By: Amanda McGovern
As published in the Daily Business Review, November 22, 2017
Forget Brown v. Board of Education. Inclusion isn’t a favor to the socially diverse (i.e., women, African-Americans, Latinos, LGBTQ). Diversity is essential to winning. Corporate clients know this already, and they want to win.
There is a significant edge to a law firm that not only attracts but successfully promotes and retains ethnically and gender-diverse lawyers.
Katherine W. Phillips, senior vice dean and the Paul Calello Professor of Leadership and Ethics at Columbia Business School, explained the bottom line: “The fact is that if you want to build teams or organizations capable of innovating, you need diversity. Diversity enhances creativity. It encourages the search for novel information and perspectives, leading to better decision making and problem solving. Diversity can improve the bottom line of companies and lead to unfettered discoveries and breakthrough innovations. Even simply being exposed to diversity can change the way you think. This is not just wishful thinking: it is the conclusion I draw from decades of research from organizational scientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists and demographers.”
If the upside of diversity is all that, how do we explain the barren numbers of African-American, women, Latino, LGBTQ partners in the legal profession? Diversity isn’t always easy, and it can create friction.
Phillips’ research reveals that diversity in a group can create discomfort emanating from issues of trust, lack of communication and feelings of disrespect. But that friction yields strength and power; swords are forged by hammer, fire and persistence.
People who come from the same paradigm expect to be understood in terms of their own life experiences, and therefore often share the same perspective on an issue, and reach agreement on that issue based on their experiences and perspectives. What’s wrong with that?
What’s wrong with that is the failure to entertain other perspectives and beliefs. A homogenous group tends to engineer a single, predictable solution.
Successful results, though, often require creative and novel strategies — ideas. Phillips’ research demonstrates that members of socially diverse groups “change their expectations.” They work harder to reach an agreement, and that process leads to more developed, fully fleshed-out outcomes.
Over the last 25 years of practice, the one sentence that always made me and my partners smile was this: “I’ve got a different idea.”
Successful results in the practice of law depend on the same kind of innovative minds that find solutions in the practice of science. Strength through diversity is fact; strength through travel bans and other anti-diversity actions is fiction.
The cost of homogeneity is immeasurable and unknowable — the hidden cost of the missed idea, the missed solution, from looking only at what you know and not seeking to know what you do not. Ignorance is not bliss when you want to be successful and effective.
Be selfish. Don’t be diverse to be politically correct. Don’t be diverse out of the goodness of your heart. Be diverse to become a better law firm. Be diverse to win. Be diverse to stay relevant. Be diverse because it is the essence of the enlightened practice of law. Be diverse because the cost of not being diverse is the lost bid, the lost idea itself. Be diverse because it is, in fact, the ultimate bottom line.
About Rivero Mestre LLP
Rivero Mestre, from its offices in Miami and New York, represents clients from investigation to verdict and appeal in complex business disputes in U.S. federal courts, state courts, and domestic and international arbitration proceedings. The firm’s practice focuses primarily on representing corporate and institutional clients in a broad range of complex commercial disputes including financial institution matters, intellectual property disputes, and litigation and arbitration relating to Latin American trade and investment. For more information, visit www.riveromestre.com.