ELIMINATING UNCONSCIOUS BIAS ANDgetting more diverse candidate slates forin-house attorney positions begins inthe description of a job posting.
In-house legal recruiters toldCorporate Counsel that making surein-house job descriptions include airtight requirements versus what is niceto have and to avoid specifications onlaw schools will help recruiters find adiverse slate of candidates.
“You have to test for bias at everystep of the way. If the job description isseen as the foundation, then the foundation has to be steady in order forthe entire process to be steady,” saidMelba Hughes, partner and nationaldiversity practice leader at Major,Lindsey & Africa in Atlanta.
One issue legal recruiters see with
in-house job descriptions is listing too
many requirements. The way white
men look at those requirements often
differs from how women and people of
color look at the requirements. White
men may see something that they can
learn or see a particular requirement
as something that is nice to have for
“It does tend to work againstwomen and minorities who say, ‘Thisis a long list of requirements and Idon’t have all of them so I’m not goingto apply at all,’” Sonya Olds Som, apartner at Heidrick & Struggles inChicago, told Corporate Counsel.
Job postings should speak to in-house experiences that will be necessary for the role such as leadership andbusiness acumen. That, Hughes said,is more inviting to diverse candidatesthan Big Law credentials.
Putting in standards for graduatingfrom a top 10 law school or gainingexperience at an Am Law 100 firm narrows the overall candidate pool.
“Looking for someone who went toa top 10 law school or worked at a toplaw firm are things that may excludepeople as opposed to including thelargest population available for a particular job,” Hughes said.
Som said there are plenty of successful white male in-house lawyerswho went to state schools that someone decided to take a chance on.Diverse candidates who did not go toa top law school should be given thesame chance, she added.
“If you were willing to take a whiteguy from Iowa State 30 years ago andhe was able to work his way up, youshouldn’t say, ‘We’d love to have awoman or a person of color but weonly want someone who went to a top14 law school,’” Som said, adding thatthose law school or law firm requirements perpetuate the standards thatwere put in place to keep women andpeople of color out of the legal industry in the first place.
Those in positions to hire in-houseattorneys should also be careful ofusing certain gender-specific phrasesin job descriptions or language thatcan be seen as exclusive. Som said theuse of the singular “they” is helpfulso legal departments are not seen asspecifically looking for someone whoidentifies as male or female.
Job descriptions for in-house positions should also be inviting ratherthan excluding. Phrases like “culturalfit” may deter diverse candidates.
“‘Cultural fit’ can be coded towards‘we’re all a certain way here and youneed to be that way if you’re going tofit in,’” Som said.
ELIMINATING UNCONSCIOUS BIAS AT THE START
“‘Cultural fit’ can be coded towards ‘we’re all a certain
way here and you need to be that way if you’re going
to fit in,’” says Sonya Olds Som.