Diversity numbers half empty or half full?

The tone of a recent article about diversity efforts in law departments is harsh. According to InsideCounsel, Oct. 2006 at 56 et seq, departments lack enough formal policies (See my post of Oct. 10, 2006.), offer too few mentoring programs, fail to look beyond recruitment, ignore standards for diversity among outside counsel – “by and large, legal departments are doing a poor job diversifying their internal ranks.”

Within the survey results, as I read them, there is cause to be more optimistic. The brighter view starts with the fact that about a third of the responding lawyers are themselves minorities (See my post of Oct. 16, 2006 about methodology in surveys.). They and other respondents were asked whether “minority lawyers in our department have as much opportunity to advance as non–minority lawyers.” To this question 68 percent agreed or strongly agreed while only 14 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed. A second question asked whether “our department’s culture is inclusive of all people, no matter their race.” On this question, 76 percent agreed or strongly agreed and the same 14 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed.

If we apply the analytic tool of combining positives (strongly agree and agree) and comparing that percentage to combined negatives (strongly disagree and disagree), the disproportionately minority group of corporate counsel were positive on opportunity and inclusion by about five to one!

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