the future is now

Imagine you and your colleague are attending a meeting to discuss a significant and complex case for your law firm. You are joined by your colleague, Maya, a highly skilled and young Latina attorney, as well as other attorneys in the firm.

As the meeting progresses, Maya offers insightful analysis and proposes innovative solutions to the client’s legal challenges.

However, one of the senior partners, Steve, consistently directs his questions and comments to the other attorneys in the room, who are predominantly white men. Despite Maya’s contributions, Steve seems to overlook her presence and fails to acknowledge her contributions.

As someone acquainted with Maya and Steve, do you:

  1. Do nothing, as this is how Steve is to all newer attorneys.
  2. Talk to Maya afterward to let her know that you appreciate and agree with her contributions.
  3. During a break in the meeting, approach Steve to discuss his displayed bias and further highlight the issue during a leadership meeting.

Choosing between options a, b, and c could be the difference between just having good intentions (e.g., letting Maya know you appreciate and agree with her contributions individually) or taking it one step further to actively support Maya as an ally.

Learn to practice intentional allyship as an attorney

Michelle Silverthorn, an attorney, author, and Founder & CEO of Inclusion Nation, describes allyship as “an active and consistent effort to use your privilege and power to support and advocate for people with less privilege.”

Attorneys are presented with countless opportunities to be allies in their workplaces, courtrooms, and personal lives. But the challenge lies in moving from the intention of being a good ally to actually taking action to be one.

Silverthorn, who formerly served as the Commission on Professionalism’s Diversity and Education Director, will delve into this during a session at our eighth annual Future Is Now: Legal Services Conference, which will be held virtually on Thursday, April 18.

To date, almost 600 lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals have registered to hear Michelle and the rest of our speaker lineup discuss issues of innovation and legal professionalism, including bridging the access to justice gap, realistic approaches to mental health and well-being, practical and ethical uses of AI, how lawyers should respond to incivility in the courtroom, and more.

Four hours of professional responsibility CLE is available, including one hour of diversity and inclusion and one hour of mental health and substance abuse. Registration is open but space is limited.

Click to Register

A rise in incivility toward diverse lawyers

For the most part, the representation of diverse attorneys in the legal profession has been slowly increasing. However, this is less so in law firm leadership. For example, women make up 39% of all lawyers but only 22% of equity partners, according to the ABA and the National Association of Women Lawyers.

Moreover, attorneys of color make up 21% of all lawyers but just 11% of partners, according to the ABA and the National Association for Law Placement.

The Commission on Professionalism’s 2021 Survey on Professionalism, which studied the experiences of lawyers across Illinois, found that 62% of attorneys from diverse backgrounds agreed that uncivil and unprofessional behavior discourages diversity in the profession.

In addition, the survey showed instances of incivility tied to race, age, and sex have grown significantly since a similar survey in 2014.

So, how do we create legal workplaces that embrace diversity and make attorneys from all backgrounds feel included and valued?

How to be an ally

While many of us may intend to support inclusive workplaces, it can be hard to know when and how to act.

For example, have you ever considered what changes your firm could make so a colleague who is deaf or hard of hearing can better communicate with clients? Or perhaps you may notice that deserving women and people of color are excluded from working on important cases but do not know if you should raise it with leadership.

To be an active ally at work, attorneys must identify inequities like these in their workplaces, challenge their assumptions about others, and identify the power they hold.

Michelle will teach attendees how to do this, walking through real-life scenarios that illustrate how to be an ally in the legal profession. And she will share language, actions, and tools attorneys can use daily to engage in authentic allyship as an attorney, i.e., the person with whom you are allying sees and recognizes your efforts as genuine.

In addition, Michelle will address questions like: What happens if I say the wrong thing? How can you make someone listen who does not want to? Should I encourage my colleagues to be allies?

Importantly, attendees will have the opportunity to ask Michelle questions too.

By becoming a trusted ally for colleagues and clients, attorneys can help to advance a diverse and inclusive legal profession that looks more like the communities it serves.

Not only will this support the health and well-being of traditionally underrepresented attorneys who often report feeling isolated, but it can also help improve public trust in the legal profession. Moreover, diverse teams that draw on varying points of view are often reported to be more successful.

We hope you will join us to hear from Michelle and the rest of our top-notch speaker lineup on Thursday, April 18. Registration is open, but time is running out. Register here.

Attendees are eligible to receive 4.0 hours of professional responsibility CLE credit, including 1.0 hour of diversity and inclusion and 1.0 hour of mental health and substance abuse CLE credit.

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The post Transition Your ‘Good Intentions’ Into Attorney Allyship at the Future Is Now appeared first on 2Civility.