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Birmingham Bar Association

diverse and inclusive firm. This evaluation is the most difficult component of the process as it requires an internal analysis of the people, systems, and attitudes of the firm. Without a critical internal look at a firm’s culture, any efforts at “diversity” programming will fail under the weight of the everyday realities of firm life for the diverse lawyer in a firm that has not been internally critical. In conducting an accurate assessment, a firm may begin by encouraging the lawyers and staff to identify and address their individual biases. An interesting and free tool for assessment purposes is the Harvard Implicit Bias Test, which can be accessed online by logging onto www://implicit.harvard. edu/implicit/takeatest.html. While some studies indicate that those in supervisory capacities, both in and out of the legal sector, resent “rules” which govern bias, the failure to create a zero-tolerance policy banning discriminatory racist, sexist, or xenophobic language will remain a barrier to retaining diverse attorneys.18 Over the course of my career I have heard many lawyers use derogatory language that is sexist and/or racially charged, and have met many lawyers who professionally and socially limit the women within their firms, either purposely or subconsciously. These attitudes create atmospheres which frustrate and alienate diverse lawyers, and without an outlet to address these concerns, many diverse lawyers seek other opportunities. In evaluating the firm, evaluate the reasons for the resignation or termination of diverse lawyers in the past. Firms should ask other trusted law firms and lay allies of the firm to evaluate, from an external perspective, some of the reasons why the firm may lack diversity. Finally, if the development of such an analysis seems daunting, law firms should venture to hire consultants to develop and implement a confidential diversity/bias assessment of the law firm. Eliminate the Fear Legal employers may shy away employing diverse lawyers because, in their estimation, the prospect of terminating a minority lawyer or a female lawyer engenders fears of facing a discrimination claim. This attitude also evidences an implicit bias – wherein the underlying logic is firms cannot hire diverse lawyers because firms may have to fire them. This same logic undoubtedly is not applied to white male candidates. To penalize individuals because they may assert their rights if there is wrongful conduct is to embrace the very opposite of what we stand for as attorneys. It is also no shock that law firms fear a shift in their culture – especially when the culture has been socially and economically lucrative but premised upon an insular hiring scheme in which the echo chamber agrees with itself. If the plan is to create a more diverse law firm, these fears must be laid to rest. The best way to avoid a claim for discrimination is not to discriminate. Recruit Smartly and Openly Repeatedly, majority firm stakeholders have informed me that they are at a loss as to how to recruit in a manner which does not seem “race based,” and which does not expose the firm to potential litigation. Recruiting lawyers in this climate may be difficult. Diverse lawyers who graduate at the top of their classes often have major market employment opportunities which leaves small market firms in a lurch when they recruit from the same roster of potential hires. It helps to broaden the search for diverse lawyers by forming relationships with legal and non-legal diverse associations that will expose law firms to a greater pool of diverse candidates outside of the traditional Diversity paths of law school recruitment and referrals through social networks. Some of the associations from which Alabama law firms can seek to identify candidates are the Magic City Bar Association, the Alabama Lawyers Association, the Hispanic National Bar Association, the South Asian Bar Association, the Birmingham Bar Diversity Committee, the Alabama State Bar Diversity Committee, the Birmingham Islamic Society, the Birmingham Hindu Temple and Cultural Center, Temple Beth-El, and other community and religious based organizations. In addition, law firms should become familiar with the deans and professors of area law schools who can identify diverse candidates, and may assist law firms in finding non-traditional methods of seeking non-traditional lawyers. When hiring, challenge your firm to look beyond traditional means of identifying potential lawyers. Hiring Using the Same and Different Standards Now we get to the weird, confusing, and difficult part for many firms. Use both the same hiring standards, and use different hiring standards. Use the same standard - ensure, in light of the Nextion study above, that the Birmingham Bar Bulletin/ Winter 2017 13


Birmingham Bar Association
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