John Croft podcast banner

Take Action for DE&I

In this Expert Series episode, Elevate’s President, John Croft, talks with Elevate’s Global Head of Equitability and Inclusion, Jacquie Champagne, and Elevate’s Vice President of Technology and Digital Consulting, Brian Kuhn.

Walk the Walk

In this Expert Series episode, Elevate’s President, John Croft, talks with Elevate’s Global Head of Equitability and Inclusion, Jacquie Champagne, and Elevate’s Vice President of Technology and Digital Consulting, Brian Kuhn.

John, Jacquie, and Brian discuss a digitally enabled diversity, equitability, and inclusion strategy. Placing a focus on data, trends, insights, and actions.

Identification adds complexity to the task on hand. Jacquie Champagne says there is a ‘reliance on asking people to self-disclose’ and ‘legal is notorious for holding back when asking direct questions about identities’.

Episode highlights include:

  • [03:07] – Law departments want their law firms to walk the walk
  • [04:58] – Diversity, equitability, and inclusion indicators …
  • [08:46] – Data driven trend information…
  • [10:10] – Create a checklist, review indicators and analysis – measure inclusion
  • [11:49] – Facilitate solutions and get to the root of the issue
  • [13:16] – DE&I metrics, KPIs, dashboards – establish a baseline
  • [15:30] – Data that indicates a trend, a foundation for action
  • [17:03] – Understand your big picture goals – figure out and execute a strategy


Subscribe to our podcast, our newsletter, write a review, and send your comments.
Tag us @ElevateServices on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Podcast Transcript

Note: This transcript has been adjusted to improve readability. Transcripts are generated using speech recognition software and human transcribers. The context and more than 95% of the actual transcript have been preserved.  We strongly encourage our listeners to listen to the audio.


Nicole Giantonio: Hello, this is Nicole Giantonio, the head of Global Marketing at Elevate. The podcast episode you’re about to hear is part of our expert series featuring Elevate’s President, John Croft, hosting the third conversation on his expert topic, deliberate equitability, and inclusion. For this episode, John’s guests are Elevate’s Global Head of Equitability and Inclusion, Jacquie Champagne, and Elevate’s Vice President of Technology and Digital Consulting, Brian Kuhn. John, Jacquie, and Brian discuss a digitally-enabled diversity, equitability, and inclusion strategy, focusing on data, insights, and actions.

John Croft: Brian, Jacquie, very nice to see you both today, and thank you for joining. You both know that I spend a lot of time on deliberate equitability and inclusion, both at Elevate and out in the market. So, I was pleased to hear that Elevate is now providing customers with both technology and consulting solutions to help their law department and their law firm’s diversity effort. Jacquie, turning to you first, can you describe for our listeners the challenge that we see customers facing when they set out to do equitability and inclusion?

Jacquie Champagne: Customers are at different places in their diversity, equitability, and inclusion journeys. On the one hand, our law department customers are trying to get a handle on their data. They may not have the best methods for making sure their work internally is being distributed within their teams in a way that leverages their diversity. They may be tracking one aspect that’s easy to get a handle on from HR data, for instance, gender. So, maybe they start there, but certain diverse populations require self-disclosure: LGBTQ, people with disabilities – those are aspects of diversity that you need to ferret out.  You’re reliant on asking people to self-disclose and legal is notoriously low when it comes to asking direct questions about people’s identities.

Many partner customers of ours want to track outside law firms’ progress. They’re looking for results and are asking for data in RFPs, and they’re asking their panel firms to report regularly. Some of our customers are focused on their top 10 to 15 firms, for instance, and they want data at a granular level. They want to know who specifically is working on their matters, not just, “is your firm diverse and inclusive at the firm level?” they want to know if diverse attorneys are working on our matters? What role are they playing? Are they getting professional development opportunities?

Our global law firm customers understand that their clients care about their firm’s DE&I programs and how successful they are. Law departments want their law firms to walk the walk. Many law firms don’t understand that diversity data is now available at a very deep level. It reminds me of 10 years or so ago when the first e-billing analytics software came on the market. Law firms had no idea that their clients could analyze their billing data at such a granular level and how effectively they were staffing and working on matters. Law firms now understand this is happening with diversity data. They need assistance in drilling into their strategies, creating new strategies, and making real progress on hiring, retaining, and promoting diverse attorneys. There are many ways that law departments are looking to their law firms to deal effectively and make progress on diversity, equitability, and inclusion.

John Croft: That’s great. As I said at the beginning, at Elevate, we now have an offering in this space; what can customers achieve when working with them on this?

