Firms need to address diversity shortcomings

By Myrna L. Maysonet

As many industries leap toward diversity in the workplace, the legal industry continues to lag behind. According to Law360’s annual Diversity Snapshot, only 16 percent of attorneys and 9 percent of partners at surveyed law firms identified as minorities. This is an increase of less than 1 percent from the previous year. These statistics show the legal industry remains among the least diverse industries. The advantages of diversity are well-known, starting with a boost in creativity and innovation and improvement of morale and employee retention. Why is the legal industry lagging behind in adopting diversity and inclusion?

At Greenspoon Marder, we believe that the key to change is commitment. Diversity makes the firm stronger as a whole, allows us to better advocates for our clients, and makes us more effective stewards of our community. As we continue to grow, it’s critical that we give a voice to our lawyers/staff, specifically those who are underserved and underrepresented in our community. We’ve learned that change often arises from a personal point of view. Our people drive our need and desire for diversity and inclusion. For example, Greenspoon Marder began providing benefits to same-sex couples well over a decade before it became law. It started with a conversation that in turn changed lives and perspectives. I spoke with co-founder Michael Marder, because I needed health care for my partner. I was afraid of losing my job, as I’d be coming out to my boss. I’m glad we spoke, because his reaction that day showed me that I was valued not only as a lawyer, but also as a person. Most importantly, it led to an open dialog within the firm. As a Hispanic lesbian, among other characteristics, I never dreamt of this level of inclusion in a predominantly white, male industry. I’m blessed to have found a firm that both accepts and supports each and every one of its employees.

In 2019, I was appointed as the firm’s chief diversity officer. I believe that with power comes responsibility to serve as a role model and speak for those who can’t. When you’re one of the firsts at anything, your actions and mistakes are going to shape beliefs and impact those who come after you. This is a great responsibility that I can’t—and simply won’t—ignore. I’m proud to serve as a mentor to the firm’s diversity, and to advocate for the rights of those who often aren’t sitting at the policy-making tables across the country.

Most recently, Greenspoon Marder launched a formal diversity council as part of its growing initiatives. The council has been tasked with creating, implementing and promoting diversity and inclusivity across the firm. For that reason, our diversity council is composed of a diverse group of voices across different genders, sexual orientations, races, backgrounds, titles, neurodiversities and geographical locations. They are representative of Greenspoon Marder’s diverse family.

We understand that diversity and inclusion is not a static goal, and that it must continue to be nourished in order to succeed. We strongly believe that by embracing our diversity and cultivating an inclusive environment, we enrich our employees, strengthen our firm, support our community and enhance our ability to serve our clients across the globe. The creation of diversity policies without a committed mechanism to ensure their success is meaningless. The formation of the council represents our firm’s commitment to continue our diversity and inclusive initiatives by putting meaningful mechanisms in place.

It’s our hope that in the coming years, the legal industry as a whole will come together to find a solution to this issue, and foster a more diverse workplace at every firm. A lack of diversity results in a lack of creativity, innovation, morale, employee retention, and most importantly, progress.

Myrna L. Maysonet is a partner with Greenspoon Marder’s labor and employment and class-action defense practice groups and serves as the firm’s chief diversity officer. She may be reached at myrna.maysonet@gmlaw.com

Frank Papandrea
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