‘Diversity is the future; embrace it or you’re obsolete’, according to Andrew Glincher, CEO and Managing Partner of the law firm, Nixon Peabody. Yet, it’s not surprising that major law firms continue to lack diversity. According to the National Association for Law Placement, which tracks legal industry statistics, over 75% of firm partners are still white male, with women at less than 20% and minorities just slightly over 5%. The New York City Bar Association recently released a report of the top New York City law firms, which validates that the progress to diversify both women and minorities has been slow.

Many large law firms struggle to change a culture which has historically favored white male attorneys at all levels. But today, along with most public companies, there is a new focus and pressure on these firms to rework the long standing traditions and create a more diverse and inclusive environment.

I recently sat down with Andrew Glincher to get a better idea of how his firm is tackling cultural change. Nixon Peabody is a top-100 global law firm that has earned a 100% ranking from the Human Rights Campaign in its Corporate Equality Index for ten consecutive years. Andrew has been leading this initiative for six years.

Glincher, Andrew

Marcus:  Why has Nixon Peabody decided to focus on diversity?

Glincher:  The legal professional is steeped in tradition. It’s focused on past and precedent. In the past past, law firms of traditionally hired lawyers and colleagues that they were comfortable with and gravitated towards people who remind them of themselves. At Nixon Peabody, we took on a brand several years ago to be future-focused. We’re focused on our priorities to attract, retain, and promote diverse individuals by creating more opportunities, both for lawyers and all of our colleagues. We want them to be from all different backgrounds, races, genders, and religions.

Marcus:  How does that benefit your business?

Glincher:  We’re not doing this because there’s a moral obligation to do it. It makes us better and it makes our teams better. It makes us more able to provide the best possible value that we can for our clients. It’s really a necessity. When we talk about how we want to be an innovative firm and how we innovate new products and things for our clients, if we’re having the same old teams, we’re not going to be very innovative. The only way you become and remain an innovative firm is to innovate. That means making yourself better. It means having a variety of perspectives.

Marcus:  Changing the culture is challenging. How are you approaching it?

Glincher:  I realized, a couple years back that, if we’re going to really make progress here, I need to own this. The leadership needs to start at the top. This needs to be an effort that people see is real; that it’s so necessary to our business; that it will make us a better business. You can’t separate it from anything else. Our business is a client-driven business.

This really got the focus I wanted when we hired a Chief Diversity Officer, Rekha Chiruvolu, whose time is totally devoted to diversity. We’ve also made it mandatory for all attorneys in the firm to take unconscious bias workshops.

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