also rake in the cash and are more likely to receive a 25 per cent higher share of in-house spend overall.

A legal industry report by Acritas has reiterated the business case for diversity, finding that clients benefit from diversity-driven performance and an increase in high-value outcomes. The research group applied a statistical test to 1,771 client responses from around the world to measure the correlation between diversity and performance among legal teams.

Acritas CEO Lisa Hart-Shepherd suggested that the trends that emerged could not go unnoticed by firms wanting to thrive in a competitive market.

“Surely when law firms understand the financial gains that can be made from allowing more diversity to thrive in their business models, they will start to make the changes that need to happen.

“Now that we have proven that such financial gain can be made from having higher levels of diversity, law firms have to look at their model and adapt,” Ms Hart-Shepherd said.

The 2016 Acritas Diversity Report published the latest results from its ongoing global survey, to offer insights into what in-house counsel look for when choosing a law firm.

Based on the responses, analysts were able to interpret the consumer preferences and behaviours of senior in-house counsel. The report found that overall law firm reputation was more likely to persuade men, while women ranked knowledge and understanding of client business above other business strengths.

“Whilst top quality and specialised knowledge tops the list for both genders, we’ve found that men pay much more attention to the value of the firm … They also look at the breadth of services offer[ed] and the geographic reach.

“Women, on the other hand […] take a commercial and pragmatic approach and really consider efficiency when they’re looking at the way they resource and deliver the services to [the client],” Ms Hart-Shepherd said.

While she acknowledged that this portion of the report relied on generalisations, Ms Hart-Shepherd said the results highlighted the need for law firms to adopt a targeted approach in attracting in-house clients.  

“In reality, we find that not everybody fits the profile, and this really does show the importance of understanding each client individually and making sure that you’re adapting the way that you sell, service and manage these clients,” she said.

Beyond the gender split within teams, responses to the survey also discussed the perception of diversity being affected by years of experience, age, ethnicity, nationality and LGBTQ.

“All of these different findings just show how firms need to adapt the way they sell, manage and service clients to suit their personal preferences,” Ms Hart-Shepherd said.

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