Recently, I was interviewing a first year law student for the Diverse Attorney Pipeline Program (“DAPP”) and she asked me how diversity benefits the legal profession. I confess that I never articulated why diverse teams deliver results. And, I own a minority and women owned litigation boutique! However, it did not take me long to come up with some concrete examples of the benefits of having a diverse team:
Put me in Coach
All legal work involves gathering facts, including interviewing witnesses from different age, racial and socio-economic backgrounds. You need to build a rapport so they will provide the information you need. Realistically, a witness may feel more comfortable disclosing information to a person he believes he has more in common with or to a person someone closer in age. Having team members from different racial, gender, and socio-economic backgrounds from your team to handle interviews puts you in the best position to gain information to mount the best defense and minimize surprises for clients.
Defend Against Implicit Bias
Juries are a microcosm of our diverse society. On short notice, you may need to draw from the experiences of diverse team members to draft voir direquestions or to gain their honest thoughts about potential jurors’ responses before making strike decisions. Unfortunately, race and gender are still differentiating factors in our society and misleading stereotypes prevail in some communities. Having a diverse team that illuminates your blind spots and prevents you from making (wrong) decisions based on your, or your client’s, implicit bias.
Game Plans Change
Because of substantive matters and non-substantive issues that come into play in litigation, you should have a team of diverse counsel to rely on for those uncomfortable issues. For example, in a sexual harassment case where the plaintiff is a young African American professional woman, you are doing your client a disservice if you do not at least consider whether the best strategy is to have a minority woman as lead counsel or handle depositions. Under those circumstances, you need to be able to pull from a diverse qualified team of counsel.
Understanding the positive impact diverse teams innately have will allow you to create the best game plan for your client.