Diversity is our greatest asset as humans, but we are in a time of great testing and unprecedented change in the United States these days. The real test will be how we, as lawyers and humans, decide to respond to the challenges with respect to diversity and growth of the legal profession.
These days it can feel like the world is uncertain and changing too fast. People are still being discriminated against for circumstances out of their control, such as their color and race. One of the best ways to grow and stay in control of ourselves and our practices is to shift how we view diversity, inclusion, and our biases. The answer is right in front of us.
In order to embrace diversity and be part of the solution, look no further than your own brand. A personal brand, as I define it, has three prongs. First, it is the process of you unearthing who you are – your unique and relevant attributes. Second, it is you communicating your uniqueness to your audience consistently. Third, and just as important, it’s seeing how your audience embraces your brand and what works (or doesn’t work) for them.
Well-defined brands have many benefits. Law firms and lawyers who have well-defined brands show strong firm culture, increased growth, effective leadership, efficient decision-making, and reduced bias.
An amazing thing happens when lawyers go through the process of defining their brands. They really come to appreciate their uniqueness and differences as human beings. As a result, not only does their self-confidence go up, but their stress goes down and their careers flourish. This then allows them to embrace others’ differences, allowing others to be a contribution to their practice of law; allowing others to co-exist, belong, and freely own their own identity and brand, too.
What does this mean for you? Stop and consider this four-step process for unearthing and evolving your legal brand, with diversity and equity as a main focal point:
- Unearth and Develop Each Lawyer’s Brand: Every lawyer needs their own brand that pours into the law firm brand and represents the firm.
- Educate the Team: Each lawyer should know about other’s brands and how they can support each other’s brand identity. Set aside time monthly, if not weekly, to allow for this formal learning to happen.
- Create an Intentional Hiring Plan: What would a diverse team look like for your firm? Putting together an intentional hiring plan ensures your firm thoughtfully assembles the right team to allow your practice to flourish.
- Create A Plan to Manage Diversity Issues: Ignoring bias or diversity issues seems easier. In the long run, firm culture and productivity will erode. Consider: What will your lawyers do if there is a bias or discrimination issue? Who will report to whom? At what level? What’s the process and procedure? Here’s a sample plan to get you started.
This ABA bar year promises to be exciting and productive. The ABA has issued a statement saying that diversity and inclusion initiatives are front and center. As chair of the ABA Law Practice Division Diversity & Inclusion Committee, I am very excited about what we have planned this year, including a committee name change proposal to truly capture the essence of our mission and a master class series, as well as other training.
We hope to follow and expand on the great work done in 2019 and 2020, which was a time of accomplishment for the committee. Two big accomplishments moved the needle on diversity within our profession. First, 135 lawyers went through the “The 21 Day Racial Equity Challenge” curriculum. At one-week intervals during the challenge, we held virtual discussions about what was prompted by the readings and video. They were thoughtful, reflective, and educational conversations that we hope lead to initiatives at a number of legal service delivery organizations. Any organization can access the program here.
Second, thanks to the research, writing, strategizing, encouragement, and creativity of the committee, the ABA signed the “CEO Diversity Pledge,” joining many Fortune 500 and professional service organizations.
The pledge outlines four specific commitments:
- We will continue to make our workplaces trusting places to have complex, and sometimes difficult, conversations about diversity and inclusion.
- We will implement and expand unconscious bias education.
- We will share best—and unsuccessful—practices. Each company has established programs and initiatives around diversity and inclusion.
- We will create and share strategic inclusion and diversity plans with our board of directors.
The hallmark of all successful brands is self-awareness. Only when we stop and reflect on our own experiences, goals, opportunities, and impact can meaningful change happen. Moving forward, please consider what your responsibility is for ensuring the legal profession is part of the solution in advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in North America. Perhaps you and your firm will look to define your brands as a way of growing your practice and allowing for diversity to flourish at your firm. Perhaps you will choose to look to your community and civic involvements with a goal of increasing attention to diverse viewpoints. Whatever you choose to do, action is critical.
About the Author
Katy Goshtasbi is a lawyer, change and branding expert, and founder of Puris Consulting. She works with law firms, lawyers, and organizations on growing, in size and profits, by mastering change and developing brands that get their message out effectively. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org