The Black associates who left your firm are a part of your firm’s Black history, and let’s be frank, they
likely left because of the lack of value placed on them, the lack of professional development they received, or the lack of nurturing and investment in them.
It doesn’t have to be this way. If law firm leaders actually commit to fostering an inclusive culture that encourages belonging and demands accountability, they can change this dynamic. As a result, their firm’s Black associates will stay, grow, and elevate to the partnership, truly becoming a part of the current impact and future Black History achievements.
Efforts towards inclusion should be both individual and institutional. Lasting change doesn’t just happen as the result of wishes and prayers. It requires real effort, significant resources, difficult conversations, and constantly monitoring initiatives.
The status quo
Over the past two years, in response to the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor (and too many others), law
firms have focused on Black lawyers by increasing diversity recruiting efforts and adding diversity programming. The pandemic further amplified the need for this focus, as many Black associates began to think differently about staying within toxic law firm cultures. Exclusion efforts towards Black lawyers (whether conscious or unconscious) included experiencing racial microaggressions and not being nurtured, developed, supported, or given constructive and actionable feedback. These actions—or
lack of actions—have led to significant attrition and revolving doors at law firms.
I was going to include the many disappointing law firm diversity stats, but you can view them here and see them discussed here. This is not solely a story of numbers. We have to make these diversity and inclusion efforts personal and, as lawyer and social justice advocate Bryan Stevenson says, we have to “get proximate”
with the issue. Things are not changing because institutions and structures are not changing. “We’ve always done it that way”, “If we increase diversity, we’ll lower standards”, and “They don’t fit here” are all false narratives that are surfaced to maintain the status quo. These need to be challenged and changed to improve law firm culture.
Please click here to read the rest of the article and download the Black Associate Impact Checklist