Jacquie Champagne: We can help our customers analyze their data in a meaningful way. From a law department perspective, it’s fine to get your firm’s data on a firm-wide basis.   Elevate can help drill down into whether diverse attorneys are working on specific matters, how much time they’re spending, are they working on high-level or low-level tasks. All of this more granular data is useful in creating the ability to analyze what’s happening.

You can also collect data on the important indicators, including how the firm allocates opportunities and engages in business development? Are firms supporting their diverse associates and progressing them? Are there formal mentoring programs? Is there support for the diverse attorney population at their law firms? It may also be what’s our strategy at the outset. What is our digital strategy around diversity, equitability, and inclusion? How can we get results from our data that enables action? You can have data and even data insights, but it’s not particularly valuable if that data is not tied to your action steps. For example, you might hire diverse attorneys right out of law school. So, they’re at the beginning of the associate lifecycle, but what are you doing to retain and promote that diverse set of attorneys?

Inclusion is also a critical piece. How do you measure inclusion? How do you gauge it? Unless you are surveying your associate and attorney populations, you can’t get a good handle on how inclusive your culture and environment are, especially now during COVID. Engagement surveys are one of the most powerful and effective ways to measure engagement. We use surveys at Elevate to measure our population and whether we are making progress on our efforts. They provide a very valuable tool with which to measure how included associates feel.

Unless you are surveying your associate and attorney populations, you can’t get a good handle on how inclusive your culture and environment are​.

Jacquie Champagne

John Croft: That’s great. So Brian, let me turn to you. Our offering for customers is what we call a vision workshop, which is remotely delivered – it’s a design thinking session. What could our customers expect to achieve if they decide to take us up on one of those workshops?

Brian Kuhn: One of the things we aim to do is to collect a common set of what we call master data from firms in the surveys that Jackie mentioned, from billing data, possibly from HR data, from different data sources from which we extract insights that will help organizations take action, that will help law firms take action. Different law firms are going to take different actions even though the metrics might be the same, as they might have different DE&I strategies. To make sure that the insights they’re seeing are on the glass, so to speak, and will help push their specific agenda forward, we need to understand what their current state DE&I strategy is. We also need to understand the degree to which data can enable it by data and the degree to which data cannot enable it. In other words, they have a DE&I strategy, and what is feasible, technically? What is their digital DE&I strategy?

During a vision workshop, we seek to understand their current state, to analyze their data that is accessible at a high level. Do they have the data that they need to advance the specific goals they want to advance? Then we imagine a digitally-enabled future state – now that you know A, B, and C, what can you do that you could not do before? What can you realize that you were not able to realize before in furtherance of your specific goal? And when I say your specific goal, let me be more specific. It might be that a law department wants to focus on a certain diverse population. Perhaps they want to encourage more LGBTQ leadership in their law firms or more African-American leadership in their law firms. It could be any number of things. It could be many things, and it could be one thing.

Different organizations will again have different strategies. One of the things that we can do that you couldn’t do before is to show trend information. It’s one thing to understand a snapshot in time. Where are you now against your DE&I goals or a law department’s DE&I goals and guidelines? Where are you improving? Where are you not improving? Where do you need to improve? Again, based upon success criteria, based upon your goals, so that you can understand what action to take specifically rather than wading through a profound ocean of data.

One of the things that we can do that you couldn’t do before is to show trend information.​

Brian Kuhn

John Croft: What are your recommendations, Brian, for data collection and data analysis?

Brian Kuhn: For data collection, first and foremost, we need to provide a common set of master data, as I mentioned before. This data would come from questions that inform surveys, many of which we already have. It includes metrics that we pull from billing data that will be common from organization to organization and will provide a road map for what to collect. In other words, an agreement on a list of data, an agreement on how to collect, prove and publish that data internally, that represents a starting place and a best practice. What are we collecting? Where are you today? What’s missing based upon what you need to achieve? And what steps do you need to take to collect it?

Once we have that, we know that we can essentially create a checklist. If you have this data in sufficient volume, we can show you the following sorts of insights. We can show you diversity indicators: disability, age group, religion, race, orientation. We can show you market analysis across diversity. Based upon the various geographies, you as a law department secure outside council representation this way per geo.   We can show inclusion indicators that come from surveys. “I feel like I belong. I always feel included, my company cares about me, my firm cares about me, perspectives like mine are included in decision-making.”

