Dewey & LeBoeuf has written to general counsel at major clients encouraging them to instruct firms with diverse partnerships.
The firm’s diversity committee chair Vivian Polak is developing two initiatives. The first would see teams from all practice areas that are pitching for new work include two or more partners, at least one of whom would be a woman or from a diverse background.
In the letter Polak said that the scheme “focuses on honing the skills necessary for younger diverse and women partners to develop business with new clients, and on actually helping young and mid-level diverse and women partners build a client base of new clients.”
She told The Lawyerthat the firm had already pitched to one client along this basis and that this would not result in any additional cost to clients. “Any major matter typically has more than one partner [acting on it]. We don’t want to pad a matter where we don’t need more than one [partner involved].”
The other venture sees the firm encourage retiring partners to pass on client matters to female or diverse partners.
She added that there is a tendency sometimes to look at overall numbers of women and minorities among staff, while neglecting what roles they actually fulfill. “If you dig down the majority [of female and diverse lawyers] are at a junior level.”
In this case both schemes mark a change of focus away from enhancing diversity at associate level to emphasising the importance of diversity at a senior level.
“Unless we start promoting diverse leaders in partnerships, we’re not going to make changes that are long-lasting,” she said.
Women currently make up 18.2 per cent of Dewey’s partnership and minorities comprise 5.9 per cent.