As the legal profession continues to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion in the advancement and progression of its lawyers, members of the National Association of Minority & Women-Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF) have attracted an influx of the profession's top talent as lawyers look for alternatives to big law practice.
Yet, while NAMWOLF members are recognized for their efforts in fostering partnerships and supporting knowledge sharing amongst its members, many perceived risks associated with using NAMWOLF firms persist. Some in-house teams worry that NAMWOLF firms may not have the capacity, jurisdictional coverage, cost efficiencies, or range of expertise that are enjoyed by large majority-owned firms.
These concerns are valid. But many in-house teams continue to successfully grow their partnerships with NAMWOLF firms, forwarding diversity in the profession without sacrificing the quality of representation or exposing the business to unnecessary risk.
1. Ask your AMLAW firms to delegate a % of matters to NAMWOLF partners
Joint ventures between large AMLAW firms and NAMWOLF firms are quite common in today’s legal services market. As NAMWOLF providers grow in number and allies, these firms are present in all areas of law and often support multiple jurisdictions within the US, often in places where larger firms do not have physical offices, making them perfect partners for appearances.
Asking your firms to incorporate NAMWOLF firms in their strategy to support your organization's matters can ensure these partnerships are being leveraged optimally.
Through these pass-thru partnerships, NAMWOLF members are able to act as an extension of larger AMLAW corporations, allowing for greater presence across jurisdictions, increased capacity, and a more collaborative approach to case strategy.
2. Ensure NAMWOLF firms are participating in your panels
Panels are often the best way to mitigate risk when it comes to managing legal partnerships. NAMWOLF firms are no exception.
One approach is to leverage the niche specialization and expertise that is common among NAMWOLF firms by including them in specific practice area panels. NAMWOLF firms are often more resource-constrained than their AMLAW and majority-owned counterparts so they may be overshadowed by other firms when participating in a general panel. However, having them participate in smaller panels in specific practice areas puts them on a more level playing field and increases their chances of success.
Another approach is to have a panel of solely NAMWOLF firms. Using this strategy, in-house counsel can better curate panel RFP questions in a way that gives them more intimate and granular insights about NAMWOLF prospect firms to understand their strengths, weaknesses, and how to best grow their partnership with each specific firm.
Regularly refreshing this panel, as you would all others, will help keep a pulse on the NAMWOLF network as new firms emerge. The panel should be looked at as less of just a way to receive discounts or for firms to win work, but as a mutually symbiotic relationship for both parties. The firms will have exposure to learn your business more intimately, strategize proactively, and ensure first-hand that your organization is meeting diversity metrics.
3. Develop a portfolio of work that is annually issued to NAMWOLF providers
Similar to a panel, portfolios serve as a way to focus on a smaller scope of legal spend.
Where a panel focuses on a set number of providers that can bid for work, a portfolio serves to lump together high volume, routine, and less volatile matters that a company often encounters on a regular basis. These portfolios can be compiled of matters/action items across practice groups, by complexity levels, regions, or fee arrangement.
Because portfolios are naturally more predictable in cost and resourcing, they are a great way to introduce NAMWOLF firms into your in-house counsel’s network of providers and guarantee a level of volume is awarded to them.
How Can PERSUIT Be Used to Support NAMWOLF Partnerships?
PERSUIT’s Firm Recommender is able to identify firms to invite to any matter based on area of law, legal service, and jurisdiction. Even better, with quick filters for NAMWOLF, Mansfield, or MWBE firms, Firm Recommender helps you discover diverse firms upfront and how they’ve performed on PERSUIT.
The DEI Module
When building out your proposal, simply turn on PERSUIT’s diversity module. This transforms DEI into a core selection criteria for every matter. The questions are pre-built and standardized for firms to answer, so you can compare the diversity composition of teams being proposed.
Then, when you’re ready to send your proposal, PERSUIT’s NAMWOLF directory gives you direct access to accredited firms. In seconds, you can surface NAMWOLF firms and add them to any proposal in one click.
Since PERSUIT has the most up-to-date contacts for those firms right on the platform, all of the work is done for you. Just click send.
Note: Interested in improving DEI with your law firms? Request a demo or get more information about PERSUIT here.