In other words, we can look at billing data and see which diverse populations are doing what types of work: document review, research, client meetings. Are people getting meaningful work, or is this token work? And then we see trends over time, and those are often surprising. What that enables is the ability to take different diversity metrics and conflate them. To cross-reference those metrics and see what stories they tell together rather than one by one, which would have been the traditional way of analyzing data. In doing so, we might learn otherwise non-obvious things. We might learn we’re headed in a direction that – congratulations – represents our goals. Or we might learn we’re not, and we need to course-correct.

Jacquie Champagne: John, let me jump in here to acknowledge that this is difficult stuff. It’s rather a vulnerable feeling to have your client get invasive with your data and ask you, “Why are diverse associates not progressing?”  Part of what we help do is create more effective strategies. It’s not just, “Let’s point out all the problems.”  Law departments, I don’t think, have any intention of beating their law firms over the head. They want to help them and give them that help. That’s where Elevate can come in, facilitating solutions and getting at the root of the issue to provide solutions and ideas that will effectively help over the long term.

John Croft: That’s great. So, if I try and boil down what I’ve heard today, it’s this: We look to understand our customer’s DE&I goal. We then help them gather data and analyze it, and then we jointly create DE&I initiatives with our customers. That’s our offering. Could one of you provide an example of an outcome that’s resulted from this process, or talk about where we’ve seen this work and the impact that it’s had on one of our customer organizations?

Jacquie Champagne: Absolutely. We have worked with customers who’ve been in various stages of the journey. In the beginning, you have to determine how much work you want to put in to determine your DE&I metrics and KPIs. For one customer who is just starting to track their firms, it was important to provide an easy reporting method so they could start gathering data. They wanted to and were sensitive to their firms not being overly burdened by providing this data. It was very important for them to have a solution that included an easy way to report.  We’re helping them with that. They needed an effective dashboard and a baseline to measure against. This is also a common thing law departments and law firms want to know – what is everyone else doing, what are we measuring against? We also go outside of legal because the data tends to be better, and companies generally in corporate America are more effective at DE&I strategies. These are questions that customers ask and want to know.

For a law firm customer, finding out where they’re running into roadblocks to associate progression might help support promoting diverse associates to partnership. If you know where you’re falling short, you can create strategies and action plans to course-correct – or create new strategies if the old ones aren’t working.  Look at what committees your diverse associates and partners are involved in. Are they powerful firm committees? Are they not so powerful? How are we supporting them? What better ways can we support them?  That’s all information that law firms want to know to continue to get ahead of not just hiring diverse associates at the beginning, but retention and promotion, which proves to be some of the biggest problems for law firms.

Brian Kuhn: It’s one thing to have data, and it’s another thing, a better thing, to have data that indicates a trend and therefore acts as a foundation to actions that you might take. In addition to that goodness is journey tracking: the ability to set a course and then see how external organizations perform against that over time. What that gives you beyond the obvious of, are they compliant with our expectations, are they not compliant with our expectations, is a sense of how reasonable certain expectations are. For example, imagine a law firm with some significant DE&I challenges, but also imagine that it just hired a new managing partner, who’s come in in part to change that, that might not show up in the data quite yet.

We don’t want to create a gotcha solution. We want to create a solution that enables journey tracking over time by underscoring the root cause of success or lack of success with certain expectations. Our customers and we can determine if those expectations are reasonable. Since law departments create those expectations and law departments wish earnestly to enable these journeys, we want to make it as easy as possible for them by understanding what creates success – not just showing them who checks a box.

John Croft: Fantastic. Coming to the end of our time, are there any lessons learned or recommendations that we’d pass on for a law department or a law firm – or indeed a law company -who are just beginning to start thinking about their E&I initiative?

Jacquie Champagne: My suggestions and recommendations are understanding your big picture goals and then figuring out the strategies you need to move them forward. The full strategy includes action steps, and it’s really important to remember that taking a long-term approach is completely necessary with diversity, equitability, and inclusion. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. These issues are very entrenched, and you will not make progress until you invest and then measure, measure, measure.

John Croft: Fantastic. Well, look, Brian, Jacquie, thank you very much for joining today. I spend a lot of time with our customers talking to them about this. Most law departments look to improve their equitability, inclusion, and hold their law firm, their outside counsel to the same high standard. I was pleased when I heard that we had a data-driven solution that we could take to the market to help people with this. Thank you very much for coming and talking about this today.

About the Author(s)

The host of this interview is John Croft,  President of Elevate. John’s guests are Jacquie Champagne, Global Head of Equitability and Inclusion at Elevate; and Elevate’s Vice President of Technology and Digital Consulting, Brian Kuhn.

Contact Us