Diversity, particularly at partner level in leading law firms, is a hot topic, and Derek Davis, Executive Director of the Harvard Law School, discusses this in a recent article in their publication; The Practice.
Derek points out that when he was coming up through various corporate law firms, as an associate, it was vital to develop deep and meaningful relationships with the partners as they were the ones who were providing you with your work. And partners wanted the best associates to do their work. The problem of allocating work in this way, however, is that it risks creating a segment of associates left behind—possibly for reasons having nothing to do with their technical abilities as lawyers. This then leads to a bias when it comes to promotions from associate to partner level.
Recruitment may be part of the diversity solution but it is also about retention and promotion of associates which is closely tied to the allocation of assignments and subsequent experience amassed.
One answer to the problem is a fairer work allocation process as described by Laura King at Clifford Chance.
For Clifford Chance, the innovation, developed by the HR team headed by partner Laura King, includes putting an intermediary between the associates and the partners whose key role is to act as a more neutral manager of workflows in which objective measures dictate work assignments.