This week we released our latest research paper Bias Uncoded: How to integrate AI and other technologies into your D&I agenda.
To celebrate the release, we hosted a panel discussion at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, during which our contributors and subject matter experts explored the risks and benefits that could be gained by introducing technology solutions into certain law firm processes.
We would like to further thank our panel for their time and valued contribution: Sasha Scott, Managing Director, The Inclusive Group; Jason Ku, Cofounder, Aspirant Analytics; Dave Cook, CEO, Mason & Cook; Anthony Horrigan, Chief Executive Officer, Staffmetrix; Justine Thompson, Head of Diversity & Inclusivity, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner; Rob McCargow, Director of Artificial Intelligence, PwC UK
Here are some of the key themes touched on during the discussion:
Using technology to attract those from all backgrounds
Attracting candidates from a range of different backgrounds is a significant challenge for law firms at the moment.
Using technology to reach a wider audience could increase social mobility in the legal sector as it makes the profession more attractive and accessible to those who would never normally apply, or feel like success in the sector in unattainable. The use of gamification has proved successful for organisations from other industries in attracting a higher number of candidates from low socio-economic backgrounds, and some law firms are starting to pilot this technology in their recruitment processes.
Technology doesn’t just help to recruit diverse talent, but allows us to retain it
Introducing tools to help in the progression of associates and senior associates in areas such as work allocation can create a more inclusive workplace. It ensures a level of fairness and consistency in the way people are managed once they have entered an organisation. It can also deliver regular and consistent feedback, which brings to light some of the more understated issues in behaviour that cause unconscious bias to hinder progression for diverse demographics.
It’s all about efficiencies
Handling diversity data is a time consuming task, which can easily be overcome using technology. There is an opportunity to introduce more innovative ways to deliver better management information, which can’t be compiled by D&I professionals. A lot of this information is currently put together manually, using spreadsheets, and having access to high quality data modelling would help evaluate where change needs to take place, as well as engage leaders as to why it needs to happen.
Managing large scale data sets would also improve accuracy if done by software, removing the scope for human error.
Fools rush in
There are a number of risks that we need to be mindful of before we begin to implement advanced technology solutions into processes.
Choosing to employ artificial intelligence (AI) without fully understanding the cause of problem you’re trying to solve can lead you to align the wrong technology to a given issue. This can result in poor outcomes and a waste of money, which is easily avoided with a clear and defined strategy for implementation.
Regulatory risk (i.e. GDPR) and a lack of diversity from those designing the technology can also make a solution counterintuitive when it’s used to tackle unconscious bias.
Maintain a personal touch
Technology should never replace human interaction when addressing unconscious bias or you run the risk of making individuals feeling devalued.
In order to apply technology to diversity data, information needs to be granular and well-defined. This can sometimes remove the need to be sensitive and tactful when discussing the issues faced. We must make sure that technology (which sits firmly in the background) has clarity, but the dialogue around D&I is handled sensitively.
How can we get law firms and senior leaders to invest?
As always, clients have the greatest impact in influencing organisations to make change. Some clients are upgrading or downgrading law firms on a scoring matrix based on whether the firm’s diversity profile accurately reflects their own. As more clients are demanding diversity from their law firms, this will become a higher priority for senior management.
It’s often difficult to get sign off on new innovations as the legal profession is well-known to be risk averse. However, you could argue that the partnership structure should have more tolerance for risk as the drawback is spread across a lot of people as opposed to an individual chief executive. They should therefore feel more incentivised to adopt these structures.