A new report from strategic comms firm Greentarget and consulting firm Zeughauser Group finds that C-suite executives and in-house counsel are asking for more diversity, equity and inclusion-related content from their law firms and professional services providers than ever before—but say these firms have work ahead when it comes to advancing their own DEI goals.
The new 2022 State of DEI Content Report is an extension of the firms’ 2022 State of Digital & Content Marketing Survey, the 10th iteration of research into what makes effective content stand out for the clients of professional services firms—and their first to gauge those information consumption behaviors and preferences since 2019.
Since then, a widespread racial reckoning and a heightened focus on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors have made DEI a key emphasis for clients of professional services firms. Law firm CMOs reported that DEI content had the highest demand from clients over the past year, ahead of cybersecurity and data privacy.
“Like other businesses, clients of professional services firms are under significant pressure to recruit and retain diverse talent, communicate authentically about social issues, and comply with new DEI-related laws and disclosure requirements,” said John Corey, Greentarget’s president and founding partner, in a news release. “To deliver the content decision makers need, firms will have to understand the types of guidance clients want most—and bolster their own DEI efforts to ensure this content is authentic and credible.”
The research examines the priorities and content needs in this area among 200 in-house counsel and C-suite members, two groups that exert strong influence over hiring of law firms and consulting, accounting and other professional services firms.
The researchers also asked decision makers to assess their law and advisory firms’ progress in this area. As in past iterations, this year’s report compares clients’ views with those of chief marketing officers of professional services providers, to identify white space between what content those decision makers crave, and the extent to which their outside advisors are satisfying those needs.
Some of the report’s key findings include:
More (and wide-ranging) DEI content wanted
Decision-makers want more content on DEI issues—but they approach it from different vantage points. C-suite members are looking for strategic, big-picture direction while in-house counsel want more detailed, tactical advice.
Room for content improvement
On a scale of 0 to 10—with 0 equating to “very poor” and 10 to “excellent”—C-suite members rated DEI content from law firms and professional services providers 7.2, while in-house counsel rated law firm content 6.5. This might stem in part from the fact that providers are more focused on producing content related to their own DEI efforts rather than DEI guidance more generally.
Firms making DEI strides, but more work remain
While C-suites and in-house counsel say professional services providers have made strides on DEI, more progress is needed. In-house counsel rate the performance of law firms they work with as mediocre, with C-suite members giving their services providers better marks.
Scarcity of diverse talent a challenge
Decision-makers and firms both cite a scarcity of diverse talent as a key hurdle in advancing DEI goals. Clients and chief diversity and inclusion officers say firms need to expand recruitment efforts beyond the usual legal talent pools—i.e., top-tier law school graduates with prestigious clerkships—and place equal focus on retention.
Marketers have a critical role to play
Legal marketers see several steps they can take in advancing DEI at their own organizations, including assembling diverse pitch teams, providing business development coaching, and producing and disseminating internal and external DEI communications.
“Clients need advice on complying with the law in DEI-related areas, such as discrimination, as well as counsel on how to deal with increased scrutiny regarding commitments to DEI and broader ESG issues, including reputational risk,” said Mary K Young, a partner with Zeughauser Group, in then release. “As such, we’re excited to bring these findings on DEI content to light and facilitate a thoughtful conversation about the need for insights on these urgent topics.”