New Zealand law firms say diversity has now become a matter of pure survival, with a diverse team of lawyers likely to be better suited to the challenges of legal change ahead.
Speaking with New Zealand Lawyer as the year 2016 comes to a close, managing partners from both local and global firms say culture and people will be central to success in years ahead.
Chapman Tripp chief executive partner Nick Wells says the firm is focusing on diversity and leadership as part of a five-year strategic plan that kicked off this year across its business.
“We see the importance in investing in a team that will be able to adapt to – as well as thrive on – change,” Wells says, arguing that the tangible effects of disruption are now apparent. “Part of that is ensuring a diversified firm, including lawyers and business support staff.”
MinterEllisonRuddWatts chief executive officer Mike Schubert says that the management of his law firm “boils down to people”, and that diversity and flexibility are crucial to this.
“We can’t say we have it totally right, but we do have some partners who are leading the way and attracting top talent through their willingness to flex, support and retain capable staff and particularly capable women,” Schubert says. “Being recognised for our leadership in this area at the New Zealand Diversity Awards was a 2016 highlight for me,” Schubert says.
“Diversity, wellbeing and work-life balance will need to be embraced in order to develop a law firm which will attract and keep top talent,” Russell McVeagh CEO Gary McDiarmid says.
Russell McVeagh has been on an ongoing journey to build a diverse culture in terms of gender, ethnicity, background, sexuality and religion in 2016, according to McDiarmid. The firm recently achieved the Rainbow Tick Award, a 30% female full equity partnership, and hosted the launch of TupuToa, supporting Māori and Pasifika tertiary students.
“The firms which adapt to these changes will be stronger, more profitable and better equipped to deal with the future environment.,” he says.
Likewise, DLA Piper country managing partner Martin Wiseman says workplaces that contain a melting pot of different generations – as well as strong diversity in other areas – will pave the way to success in future.
“I think firms will have to work out how to get baby boomers, generations X and Y and Millennials to work together effectively as they are different,” Wiseman says.
“Diversity is already a huge topic. A firm like ours is naturally very diverse culturally because it exists in so many different places. But in New Zealand we don’t have that many Maori, Pacific Island and Asian partners and we need to work on that. I think we are better than most, but we need to do more,” he says.