Diversify your delivery by Stephen Allen, Hogan Lovells

The article was originally featured as an opinion piece in the April 2017 issue of Briefing magazine, download Briefing

If there are any leadership teams who remain to be convinced that tackling a lack of diversity is important, I can do little better than quoting Albert Einstein: “We cannot solve a problem with the same kind of thinking we used to create it.”

Debate rages around the exact wording and source of this quote, but I think the thinking is clear and germane to this issue.

Delivering legal services needs, and will continually need, to be rethought. We’re facing the unremitting need for continual change to meet the needs of our clients – who themselves are seeing their own businesses perpetually evolve. Car companies are no longer building mere modes of transport, but highly sophisticated devices connected to the ‘internet of things’. Financial institutions are using design thinking to build technology that ensures their relevance in an increasingly connected world, and private companies are leading the business of space exploration. We need to help our clients adapt. To do this, we too need to change.

As business services, the concept of ‘client’ is always an interesting one. Who is our client? We bandy about phrases like ‘end client’ or ‘internal client’. Personally, and this is my own view, I don’t like the concept of the ‘internal client’ as an approach to business services. A business exists to service its clients. Roles within the business are to collaborate, with mutual respect, to ensure that such service is the very best it can be.

Therefore it is, in my opinion, imperative that business services have the client of the firm foremost in their collective mind. This doesn’t mean diminished support to what some may call our ‘internal clients’. Quite the contrary. We must improve the support to ensure that partners and lawyers spend more time thinking about the client, because they can trust that the delivery will be excellent.

To do this, we in business services need to think like our clients. That means we need a demographic that mirrors that of our clients, brings a diversity of thought and a breadth of experience, and that constantly challenges perceived wisdom and accepted norms. For legal service delivery to evolve in the way it needs to, business services will need to become increasingly diverse – embracing new ways of thinking and different expertise, and constantly striving to differentiate what we do.

Too much of our industry is held back by worrying about what ‘other firms might think’. Keeping focus on client need, anticipating that need and differentiating what we do by leading in legal service delivery is essential today – and it will only become more so.

So, diversity is a business imperative. Without it we will simply repeat the mistakes of the past.

It’s also the sign of an inclusive and collaborative firm, and a moral imperative to ensure that the opportunity to participate is open to as wide a pool of talent as possible. I’m very pleased to say that my current home is the most inclusive and collaborative I’ve worked in. And in terms of the evolution of all of us in this business, that bodes well. 

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