Remote Workforce Boosts Legal Tech’s Diversity & Inclusion Efforts
Legal tech companies are finding that their diversity and inclusion programs are going strong despite an all remote workforce. But they still note that emails and Zoom calls can go only so far.
Last summer’s protests and conversations regarding race and equality caused some legal tech companies to reassess their own diversity goals and work culture. But while most of the legal tech industry is working remotely, many companies said their diversity and inclusion efforts were not negatively impacted by an empty office. Instead, they noted that a remote workforce has actually helped spark companywide dialogue regarding diversity and inclusion, and provided the flexibility to hire and retain employees with various backgrounds.
The most straightforward approach to improving diversity is to hire more diverse applicants. Pitchly CEO and co-founder Ryan Gerhardy, who noted his document generation software company has previously hired diverse staff, said that the entirely remote workforce provides even more opportunities to appeal to more potential applicants.
“We have made it more accessible for individuals that need that flexibility,” he said. “That’s a lesson we’ve learned, that we need to have a flexible schedule even if they are near an office they can work from home.”
Still, once diverse talent is employed by the company, they can quickly become a faceless name behind a corporate email address in a remote environment.
“I do think people can feel like an island,” said Consilio chief client experience officer and diversity and inclusion officer Amy Hinzmann. However, she said that companies are also looking to mitigate this problem by reengaging with their staff. “We’re looking to build an entirely new engagement model because I think some of us will stay remote longer term.” In 2019 Consillo launched various affinity groups, including a Black affinity group, to discuss and support all employees.
Some legal tech companies even noted that video conference platforms can play a significant part in fostering inclusion and maintaining collaboration.
Indeed, Esquire Deposition Solutions CEO Terrie Campbell argued the productivity of the company’s new “council of action” and steering committee for social justice was actually accelerated by the move to a remote environment.
“As companies became more decentralized and people were working from different offices etc., you lose sight of the person behind the job,” Campbell said. “What this remote situation has done, because a lot of people have landed into Zoom, you are seeing faces and it’s established the person behind the role.”
Still, Campbell noted the remote environment makes some hands-on diversity efforts challenging as COVID-19 infections continue. Programs such as ”community outreach and providing food or holiday gifts to families, [employees] may not be able to do that on their own,” Campbell said.
But despite some of the limitations of a remote workforce, Hinzmann recommended companies not wait until all their employees are back in the office to launch a diversity and inclusion program.
“From a diversity and inclusion perspective if you have a program and you believe in it, I believe it connects people and I think it’s a great time to act with intent,” she said. “I think more people are apt to speak up and raise his or her hand.”