What Corporates Want 2024: diversity initiatives
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What Corporates Want 2024: diversity initiatives

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A survey of more than 25,000 in-house counsel reveals that diversity initiatives are a high priority when choosing external counsel

Diverse teams don’t only look good on paper – they could also help law firms secure more clients.

In-house intellectual property counsel believe that a plurality of views helps legal teams look at problems creatively, so it’s only natural that diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is high on their priority list when picking external firms.

Managing IP’s sister brand IP STARS, as well as related titles including IFLR and IFLR 1000, surveyed thousands of in-house counsel to understand how corporates view a range of issues, including DEI.

Two thirds (66%) of the respondents to the IP STARS-specific survey indicated that DEI is crucial when picking external counsel.

Follow-up conversations revealed that some IP counsel may not hire a firm that did not have diverse staff but was otherwise a good fit for their in-house team.

For instance, Brendan Cheong, principal IP counsel at mining company Rio Tinto in Australia, said that even if a firm came across as reputed, reasonably priced and skilled, he might not engage them if 80% of their staff comprised middle-aged white men.

Noting that DEI acts as an indicator of quality and reliability, Cheong asked: “If 80% of your firm’s staff are middle-aged white men, how would you ensure a diversity of thought?”

Of the 25,354 corporates that responded to the surveys, 34% indicated that diversity initiatives were important to them, while 25% said they were very important.

For Managing IP survey participants specifically, the scores stand at 36% and 22% respectively.

There’s no single answer to why corporate counsel want their legal advisers to be diverse.

For a patent counsel at a manufacturing company in the US, it is all about having shared values. He said that as an openly gay lawyer, it was important for him to work with firms that support lawyers from LGBTQIA+ and other minority communities.

According to the lead trademark counsel at an engineering company in the UK, on the other hand, the extent of diversity in a firm’s legal team directly correlates to how it approaches problems.

She said diverse perspectives often enable a legal team to explore multiple ways to resolve conflicts, such as through settlements and mediations, rather than simply following an aggressive route.

“We have had successes that were driven by the fact that the responsible firms had a broader thinking platform than their counterparts.”

It’s clear what corporates want – legal teams that share their values and offer diverse solutions. If firms want to secure their business, they know what to do.

Regional

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From a regional perspective, 33% of survey participants from both the Americas and EMEA indicated that diversity initiatives are important to them. The percentage for APAC is slightly higher, at 36%. For those who expressed that diversity initiatives are very important, the APAC region also saw a slightly higher percentage (28%), followed by the Americas (25%) and EMEA (23%).

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Overall, APAC saw a high mean score of participants who saw diversity initiatives as important and very important at 70.5%, followed by Americas at 66.8% and EMEA at 65.7%.

In the IP STARS in-house corporate survey, respondents from the EMEA region showed more interest than others, with 36% who indicated diversity initiatives are important and 22% who said they are very important. The APAC region saw 25% of respondents who said initiatives are very important and 34% who said they are important. The Americas had a lower percentage of respondents who said they are very important (20%) but a higher proportion (37%) who said they are important.

Global revenue

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From the perspective of corporates surveyed based on global revenues, diversity initiatives are seen as important by 35% of those with $5 billion or more. Results are similar for corporates with $500 million to $4.99 billion (34%), $50 million to $499.9 million (34%), and less than $50 million (32%). For corporates with $5 billion or more, 26% indicated that diversity initiatives are very important. Corporates with less than $50 million in global revenues also revealed similar preferences at 25%, with 24% the score for those with $50 million to $499.9 million. There was a slight dip at 22% for corporates with $500 million to $4.99 billion in global revenues.

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The mean scores saw more interest from survey participants at companies with $5 billion or more in global revenues (68.2%), followed by $50 million to $499.9 million (66.8%), less than $50 million (66.6%) and $500 million to $4.99 billion (65.6%).

In terms of the IP STARS in-house corporate survey, a similar trend could be seen with corporates that have $5 billion or more in global revenues leading at 38% who said diversity initiatives are important. This was followed by 35% for those at $50 million to $499.9 million and 34% for both those with less than $50 million and those with $500 million to $4.99 billion in global revenues. For corporates with $5 billion or more, as well as those with $50 million to $499.9 million, 25% of survey participants indicated diversity initiatives are very important. There was also a slight dip for the group with $500 million to $4.99 billion – at 20%.

Industry

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Of the sectors that made up the corporates surveyed, 63% of respondents in the advanced manufacturing sector deemed diversity initiatives as important and very important, with a quarter of all advanced manufacturing respondents rating them as very important. This is followed by the real estate and construction sector with 62% of respondents who indicated diversity initiatives as important and very important, of which 29% said such initiatives are very important. For the automotive and transportation, consumer, power and utilities telecoms industries, 61% of respondents indicated diversity initiatives are important and very important.

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Overall, the real estate and construction sector saw high interest with a mean score of 69.8%, followed by telecoms (69.2%) and power and utilities (68.7%).

Practice area

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Across the brands surveyed, 36% of IP survey participants said diversity initiatives are important, followed by 34% of financial and corporate law survey participants and 30% of litigation survey participants.

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Financial and corporate law survey participants showed high interest with a mean score of 66.8%, followed by IP (66%) and litigation (63.5%).

Methodology

Through our primary research with in-house counsel representatives, we ask them to rate a range of attributes and their importance in decision-making when selecting outside counsel.

We have aggregated the responses from our practice area-specific surveys in 2022 and 2023 and analysed the results in this report series. The data highlights the extent to which in-house counsels’ views on these attributes differ between industries, regions, revenue sizes and practice areas.

In total we have analysed responses from over 25,000 in-house counsel respondents over the two-year period.

Topics

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