In D&I in the News, News

A 21st century diversity strategy for lawyers | Katya Hodge | Canadian Bar Association

Successful leaders in the coming years will be those who can ably solicit and harness the power of diverse perspectives, says Dr. Arin Reeves, author of best-selling The Next IQ: The Next Level of Intelligence for 21st Century Leaders. National caught up with Dr. Reeves, ahead of her keynote address at the upcoming CBA Legal Conference in Saskatoon, to discuss how to build a modern diverse workforce inside your legal shop.

National: How can the legal profession update its vocabulary for the 21st century?

Arin Reeves: The legal profession needs to shift its vocabulary from talking about just diversity to diversity and inclusion. Diversity refers to the differences that we all bring to our workplaces, but inclusion is about the ability to be open to those differences and leverage them in the ways in which we think, work and lead.

N: How does changing the vocabulary help?

AR: Changing our workplaces for the better begins with using the right words to formulate both the challenges as well as the solutions. “How do we get more diversity?” leads us to think in terms of hiring, hiring, and more hiring. “How do we retain the diversity we hire?” allows us to understand that hiring diverse perspectives is the beginning and creating a workplace where diverse perspectives can thrive (inclusion) is what matters. Vocabulary shapes the ways in which we think about the problem and the solution, so changing the vocabulary changes the ways in which we approach and create real diversity and inclusion.

N: How do you implement the incentives for diversity?
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AR: The incentives for diversity are complex because different incentives work for different people, and what works for individuals may not be well articulated by any particular organization. The more personal and flexible the incentives are, the more people are able to connect to them, and you implement those “personal and flexible” incentives with clear communication, modeled behaviors by leadership and consistent accountability for people’s behaviors.

N: As older people leave the profession and younger people enter it, is there more openness to diversity and inclusion?

AR: There is definitely a greater desire for diversity and inclusion in the younger generation, but the desired diversity and inclusion won’t occur organically. Workplaces need to anticipate these changes and create opportunities for these changes to take root and thrive.

N: How do you feel the legal profession has performed on the issue of diversity and inclusion?

AR: In short, not well. We have many challenges in the legal profession that require us to think innovatively about this topic. Inclusive access to legal education systems have a profound impact on diversity and inclusion in our profession, and this access currently is inaccessible by many demographics. We are also a precedent-based profession which makes us inherently more risk averse and resistant to change, and that definitely makes it harder for us to embrace the changes that diversity and inclusion require. So, we are working hard, but we are not doing as well as we could be doing.

N: What is the first necessary step for firms to take to open their doors to diversity and inclusion?

AR: The first step is for leaders to personally understand, acknowledge and articulate why diversity and inclusion is important to them as leaders and to the organization as a whole. Understanding the “why” at the leadership level paves the way for the “how” to work.

Katya Hodge, Canadian Bar Association

Copyright (c) 2013 Canadian Bar Association

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