Are You Certified?

Are You Certified?

If your law firm is eligible but lacks certification as a woman-, minority-, veteran-, or other diversity-owned or small business, you may be missing out on valuable business opportunities. Most governmental entities now mandate that their vendors and their vendors’ suppliers are not only diverse, but also are certified as such. Hence, many private businesses also direct a certain percentage of their purchasing dollars to certified diverse suppliers to position themselves to bid for state and federal business. By becoming a certified diversity supplier, your firm not only has a better chance at landing the new public or private entity client, you also become doubly attractive as it helps your clients qualify to compete for governmental business, as well.

A diverse supplier is at least 51% owned (holding equity), operated, and controlled by a person or persons of a diverse or disadvantaged background (minority, woman, LGBT, disabled, veteran, small business, etc.). To become certified, your firm undergoes a review process through an appropriate agency to ensure your business actually is owned, controlled, and operated by qualified persons. For a small business certification, your firm also may need to provide information regarding economic status, revenues of the business, and personal net worth.

There are several certification agencies, so do an online search to find one that is best for your firm. Note, however, that National Association of Minority & Women Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF) requires certification by the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), or the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). You can receive multiple types of certifications if your firm qualifies in more than one category, and you can be certified by several different organizations in the same category.

Once you receive certification, let the world know! Post a copy of your certificate(s) on your website. Mention your certification at every marketing opportunity, and remind your clients and potential clients that, in addition to offering superior service, your certification helps them meet their supplier diversity goals.

Consider joining NAMWOLF, the nonprofit trade association comprised of minority- and women-owned law firms throughout the United States. It runs a database of its law firm members through which corporations submit RFPs for legal services and select local counsel to staff specific matters. The organization also holds events affording law firm members an opportunity to meet and connect with corporate counsel who desire diversity within their outside counsel representation. See: https://namwolf.org/

You can be even more proactive in marketing your diversity certification by targeting businesses and industries that might want to partner with a certified diversity law firm when bidding for work. Members of your firm could make presentations at meetings of trade associations of businesses that commonly bid for government contracts. You want to let the members of those organizations know that your law firm is available to partner on RFPs that call for minority or disadvantaged business enterprise participation. Your firm also could offer its legal expertise to assist potential clients in establishing a compliant supplier diversity program that will help that company meet its minority or women-owned or disadvantaged business enterprise contracting goals.

There are many advantages to getting certification if your firm qualifies. In addition to differentiating your firm in a crowded field competing for business, certification provides:

  • Competitive positioning and access to government procurement systems;
  • Inclusion on procurement and service provider lists used by entities seeking qualified diversity suppliers; and
  • Enhanced ability to provide legal services to private clients and government agencies with defined and established diversity supplier goals.

With government and corporate clients increasingly demanding that their outside legal representation looks more like America, don’t ignore any rainmaking advantages via certification that your firm is qualified to pursue.

Valerie Fontaine

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