One hundred percent of the 80 large law firms that participated in a recent survey report having a diversity committee. That number is up from 96 percent from last year’s Altman Weil Flash Survey â€” and it’s not the only indication that law firms are increasingly committed to diversity efforts. For instance, 58 percent say they had a designated diversity manager or director, up eight percent from last year and 13 percent from 2005, when the first survey was conducted.
However, those diversity managers often don’t have the time to do the job effectively, said some respondents. Although 79 percent of diversity managers are lawyers in their firms â€” compared to 67 percent in 2007 and 57 percent in 2005 â€” the number who hold the position full time is down from 61 percent in 2007 to 53 percent in 2008. In fact, 44 percent of the lawyer-managers in the position balance their duties with an active law practice. Of those, 65 percent have billable-hour requirements as high as 2,000 hours per year.
“Diversity directors consistently tell us that the position requires total focus in order to do it well,” Altman Weil consultant Virginia Essandoh told Law Firm Management. “Putting practicing lawyers in this role almost certainly reduces the overall effectiveness of firms’ diversity efforts.”
For more insight, access the full report at www.altmanweil.com/DiversitySurvey2008.