The Important Role Richly Diverse Universities Play in Broadening the Base of Future In-House Counsel Candidates

Business of Law 2023
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Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in the workplace matters. And it’s not just about fairness or representation. When workplaces become more diverse and inclusive, they also become more productive, positively impacting the bottom line.

According to research, diverse companies enjoy two-and-a-half times higher cash flow per employee and diverse management results in a 19% increase in revenue.

As more businesses focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), the trend is impacting in-house counsel as well. Not surprisingly, a study from 2021 found that 75.6% of general counsels are white, compared to 7.8% Hispanic or Latino, 6.4% Asian, and 5.6% Black. The ratio of male to female in-house counselors hovers just above 60:40, and the percentage self-identifying as LGBTQ+ is about 11%. Despite these positive trends, the need for greater diversity in the legal profession remains glaring.

The Importance of Widening the Lens When Seeking Diverse Candidates

As companies look to make strides towards diversity for in-house counsel offices or law firms, finding the best talent remains paramount. In the past, hiring would often be limited to candidates from Ivy League institutions. But with more jobs to fill, businesses are compelled to look more broadly for high-caliber, diverse attorneys.

It is incumbent on corporations and firms to widen their scope to find attorneys who not only are diverse but also bring a mentality of diversity and inclusion that can foster a culture of belonging, mentorship, growth, and change. Such professionals will be essential for continuing progress and instilling these values in the in-house counsel’s office.

Diverse Legal Talent Hiding in Plain Sight

When sourcing diverse talent for in-house counsel jobs in the future, there is some good news.

According to a Pew Research Center report, “Generation Z is the most racially diverse U.S. generation, with approximately 48% identifying as non-white.”

As companies look to hire diverse attorneys for in-house counsel positions, there is a robust pool of highly qualified legal talent hiding in plain sight. Attorneys who have graduated from community- based law schools, such as the University of West Los Angeles (UWLA) School of Law, often bring a deeper understanding and commitment to the principles of diversity and inclusion because of their unique educational path.

One of the factors distinguishing UWLA is the institution’s focus on the democratization of education. This attracts highly motivated law students who bring a unique perspective and life experience to employers. Richly diverse learning institutions, such as UWLA, are true incubators for attorneys who bring a broader range of views to the role of in-house counsel, which is foundational to a vibrant workplace.

Steady Progress Requires Diversity-Minded Leadership

While hiring diverse attorneys is important to fulfilling DE&I hiring objectives, finding in-house counsel to provide diversity-minded leadership is key to creating a culture that will grow and flourish.

“When law students are exposed to a diverse and inclusive learning experience, there is a greater opportunity for a transformative and lasting impression on the positive effects of an inclusionary workforce,” explained Robert W. Brown, president of UWLA. “Graduates of law schools like UWLA come away with an experience grounded in the values of fairness, equity, and respect. These attorneys become the diversity-minded leaders of the future.”

There are also practical aspects to this style of education. Law graduates from programs such as UWLA are experienced in multi-tasking while attending law school. Many go to school in the evenings while working full time and managing their families. These are skills attorneys must demonstrate in real work. Also, UWLA, in particular, is accredited by WASC and the California State Bar, providing an affordable legal education while sparing graduates from exorbitant debt.

“Providing access to higher education for a more diverse student body will inevitably incubate compassionate leaders who are sensitive to the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace,” stated Perry Martin Jr., professor of Business and dean of DE&I and Transformation at UWLA.

“Transformative and DE&I leadership- oriented colleges and universities that recognize, value and embrace the opportunity they have to plant seeds of justice into their students’ minds will reap what they sow - the essence of DEI work: justice,” Martin added.

A ‘Closing Argument’

As companies look to expand the diversity of in-house counsel teams, there is a pressing need to find the most qualified talent reflecting the DE&I values of the business. Rather than focusing on attorneys from marquee educational institutions, it makes sense to mine hidden gems from lesser known, for-profit universities.

“At UWLA’s School of Law, our focus is on practical training and developing trailblazing attorneys our students are capable of becoming,” concluded Jay Frykberg, dean of the School of Law at UWLA. “Our commitment to equity is reflected throughout our programs, student body and faculty. Many of our law school graduates are uniquely qualified to champion the important mission of embracing DE&I within and through the legal profession.”

Learn more about UWLA at