On November 8, 2019 more than 250 lawyers, academics, deans, judges and public service professionals gathered for a day long interactive conference at the Bar of the Association of the City of New York to explore why it is so difficult to diversify the legal profession. The conference challenge was “Why don’t we do better in leadership around equity and inclusion?”
Organized by the Freedman Institute for Legal Ethics at the Maurice A Deane School of Law, it was cosponsored by the AALS Leadership Section, seven New York area law schools, the New York State Unified Court System, several prominent national law firms and private sponsors. The planning committee included the AALS Leadership Section executive committee whose members are national figures in leadership training.
The conference asked and sought to provide answers to: How do we promote leadership training in law schools in a more inclusive and forward-thinking manner? How does the profession and the academy confront the need to develop cultural competence, deal with gender, race, and other identities affecting full participation, and address generational differences? Why have we not done better in equity and inclusion? The conference acknowledged that legal profession and law schools exist in a time of profound changes in the culture and in lawyering across various fields and it behooves us to do better.
The introduction by conference organizer, Professor Ellen Yaroshefsky, noted that we do not even have a common language and framework to discuss these difficulty issues. We are communities of many identities and relationships to power. We can be privileged in one environment but excluded in another. The notion of who is an insider and who is an outsider is relative depending on the environment in which one finds oneself. We need to change ourselves, our colleagues and our institutions. This conference of intense and engaging discussions attempted to begin that process.
NYU Professor Tony Thompson’s introductory keynote was a provocative presentation that addressed why leadership training is necessary and what it means in a diverse world. He challenged us to make diversity, equity and inclusion the center of leadership training. How do we do it?
Professors Susan Sturm and Akilah Folami then engaged in a conversation that began to explore this question. They noted that we need to begin to navigating a set of tensions as part of both lawyer-leadership development generally and building the capacity to navigate across difference. Law may be reactive, but leadership is proactive. Lawyers learn to be risk averse, but leadership requires risk-taking. These tensions, among others in legal training, present profound challenges and we sought to begin to drill down to identify skills and competencies necessary to enable the next generation to confront these challenges.
The conference explored these issues through interactive panels and presentations about law practice, and the legal academy. The academic panel with Deans Angela Omwuachi-Willig of Boston University School of Law, Dean Song Richardson of the University of California, Vice Dean Ann Cammett and Dean of Admissions Degna Levister, both of CUNY Law School and Professor Susan Jones of George Washington Law School provided concrete ideas to diversify law schools. Among the suggestions was to change the pipeline into law school by reexamining admission criteria. Law schools should start relying heavily on applicants’ past history demonstrating emotional intelligence, grit, perseverance and other factors instead of the LSAT and grades main paradigm. Consider more than standard measures of success. Other concrete suggestions included changing syllabi and exercises to incorporate methods of learning beyond casebooks; to change the 1L curriculum to reflect a more diverse culture; create spaces to confront unfairness entrenched in the law; talk about and normalize experiences of failure to relieve pressure on students; create effective mentorships; reduce costs whenever possible by considering use of older casebooks and online readings; and provide implicit bias trainings for all students and faculty alike on an ongoing basis. Overall, on this panel and the others throughout the day, there was agreement that one day diversity trainings are insufficient. Race and gender needs to be included in every conversation, particularly ones around leadership training.
The panel entitled Leadership on Cross Cultural Competencies: Race and Ethnicity, drilled down into particular competencies necessary for effective leadership including experiences of growth by “learning to be uncomfortable” in exploring race and ethnicity. The remarkable panelists from the bench, bar and academy challenged the audience to have frank and difficult conversations, to start reframing issues when discussing diversity with white colleagues, to recognize that race and gender are difficult topics, and that cultural change comes via short term shifts. Judge Julie Bernard of the Massachusetts District Court described how she and others worked moved that court toward greater equity and inclusion by constant engagement, not a day long implicit bias training.
The Leadership and Gender panel began with Professor Sweetha Ballakrishnen exploring the issue of how we define gender followed by Professor Deborah Rhode discussing the structural impediments to the advancements of women in the profession. The engaging conversation among panelists including former federal Judge Shira Scheindlin, Aisha Greene, the director of attorney development at the Cadwalader firma and Cecilia Loving, the Deputy Commissioner of the New York City Fire Department who had remarkable success in diversifying the fire department.
