In an effort to increase recruitment of minority and female attorneys, the Grand Rapids Bar Association and the 12 law firms that are part of the Managing Partners Diversity Collaborative have launched a web-based marketing campaign focused on Grand Rapids as a place for work/life balance.
GRabLAW is a website that includes testimonials from women and minority attorneys sharing the reasons Grand Rapids is the right fit for them. The website also highlights the many attractions Grand Rapids has to offer, including outdoor activities, social opportunities, cultural offerings and its many breweries.
“We know that the competition for talent, particularly in the case of minority and female attorneys, is fierce,” said Joy Fossel, who leads Varnum’s diversity and inclusion team. “GRabLAW is designed to highlight the benefits Grand Rapids offers that other cities may not — specifically, the balance between sophisticated law practices and desirable lifestyles.”
Fossel said the “a” and “b” in GRabLAW stand for “achieve balance.”
“We want to emphasize that in Grand Rapids you have the opportunity to achieve great success professionally while still balancing life with work,” she said.
Local law firms have long struggled with recruitment and retention of minority and women attorneys. Two years ago, 12 law firms in the city joined together with the Grand Rapids Bar Association to form the Managing Partners Diversity Collaborative, focused on “achieving diversity and inclusion in the education, retention and promotion of Michigan’s attorneys.”
In 2012, the group outlined a five-year action plan to improve the landscape for minority and women attorneys in Grand Rapids. The plan focused on three main areas: recruitment, retention and pipeline development.
In the process of developing the action plan, marketing Grand Rapids also became an important focus as the group recognized that millennials are looking first at where they want to live and then at finding a job in that city.
The collaborative realized that selling Grand Rapids after five o’clock would be an important aspect of drawing women and minority attorneys to the city, as would identifying the right channels for gaining their attention.
GRabLAW is the result of those discussions.
While many new attorneys might rush off to larger cities right out of law school for the big paycheck and fast-paced lifestyle, Fossel said Grand Rapids is ready to welcome those attorneys when they are ready to shift their focus to a better work/life balance.
“The larger cities offer more money, no doubt,” Fossel said. “But with that comes the inevitable requirement that your job become your life. Grand Rapids not only offers the chance to have a life after work and time to enjoy it, it is extremely affordable and offers resources and activities not found in other locales.”
To reach newly minted attorneys and those looking to improve their work/life balance, the GRabLAW link has been sent to many law schools and is easily accessible through member firms’ websites.
“More importantly, we think the current generation of students does a great deal of research on their own, and if they are looking for legal careers, they will find our webpage either directly or through our social media contacts,” Fossel said.
In addition to GRabLAW, the Managing Partners Diversity Collaborative is busy putting several of its other action items in place.
“We have expanded our minority clerkship program through the Grand Rapids Bar Association, increasing the number of law students eligible to apply for the program and increasing the number of firms and legal employers who accept the clerks each summer,” Fossel said.
“We are developing a community mentorship program to pair new lawyers and their families with leaders in the minority communities to help the newcomers to better connect socially and professionally.
“We have also developed a résumé-sharing system between the collaborative firms and the bar association to ensure that when one firm identifies a great candidate but has no place for him or her, that person's résumé will go out to the other firms to see if we can collectively land them here in Grand Rapids. Our theory is that keeping a great candidate here in town benefits all of our legal community.”
In addition to recruitment efforts, the retention and pipeline development committees are busily putting new initiatives into action.
Fossel said on the retention front, the committee held a leadership conference on diversity and inclusion and a seminar on business development geared toward women and minority attorneys, and both were well attended.
The pipeline committee is launching its 3Rs program in November with Ottawa Hills High School, which will focus on introducing freshmen to the U.S. Constitution and career opportunities in the field of law.