DLA Piper's diversity strategy in action

DLA Piper, like many businesses around the world, recognises the value of diversity. The firm has implemented a number of new programs and initiatives and the results are already positive, including high staff engagement scores, rising percentages of female partners and managers and retention after parental leave is trending higher.

In 2011, DLA Piper established a high-level Diversity Steering Committee and Strategy in Australia to further advance the firm’s focus on diversity and flexibility. The Committee is led by Tony Holland, Managing Partner - Australia, and comprises partners and senior managers across office locations and practices. Recent initiatives include the roll-out of half-day inclusive leadership and unconscious bias programs for all partners, special counsel and senior associates with the firm.

Tony Holland said: "As a global law firm, diversity of gender, culture, race and religion is an extremely important issue that is being addressed both globally and locally. Diversity is similarly important to our clients and we see diversity as a real strength to our business."

"Law firms still have a long way to go to demonstrate equality and diversity at the leadership level. One of my priorities is to ensure everyone in our business is equally passionate and proactive about supporting and encouraging diversity, particularly women in leadership," he said.

DLA Piper’s Diversity initiatives:

  • 2014 Diversity Strategy and targets set
  • Quarterly tracking of gender diversity statistics, looking at female representation in leadership roles, promotions, lateral hires and leavers
  • Half-day inclusive leadership and unconscious bias programs conducted for all partners and now expanded to special counsel and senior associates
  • Focus groups and workshops on managing flexible work practices in place
  • Reconciliation Action Plan developed in consultation with Reconciliation Australia and launched in 2012
  • Cross-cultural communication workshops so far attended by a quarter of all legal and non-legal staff with other sessions planned
  • A mentoring program established
  • HR team integrating diversity values in recruitment guidelines, succession planning, and leadership training
  • Comprehensive exit interviews conducted, including specific questions around equal opportunity, sex-based harassment and other workplace issues, with monthly trend analysis reported to the management team.

DLA Piper’s Diversity and Flexibility stats:

  • Partnership comprises 22.1% female partners - an increase from 18.6% two years prior
  • Women comprise 62.1% of all manager roles (legal and non-legal)
  • Asia Pacific engagement survey showed a 79% favourability score for workplace diversity and flexibility, 8% above the Towers Watson global law firm benchmark
  • At 11.1% DLA Piper’s proportion of part-time partners is well above the 7.7% average among Australian law firms
  • DLA Piper also has the second highest number of lawyers who have a formal working from home arrangement, compared to other major law firms.

Kate Weaver, HR Director said: "The most important starting point was to acknowledge the challenges to diversity in our business and industry and identify key issues that, if addressed, would have the biggest impact on diversity. One of the issues we identified was unconscious gender bias and how that could impact our talented people,” she said.

Diversity Partners’ CEO, Katie Spearritt, has worked with DLA Piper for the past two years to help develop the three-year strategy and to set clear targets for progress, and says the firm's impressive progress is due to strong leadership commitment and a systemic approach to promoting diversity.

"In an industry where more than 50% of graduates are female, it makes sense that law firms are taking a proactive and systemic approach to retain women," says Spearritt.

Jane Hider, a partner in DLA Piper's Finance & Projects practice and a member of the Diversity Steering Committee, is proud of the firm’s efforts to promote diversity. "If our culture is one where we retain and promote the best people, regardless of gender, age or race, then ultimately our clients will benefit."

DLA Piper was also recently named Best International Firm for Work Life Balance by Euromoney Legal Media Group Australasia Women in Business Law Awards 2012.