After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, many companies were quick to pledge their support for abortion.
America’s BigLaw firms were no exception, despite the fact that they employ attorneys and represent clients who hold diverse political and religious views.
In a recent interview with Law360, ADF Senior Counsel and Director of the Center for Life Denise Harle warned that BigLaw’s hardline stance on abortion risks estranging clients and costing firms top talent.
“It concerns me greatly to see how extremely one-sided even the top 200 law firms are…I practiced in BigLaw, [including] my 1L and 2L summers. I know people who work in law firms, and almost all of my law school friends went into BigLaw. And the truth is, they're not all pro-abortion extremists. But if you read the briefs from these firms, it only conveys a very extreme, pro-abortion viewpoint. And that not only is inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution and almost every single state constitution and law, but it's along the lines of the abortion policy they have in human-rights-violating nations like China and North Korea. And so that, to me, is really disturbing. And my fear is that the folks who believe women deserve better than abortion, and that abortion destroys an innocent human life, and that it's not the way to really empower women, those lawyers, if they're in BigLaw, have been intimidated into silence.”
Harle is right to call attention to the lack of respect for viewpoint diversity in BigLaw. Just last year, former BigLaw partner Robin Keller saw what she described as her “unblemished 44-year career” in corporate law come to an abrupt end when she expressed her support for the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe. While her law firm claimed to offer a safe space for women to express their views, Keller’s opinion was met with accusations and outrage, and she ultimately lost her job.
Keller’s experience is unfortunately part of a broader trend within the workforce. As a recent survey commissioned by Alliance Defending Freedom and conducted by Ipsos shows, 3 out of 5 respondents expect that respectfully expressing religious or political viewpoints would “likely or somewhat likely” carry negative consequences at work, while 1 in 4 say they know someone who has experienced negative consequences for respectfully expressing their religious and political viewpoints. Overwhelmingly, the survey found that when companies politicize their workplaces by taking divisive stands on hot button social issues, or by punishing employees for their political or religious views, they risk losing employees’ trust as well as the ability to recruit and retain top quality talent.
Respect for viewpoint diversity is not only crucial for employee satisfaction, it’s also essential for the overall health of any business. John Silverling, Director of Private Markets and Impact Advocacy for OneAscent and President of OneAscent Capital, writes that viewpoint diversity helps businesses identify new approaches and solve problems, while lack of viewpoint diversity has caused businesses to miss out on opportunities and lose leadership positions in the market.
As Harle tells Law360, there’s a better way to ensure company health and employee satisfaction.
“If I have the opportunity to make a plea to BigLaw: If they want a thriving work environment, and they want to attract the best talent and also to support a larger array of clients that may have different positions on social issues, I think BigLaw is best served to back away from the extreme progressive agenda, so that it can be a welcoming place for bright law students who are more conservative or moderate and have a fantastic future,” Harle said. “They shouldn't feel like they're driven out of the legal practice because they're in an environment that is promoting very divisive positions that tilt heavily to the left.”
Harle’s advice to BigLaw firms applies to corporate America as well. Businesses can advance the good of their employees, customers, and shareholders by scaling back their political activism and cultivating respect for diverse religious and political views internally and externally.
And with the resources and consulting services Viewpoint Diversity Score offers, companies have all the tools they need to make lasting, meaningful changes.