The unique panel that ended the day was Leadership Across Generations. Listening to the perspectives of millennials, Gen X and Gen Z pointed to the critical need to address cultural differences among generations including issues such as work-life balance, work direction, mindfulness and most significantly, coping with student debt. These lawyers and law students who are future of this profession challenged the audience to change and to acknowledge incorporations of new voices in leadership.
The excitement in the room throughout the day was palpable and there is an acknowledged need to continue these conversations and develop concrete plans to move forward. This includes developing resource materials for law schools, ongoing conferences and programs and vehicles for effective communication.
Many have asked if the conference was recorded. It was not because the panelists wanted the opportunity to speak freely.
The following reading includes books and articles on leadership, diversity in the profession, race and ethnicity in the training of lawyers, gender and the legal profession and students as leaders and is first step to accomplishing this goal.
- Anthony C. Thompson, Dangerous Leaders: How and Why Lawyers Must Be Taught to Lead (2018)
- Deborah Rhode, Lawyers as Leaders (2013)
- Stacey Abrams, Lead From the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change (2019)
ADVANCING LEADERSHIP IN THE LEGAL PROFESSION SYMPOSIUM:
- Donald Polden, Lawyers, Leadership, and Innovation, 58 Santa Clara L. Rev. 427 (2019)
- Barry Z. Posner, Leadership Development in Law Schools: Myths, Principles, and Practices, 58 Santa Clara L. Rev. 399 (2019)
- Deborah L. Rhode, Preparing Leaders: The Evolution of a Field and the Stresses of Leadership, 58 Santa Clara L. Rev. 411 (2019)
- Rachel F. Moran, The Three Ages of Modern American Lawyering and the Current Crisis in the Legal Profession and Legal Education, 58 Santa Clara L. Rev. 453 (2019)
- R. Lisle Baker, Character and Fitness for Leadership: Learning Interpersonal Skills, 58 Santa Clara L. Rev. 525 (2019)
- Douglas A. Blaze, Law Student Motivation, Satisfaction, and Well-Being: The Value of a Leadership and Professional Development Curriculum, 58 Santa Clara L. Rev. 547 (2019)
- Neil Hamilton, Leadership of Self: Each Student Taking Ownership Over Continuous Professional Development/Self-Directed Learning, 58 Santa Clara L. Rev. 567 (2019)
- Louis D. Bilionis, Law School Leadership and Leadership Development for Developing Lawyers, 58 Santa Clara L. Rev. 601 (2019)
- Leah Witcher Jackson Teague, Training Lawyers for Leadership: Vitally Important Mission for the Future Success (And Maybe Survival) of the Legal Profession and Our Democracy, 58 Santa Clara L. Rev. 633 (2019)
- Doug Blaze, Leading as Professional Lawyers, Institute for Professional Leadership (last visited Oct. 18 2019)
- Ben W. Heineman, Jr., Lawyers as Leaders, 116 Yale L.J. Pocket Part 266 (2007)
- Garry W. Jenkins, Educating Lawyer-Leaders: The Mechanics and Artistry of Case Study Teaching and Discussion Leadership, 83 Tenn. L. Rev. 729 (2016)
- Lisa Loo, Investing In Future Leaders, 53 AZ Attorney 6 (2016)
- George T. “Buck” Lewis & Douglas A. Blaze, Training Leaders the Very Best Way We Can, 83 Tenn. L. Rev. 771-95 (2016)
- R. Brad Morgan, Developing Skills of Leadership through Service Learning: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and a Path to Effective Leadership, 83 Tenn. L. Rev. 915, 915-30 (2016)
- Donald Polden, Leadership Roundtable Article: Leadership Matters: Lawyers’ Leadership Skills and Competencies, 52 Santa Clara L. Rev. 899 (2012)
- Anna Rappaport, The Most Underutilized Tool in a Leader’s Tool Box, Law Practice Today, (Dec. 14, 2015)
- Deborah Rhode, Leadership in Law, 69 Stan. L. Rev. 1603 (2017)
- Jennifer L. Rosato, Reflections of a Reluctant Pioneer, 48 Cal. W. L. Rev. 445, 445-52 (2012)
