Be Generous with Your Time
There is much discussion and focus today in the legal profession on increasing diversity and inclusion in private law firms, and rightly so. This awareness is reflected in firms creating affinity groups and various committees whose missions are to elevate awareness of unconscious bias, and gender and minority disparities. All of the resources and commitments that firms are investing in these institutional macro-level endeavors are a sign of a promising cultural and value shift that bodes well.
Yet, no employer can afford to rest on their laurels after establishing these initiatives and committees to address a lack of diversity and inclusion. They are only a first step in creating a meaningful, sustainable shift. Personal day-to-day investment in the individual is an often overlooked element in attracting and retaining diverse employees. Hard work and being a “high-achiever” only takes one so far; team work and the ability to build and leverage relationships and critical in diverse talent development and retention. If we are committed to building a diverse and inclusive workplace, we need to demonstrate the power of leveraging relationships to create a feeling of belonging and being valued. Building and modeling those relationships takes generosity of time and care.
In looking back on my own development, it was the informal mentoring, friendship, care, and support that I received on a day-to-day basis, not just from my friends and family, but also from my colleagues that made a difference to me. It was the day-to-day generosity of people who gave their time to get to know me as a person, and to mentor and guide me, which enabled me to identify, evaluate, and take advantage of the opportunities that arose. Their generosity made me feel like a valued member of the group.
Although my experience is anecdotal, in my role as co-chair of my firm’s Attorney Development Committee, which oversees the professional development and mentoring of associates and “off-track” attorneys, I have observed the feeling of being “included” as a necessary element in the development and retention of all attorneys, and especially attorneys from diverse backgrounds. I believe the best way we can all continue to promote diversity and inclusion is to extend the same generosity to others as we were fortunate enough to have received—or wish we had received.