Attorney diversity within a law firm is increasingly important to litigation panel managers at leading P&C insurance companies. When panel counsel managers seek outside counsel for the defense of litigation matters—whether employment practices disputes, premises liability claims, or auto accidents—the insurance defense law firm needs to explain how they will contribute to panel counsel diversity.
This article addresses the importance of panel counsel diversity from three perspectives, as listed below.
- Part A: Insurance Company Diversity Goals
- Part B: Legal Associations Representing Diverse Communities
- Part C: Diversity Hiring Practices for Law Firms
Panel counsel managers wear two hats—that of a business executive and that of the panel manager. Their concerns extend beyond case strategy to also achieving the corporation’s budgetary and staffing priorities. In many cases, they are being measured on meeting goals that include diversity.
With corporate diversity imperatives on the rise, it is essential that managing partners at insurance defense law firms align their hiring practices with the goals of their clients.
Law firm diversity and inclusion can contribute to the following:
- Case strategy formulation
- Innovation and creativity
- Stronger business relationships
- Cultural understanding and sensitivity
Acknowledging the value of inclusiveness is one way that law firms can set themselves apart from others in a competitive market.
Part A: Insurance Company Diversity Goals
Leading property and casualty insurance carriers have published DE&I policies for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. These workforce guidelines are also considered in the diversity of suppliers, including panel counsel diversity within law firms.
The DE&I policies for some of the largest insurance companies are listed below, and additional information can generally be found on each carrier’s website.
Law firm seeking appointments as panel counsel members should be prepared in advance to speak about their own diversity practices. This is a topic that is very likely to arise during the early stages of any interview process. By understanding what carriers are doing in regard to diversity, law firms can be better prepared to engage in meaningful business development discussions.
Liberty Mutual Diversity Goals
Liberty Mutual plans to increase diversity across its employee base by 2025. Specific hiring goals are listed below.
- Black employees will increase by 20%, from 8.6% in 2019 to 11% in 2025
- Hispanic / Latinx employees will increase by 40%, from 7.0% to 10% by 2025
- Asian employees will increase 65%, from 5.9% to 10% by 2025
- Women employees will remain the same at 53%
Once these diversity goals are achieved in 2025, one-third of the Liberty Mutual workforce will be people of color and over half will be women.
AIG Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Staffing Goals
AIG’s Chief Diversity Officer confirmed in October 2021 that the P&C insurance giant aims to build a team of diverse insurance professionals that reflects the profile of AIG’s clients and communities. The annual performance goals for every AIG senior executive includes a rating for DE&I factors.
This commitment applies to AIG’s legal team as well. An AIG Managing Attorney for Staff Counsel recently spoke about the need for mentors as well as influential internal “sponsors” to help advance the careers of diverse junior team members.
Chubb Diversity and Inclusion
Chubb is committed to Improving the representation of women in leadership roles, as well as the representation of people of color. The insurer establishes a diverse slates of candidates for all leadership roles. It also measures representation and rates of hire, promotion and turnover of women and people of color. The Board of Directors receives regular updates on progress and initiatives.
State Farm is addressing diversity in the workplace with several initiatives. The creation of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) is one way that diverse employees are supported. These diversity groups currently include Asian, Black/African American, Generations, Hispanic/Latino/Latina, LGBTQ, Men, Military, Parents/Families, People with Disabilities, and Women.
Allstate is using an independent consulting firm to analyze compensation, promotions and related operational matters regarding people of color and women. Allstate also added equity to complement inclusive diversity as a core value in 2020.
Allstate staffing metrics include a workforce with 55% of positions held by women and 39% of employees who are racially or ethnically diverse. Hiring goals are reviewed for gender and ethnic diversity every three years.
Allstate is a signatory to the “CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion Pledge.” This national coalition has a collective goal to train, hire and promote one million Black Americans by 2030.
