Getting it Right: Using Legal Tech to Empower Diversity
What’s the real depth of the diversity and inclusion movement in the legal industry, and what’s driving it? That was the subject of a panel at this year’s Interact US 2020 conference.
The experts exploring the issue couldn’t have been more appropriate: Victoria Hudgins of LegalTech News moderated, asking questions of David Cunningham, Chief Information Officer at Winston & Strawn and Founder of Legal Metrics, and Nagendra Donepudi, Senior Vice President, Product Development at Mitratech.
Legal Metrics is a consortium of law firms, corporate legal departments, and other industry organizations whose goal it is to get these parties to “agree, visualize, and share the legal industry metrics that define effectiveness, efficiency, value, and good working relationships.” As part of that effort, diversity has become of particular interest to David and his colleagues.
As David related it, the inclusion of diversity in the metrics used to evaluate law firms originated from a bottom-line perspective: “We decided to include diversity in metrics because lots of places look at the financial layer, but we explored what’s important to legal groups and is really driving buying decisions. Diversity is really driving buying decisions” by corporate legal, and obviously a powerful impetus for law firms to make changes. “The clients pushing (for diversity) is like a big wave behind them.”
Helping law firms see themselves as their clients do
The inspiration behind Legal Metrics was, in part, to provide law firms with “software that is able to give the law a perspective on what their client is seeing about them,” David said. Initially, his team started off with 17 law firms acting as a “kind of a design group,” but now have over 130 firms enrolled in the initiative.
Diversity wasn’t as prominent a focus at the start as it later became. Law firm leaders, he said, still wonder, “I hear about Legal Operations, but do they really affect who buys our legal services?” The short answer is yes, and diversity is one of the important criteria used by Legal Ops and corporate legal decision-makers to decide whether or not to engage a firm. “You know, if you’re Intel, you’re not going to hire this firm next year based on diversity.”
Calculating diversity, however, can be a problematic task: It’s difficult to do manually, “survey fatigue” can set in when multiple clients are pushing a firm for diversity reporting, and legal departments are sometimes asking for very private data from law firms in order to make calculations themselves, “which we try to discourage.”
To meet this need, Legal Metrics’ goals include standardization of the metrics to be used by its members, collection and calculation of the data provided by them in the platform the consortium has developed, and visualization of those metrics in easily actionable ways via intuitive dashboards.
Image courtesy of LegalMetrics.com
Technology can make sense of hidden diversity data
As Nagendra Donepudi explained, most legal departments have some type of data collection process, the most rudimentary being collection of data in Excel spreadsheets. It’s then up to those departments to consume and make sense of the data, and they often already have a great deal of it in house.
So when it comes to analyzing diversity among their outside counsel, it’s not really a matter of demanding additional data from law firms: It’s about doing a better job of discovering insights within the copious amounts of data these legal departments already possess.
That’s the grail Legal Metrics is pursuing, and David Cunningham gave credit to one technology provider who’s been advocating for corporate clients to make better use of their treasure troves of data:
Mitratech is a first mover in helping its customers have more inclusion and diversity insights – and that’s important.
How legal tech integration drives legal diversity oversight
As Nagendra explained, one aspect of that is to forge seamless integrations between a technology like that being researched by Legal Metrics and the solutions legal departments are already employing. “What we have seen in the past several years,” he said, ” is (users) want something that integrates within a system they’re already using…how do we add value to the TeamConnect platform rather than try to distract and pull you out somewhere else?”
Enabling that integration means monitoring diversity metrics becomes part of everyday activities for corporate legal and Legal Ops teams, so law firms will be forced to realize they’re under constant scrutiny. “We want more legal department eyes on the metrics because that compels the law firms to improve those metrics,” Nagendra said, as “they’re going to be held accountable if they know people are watching them.”
It was a wide-ranging but in-depth session that offered an intriguing glimpse into how technology can solve one of the most pressing issues in the client/law firm relationship. To see everything they covered? Just view it here.