As the U.S. and the corporate community become increasingly diverse, the law firms that don’t make efforts to address their diversity shortcomings will fall behind the competition, experts say.

In the broader corporate community that forms BigLaw’s client base, diversity pays off. Last year, McKinsey & Co. found that companies in the highest quartile of racial or ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to financially outperform companies in the bottom quartile. Also last year, Bersin by Deloitte found that the highest-performing companies — with higher cash flow, profitability and growth — make diversity and inclusion a priority and "align their diversity and inclusion strategy to organizational objectives."

"Competitive advantage will be derived by those firms that invest in diversity and understand the changing landscape," says Tom Sager, former general counsel at DuPont Co. and now a partner at Ballard Spahr LLP. "The demographics are so obvious to all now, and to be successful, over time you’re going to have to be a leader in this space, particularly as corporations wise up and understand that a lot of the work they do with the external world is done through their law firms."

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