Part B. Legal Associations Representing Diverse Communities
Minority and diversity hiring goals across corporations and law firms often focus on the eight minority categories identified below.
It can be difficult for a law firm to both recruit and retain a diverse team of attorneys, and litigation panel managers generally understand these challenges. As part of a diversity initiative, however, law firms can actively support the diversity organizations that are right for them through membership, leadership roles, sponsorships, and as part of their hiring practices.
#1. African Americans
The National Bar Association, established in 1925, was the first legal network to promote the interests of African American attorneys. It now represents more than 66,000 legal professionals in 80 affiliate chapters across the country.
The National Black Law Students Association is a national organization formed to articulate and promote the needs and goals of Black law students to effectuate change in the legal community.
#2. Asian-Indian Americans and Asian-Pacific Americans
The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association representing the interests of 60,000 attorneys, judges, law professors, and law students. It is also affiliated with local Asian Pacific American bar associations.
The South Asian Bar Association of North America (SABA-NA) has 29 chapters across the U.S. and Canada. Members include law firms, in-house counsel, and government attorneys. The group promotes the civil rights and access to justice for the South Asian community.
#3. Hispanic Americans
The Hispanic National Bar Association, founded in 1972, represents more than 65,000 Hispanic attorneys, judges, and law students nationally. It is active in every U.S. state and maintains a Young Lawyers Division, among others.
The National LGBTQ+ Bar Association is an official affiliate of the American Bar Association. It offers an LGBTQ+ inclusion coaching and consulting program offering best practice standards for LGBTQ+ equity in law firms, law schools, and businesses.
#5. Native Americans
The National Native American Bar Association offers a national chapter system for state Indian bar associations.
#6. People with Disabilities
The Disability Rights Bar Association (DRBA) is an online network of attorneys who specialize in disability civil rights law. Members include lawyers and law firms across the country.
The Judge Advocates Association, a national legal society formed in 1943, represents active duty, reserve, and guard judge advocates, law school students, and retired judge advocates from all of the armed services.
The American Bar Association’s ABA Veterans Legal Services Initiative focuses on legal issues affecting veterans.
The National Association of Women Lawyers has a goal to advance women in the legal profession.
Many states have a state-level association of women lawyers. Within each state, chapters are often broken down to the county-level.
#9. Other Minority Legal Associations
The Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCAA) promotes the hiring, retention and promotion of diverse lawyers in law departments and law firms. Corporate and law firm memberships are available.
The National Association of Minority & Women Owned Law Firms (NAWBO) consists of AV® rated law firms that meet certain criteria based on clients served, location, and other factors.
Part C: Diversity Hiring Guidelines and Resources
Listed below are several resources that panel counsel law firms can use to inform and enhance their diversity hiring practices.
The Mansfield Rule, which provides diversity hiring guidelines, originated from a 2016 women’s initiative led by The Diversity Lab. The following year 50 law firms enrolled in a pilot program, and today many leading law firms are Mansfield Certified. Participating law firms maintain hiring goals to grow the racial and ethnic diversity across all levels of attorneys and law firm leadership roles.
The American Bar Association (ABA) maintains an online Inclusion and Diversity Center that offers resources to law firms seeking to achieve greater diversity in their workforce and operations.
The CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion is a national coalition that has drawn support from 2,000 corporate chief executive officers reflecting 85 industries and 13 million employees. Their goal is to achieve a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable workforce.
OneTen is a national coalition of 37 companies launched in 2020 with a goal to create one million family-sustaining careers for Black talent in America within 10 years. Founding and board members include Merck, IBM, Target, American Express, Lowe’s, and Allstate.
The U.S. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) offers a helpful page titled Best Practices for Fostering Diversity and Inclusion.
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This article is provided for educational purposes only. It is not to be interpreted as legal advice or an opinion in regard to any topic discussed. The article should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Every situation is different and circumstances vary widely depending on the governing state law, policy provisions, and related considerations.