Implementing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) initiatives within law firms and corporations

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By Christopher B. Dolan, Mari Bandoma Callado and Katelyn P. Dembowski

There is a lot of talk these days about diversity, equity and inclusion within companies. Does your company do anything to promote diversity yourself? If so, what can others do to follow your example?

Skyler, San Francisco

Thanks for your question, Skyler. In the winter of 2020, Senior Associate Attorney Mari Bandoma Callado reached out to Dolan Law Firm Founder and General Counsel Chris Dolan to create a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) Committee. This was just after the Black Lives Matter movement peaked in the summer of 2020. Mr. Dolan was immediately on board with his vision. It was an easy transition because our firm has always supported lawyers involved in DE&I initiatives outside of the firm, including, but not limited to, sponsoring various fundraising efforts for bar associations and encouraging lawyers to take on leadership roles and/or volunteer in community organizations and events. . The firm has also been very supportive of lawyers with children and has allowed for more flexible scheduling for new parents.

However, every organization or law firm is different. There is no “one size fits all” approach to starting a diversity, equity and inclusion committee or implementing DE&I initiatives. This article will discuss the importance of DE&I and provide tools on how to establish a DE&I committee or initiative, as well as reflect on the success and challenges of Dolan Law Firm’s efforts.

What is Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I)?

Diversity is expressed in different forms, including visible and invisible diversity: race, ethnicity, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, age, socio-economic status, language, culture, religious commitments and (disability) status .

However, diversity without “inclusion” is exclusion. Most lump diversity and inclusion together, but they’re actually two different things, and diversity doesn’t necessarily translate to inclusion. Inclusion is diversity in action. It’s about creating an environment that understands, accepts and values ​​the differences between people – and not just different backgrounds, but different ideas, experiences and perspectives.

Fairness or the experience of fairness is about ensuring that all people have equal opportunities and that bias, harassment and discrimination are not tolerated. It’s about understanding that everyone’s journey is not the same and breaking down barriers that prevent the full participation of certain groups.

Development of a DE&I strategic plan

We recommend that you work with stakeholders and supporters to develop a DE&I strategic plan based on the enterprise-wide assessment you perform. It was important for us to take our time to develop the program and work as a group to build a common vision and determine our objectives. This included in-depth discussions within the committee (which included people and marketing managers) and encouraged participation from everyone within the company by inviting all staff to monthly planning meetings.

The Dolan Law Firm Committee drafted a mission statement and goals as a group:

Mission Statement: To provide equal justice for all, Dolan Law Firm is committed to advancing and nurturing a diverse, equal, and inclusive workplace that reflects the communities we serve.

Implementation of DE&I initiatives

Set up a structure to facilitate your plan. Through our monthly meetings (which were held virtually during the pandemic), we were able to delegate tasks and coordinate programming and activities to achieve our goals related to retention, recruitment and community outreach.

Retention

A key element is to include an activity or discussion that allowed us to get to know each other better and for employees to better understand their own experiences and even their own biases. The committee suggested group activities based on presentations we were making that month, events happening at the firm, and/or ongoing events. Examples of group activities:

Discussion regarding the use of pronouns; Presentation “Recognition of the territory”; an activity on overcoming the impostor syndrome; “Wall of Appreciation,” which allowed committee members to anonymously tell each other things they appreciated about their colleagues; an activity on identity and diversity — “How does the world see you? » ; discussion on “What is your superpower? » ; and check in on the highlight of your week.

In the first year, we focused on developing presentations and DE&I activities created by our committee members to achieve the retention goal of our mission statement. Examples of presentations: Black History Month presentation on the unsung S/heroes of the civil rights movement; Women’s History Month presentation on intersectionality; Introducing anti-AAPI hate + bystander intervention training; Celebrating Diversity Month — presentation on implicit biases; Celebrate Pride Month — Introducing Pride Month; Presentation of anti-Semitism in progressive spaces; Introducing Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month.

Recruitment

It is important that the Committee participate in recruitment efforts. We have a representative at each interview with a lawyer and/or staff member who shares the firm’s commitment to DE&I and asks questions to gauge the candidate’s interest and/or commitment to DE&I. We have also added the mission statement/commitment to DE&I in job postings. The committee continues to collaborate with human resources in the development and implementation of the DE&I talent acquisition strategy.

Marketing and Community Outreach

A DE&I representative is part of the marketing team and helps ensure that the business continues to be connected to the community we aim to serve. The committee regularly creates content for the firm’s website and social media accounts that showcases the diversity of our team, issues statements that reflect the firm’s commitments and values, and regularly spotlights our team members. who are doing amazing things for the community through their leadership. role and volunteer work.

Additionally, the company is committed to supporting organizations that share the same commitment to DE&I. The firm has long supported and sponsored various organizations such as the CAOC Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF), Filipino Bar Association of Northern California (FBANC), East Bay La Raza, and just recently became a member law firm of the Charles Houston Bar Association.

We hope you have found this information useful and if you know of any companies or organizations looking to implement more DE&I measures, please do not hesitate to contact us.

For more information about Dolan Law Firm, you can visit dolanlawfirm.com.

To read more articles from our blog, visit us at: Dolan Law Firm Blog.

Christopher B. Dolan is the owner of the law firm of Dolan, PC. Mari Bandoma Callado is a senior associate attorney and director of DE&I. Katelyn P. Dembowski is an associate attorney in our Oakland office. We serve clients throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and California from our offices in San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles. Email questions and topics for future articles to: [email protected] Every situation is different and this column does not constitute legal advice. We recommend that you consult an experienced lawyer to fully understand your rights.

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