Diversity Dialogue Broadening Business Perspectives

Diversity Efforts Also Must Include Development for Legal Support Staff

The legal industry is booming. But it’s also an employee’s market, which means legal organizations — just like other industries — are struggling to hire. When looking to retain support staff — such as paralegals, administrative assistants and marketing professionals — firms should first lift up and learn from those within their own ranks. 

Deidre N. Jackson, EML

The globalization of most practices coupled with advances in technology has increased the demand for talented professionals in legal support positions. In response to civil unrest, social injustice, economic downturn and the global health crisis, many firms are responding to industry standards and client expectations by increasing their diversification efforts. As organizations take meaningful steps toward diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, there exist opportunities for legal support staff to make an impact. 

Here are three ways you can help ensure an inclusive community at your organization, while also elevating your company’s professional development.


Creating more diversity has increasingly become a top priority among organizations worldwide, including in the legal industry. The national movement to increase diversity within law firms is known as the Mansfield Rule, named after Arabella Mansfield, the first female attorney in the United States. The Mansfield Rule requires law firms to demonstrate progress in recruitment and leadership and consider a minimum of 30% diverse candidates in lateral hiring, partner promotions, marketing and firm governance.

But building diversity goes beyond just hiring. 


Diversity brings underrepresented voices, thoughts and experiences to the forefront. One successful way to do this is through affinity groups — employee resource groups that share identity characteristics. These play an invaluable role in ensuring an inclusive environment where employees can come together and build connections based on shared interests. In fact, a report from 2021 contends that successful affinity groups are structured initiatives of inclusion that welcome all members of the organization. Active engagement of all members of the organization leads to higher productivity and performance. 

Diversity, equity and inclusion is everyone’s responsibility. As the legal administrator, you play a key role. Your voice and skills add value in establishing networks, mentorship and other opportunities for professional and personal development. 


Encourage legal support staff to get involved in a professional organization that aligns with their career path. Think of everything ALA means to you and your professional growth. Membership in professional service organizations like ALA are a tremendous opportunity to network and to learn about and impact industry standards surrounding diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. Membership in professional organizations better equips employees to contribute to initiatives. They’ll always be up to date on industry standards and best practices.  

Those in support positions should know their contributions matter in the business of law. The key is to develop those knowledge, skills and abilities that allow you to make a viable contribution to the firm. The legal profession relies on support staff in a variety of roles. Recognize your influence and power. The academic, professional and volunteer experiences all contribute to the organization’s culture and movement to create and cultivate a diverse team of professionals. With the growing movement to be diverse and inclusive, organizations should encourage and welcome contributions and engagement from all members of their communities.

In the May issue of Legal Management, ALA member Chassidy C. Deckard, SHRM-SCP, outlined ways to attract diverse candidates to the business of law. Read the full column, and then be sure to check out ALA's Committee on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility for more resources to guide your firm in this area: alanet.org/deia