- Laura Stein, Reflection on Lawyers as Leaders, 69 Stan. L. Rev. 841 (2017)
- Susan Strum, Law Schools, Leadership, and Changes, 127 Harv. L. Rev. F. 49 (2013)
- Scott A. Westfahl & David B. Wilkins, The Leadership Imperative: A Collaborative Approach to Professional Development in the Global Age of More or Less, 69 Stan. L. Rev. 1667 (2017)
SELECTED ARTICLES ON RACE AND ETHNICITY IN LEADERSHIP TRAINING IN THE PROFESSION
- American Bar Association Commission on Racial and Ethnic and Diversity in the Legal Profession (links to articles in the Innovator)
- BE MORE – Diagnostic
- BE MORE – PRISM: Explained
- Maria Beaulieu, The Underrepresentation of Racial and Ethnic Minorities in the Legal Profession, Honors College, (2018)
- Loren M. Brown, Education in Leadership–Go COBALT!, 44 Colo. Law. 5, 5-6 (2015)
- Anurag Gupta, Realizing the Constitutional Promise: Initiating Transition in America to Overcome the Legacy of White Supremacy, Unpublished Work (2011)
- Anurag Gupta, Vedana of Bias Latent Likes and Dislikes Fuelling Barriers to Human Connection, (2018)
- Victor Li, Opening Doors: Microsoft’s Legal Chief Trumpets Diversity Council’s Accomplishments, 102 A.B.A.J. 29 (2016)
- Carla D. Pratt, Sisters in Law: Black Women Lawyers’ Struggle for Advancement, 2012 Mich. St. L. Rev. 1777, 1777-95 (2014)
- Report on Diversity in the Legal Profession, 2019 National Association of Legal Professionals
- Deborah Rhode and Lucy Buford Ricca, Diversity in the Legal Profession: Perspectives from Managing Partners and General Counsel, 83 Fordham L Rev. 2483 (2015)
- The State of Diversity and Inclusion in the Legal Profession, The Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession, (2017)
SELECTED ARTICLES ON GENDER AND THE LEGAL PROFESSION
- Deborah Rhode, Women and Leadership (2013)
- Swethaa Ballakrishnen, Priya Fielding-Singh, & Devon Magliozzi, Intentional Invisibility: Professional Women and the Navigation of Workplace Constraints, 62 Sociological Perspectives 23, 23-41 (2018)
- Swethaa S. Ballakrishnen, Nevertheless They Persisted: Gendered Frameworks and Socialization Advantages in Indian Professional Service Firms, 55 Canadian Rev. of Soc. 343, 343-361 (2018)
- Swethaa S. Ballakrishnen, ‘She Gets the Job Done’: Entrenched Gender Meanings and New Returns to Essentialism in India’s Elite Professional Firms, 4 J. of Prof. & Org. 324, 324-342 (2017)
- Lauren Etter, Women are Squarely in the Picture Where Law and Technology Combine, 100 A.B.A.J. 1 (2014)
- Susan L. Harper, The Moment is Now, 91 N.Y. St. B. Ass’n J. (2019)
- Russell G. Pearce, Eli Wald, & Swethaa S. Ballakrishnen, Difference Blindness vs. Bias Awareness: Why Law Firms with the Best of Intentions Have Failed to Create Diverse Partnerships, 83 Fordham L. Rev. 2407 (2015)
- Priya Fielding-Singh, Devon Magliozzi, & Swethaa Ballakrishnen, Why Women Stay Out of the Spotlight at Work, Harvard Business Review (Aug. 28, 2018)
- Cathy R. Silak, Expanding Leadership Opportunities for Women Lawyers, 54 The Advocate 18, 18-19 (2011)
- Katherine Earle Yanes & Erin G. Jackson, Staying in the Game, 63 Federal Lawyer 50, 50-56 (2016)
STUDENTS AS LEADERS
- Alexia Brunet Marks & Scott A. Moss, What Predicts Law Student Success? A Longitudinal Study Correcting Law Student Applicant Data and Law School Outcomes, 13 J. Empirical Legal Stud. 205 (2016)
- Neil W. Hamilton, Fostering and Assessing Law Student Teamwork and Team Leadership Skills, Hofstra L. Rev. (forthcoming 2019)
- Faith River James, Engaging Law Students in Leadership, 30 St. Louis U. Pub. L. Rev. 409 (2011)
- Michael J. Madison, Leading New Lawyers: Leadership and Legal Education, 83 Tenn. L. Rev. 751, 751-69 (2016)
- Bebe Vanek, Transformational Servant-Focused Leadership: An Intention for Your Career, 31 Utah Bar J. 57, 57-58 (2018)
These materials can be accessed at: