Diversity matters. At Lawyerist, we’ve been talking about diversity and inclusion in law firms for a while now. (A few of our podcast episodes on the subject include: Episode #215, Online Accessibility & Law Firm Websites, with Lainey Feingold, Episode #236, The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law, with Haben Girma, and Episode #280, Expanding Your Firm’s Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion Awareness, with Jennifer Brown)
One of our team’s core values is Build an Inclusive Community. Here’s what we say:
Build an Inclusive Community.
We’re building community among our team, partners, and the lawyers we support. Our community is open and welcoming to different thoughts, knowledge, identities, backgrounds, status, characteristics, and experiences.
It matters to us in everything we do. We aren’t perfect, and we have a long way to get where we want to be. But, here’s the thing, we’re trying. We’re learning. We’re open.
Many people talk about diversity and inclusivity in terms of team hires. For us, diversity means building an inclusive team, but it also means being thoughtful about the lawyer community we support and the vendors we work with.
Building an Inclusive Team at Lawyerist
Diversity starts with our team. We’re working hard to build a hiring process that attracts diverse people. Here are some things we do:
- Check for implicit bias or unwelcoming words in our job descriptions.
- Include the following sentence to encourage applicants to apply: “Lawyerist is an equal opportunity employer, and we value diversity. We see imposter syndrome as a sign of conscientiousness. If you’re a minority and/or woman wondering if you’re really qualified, you probably are, so please apply! Let’s talk!”
- Consider posting our job in places where diverse applicants may see it (e.g., networking groups based on diverse backgrounds).
- Ask people with networks beyond our own to help spread the word about our job posting, so it reaches more people who might not otherwise know us.
- Deemphasize obsolete hiring markers, such as the pedigree of a school/community college or gaps in work history. Instead, we focus on skills like being a lifelong learner and being willing to engage in potentially challenging conversations.
Since these shifts, we’ve significantly improved the diversity of our team.
More importantly, we all bring our unique selves to the team each day. Everyone shows up and shares their point of view. We talk about big issues like how someone who doesn’t have the same background as us might see something differently. It also shows up in little things like movie and music references. It allows us each to learn in broader and more interesting ways. Our team makes our workplace more engaging and our work in the world more nuanced.
Building a Diverse and Inclusive Lawyer Community
Our team exists to guide lawyers to build healthier small law firms. This includes diversity and inclusion in law firms. As part of this work, we have created communities of lawyers (both online and in-person) who gather and help one another.
From our very first event, TBD Law, in 2016, we were thinking about who was in the room. Our stated goal was to emphasize diversity because future-oriented and innovative legal ideas come from a diverse network of lawyers.
That tradition continues today. Just like with our hiring process, we are intentional in our marketing. We are thoughtful about the language and images we use in our marketing materials—are we welcoming in our words and actions?
The results mean that we typically have more women at our events than men. We pay attention to racial diversity and typically meet or exceed the diversity statistics for lawyers in the US. We have more work to do.
Then, we follow up our welcome with an inviting space for community members. Our Community Standards tell community members how we expect them to behave. Specifically, they must:
- Be Respectful. We don’t allow asshole behavior in our community. Follow the Golden Rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated (and then be open to feedback and change if they request otherwise).
- Be Inclusive. Proactively work to make sure underrepresented voices and perspectives are welcome and invited into conversations.
Finally, when a community member messes up (not if, but when, because growth includes error), they must:
- Seek Repair. If someone violates a Community Standard, we expect them to acknowledge it, apologize, make it right, and commit to learning and improving.
We all make mistakes, but we also can grow from them. We are confident that by continuing our work on a thoughtful path, we’ll create a fantastic space where lawyers can thrive and learn from one another.
Building a Diverse and Inclusive Business Network
Our work doesn’t stop with the lawyers we coach. We are also a thriving business and transact with various contractors and vendors to complete our work.
Whenever we add a new working relationship to our business, we follow a similar process. We find that working with other unique small businesses whose values align with ours makes for kick-ass working relationships.
For example, we love working with Britany Felix, our amazing podcast editor—doesn’t she make us sound outstanding? When we added working with a financial planner as a team benefit, we knew we needed to hire Sibyl Slade.
Building an inclusive community means engaging in conversations and looking for ways to do better. And, it involves a great deal of candor. Ready to join us?
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