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DIVERSITY ISSUE

 

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June 2008 Issue | Volume 34 Number 4| Page 4

PERSPECTIVES

Insights from LPM Chair Vedia Jones-Richardson

On the Horizon for Law Practice Management.

This issue’s focus on diversity supports a key emphasis of my work as LPM Section Chair. Early in my planning for the year’s activities, the theme of the “mosaic” began to resonate with me. This mosaic theme refers to an assemblage of disparate elements that in combination produce a greater work. This is how I conceive of us as members of the legal profession, that we are a collection of varied individuals who each have a unique perspective that contributes to the success of the greater whole.

There were a number of reasons to place an emphasis on the issue of diversity this year. As the Section’s first person of color to serve as chair, and a woman as well, I naturally am attuned to the importance of this area. In addition, this long has been an important core mission of the LPM Section, which some time ago worked with the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity and the ABA Commission on Women to establish its guiding principles for the promotion of diversity, and the Section is regenerating its leadership today.

This is an important area of development for the profession as a whole—in fact, establishing diversity has become a critical strategic measure for the success and survival of legal organizations of all kinds. To help our members better understand the concerns involved, at our Fall Meeting in Puerto Rico we conducted a groundbreaking three-part program on establishing a culture of inclusiveness, while during the same weekend launching our inaugural workshop for women lawyers. This year also saw the reestablishment of a Standing Committee on Diversity to help channel the Section’s endeavors. (For more on the Standing Committee and its work, see page 49.)

Much still remains to be done, of course, and it needs to be done at virtually every level of the profession, including individual law firms.

Establishing a solid and diverse base in the talent pool that comprises a law firm or legal department is no easy matter. Between having the desire to be inclusive and reaching the goal there is a wide gulf of understanding. Wise firms that get it realize that achieving diversity in numbers alone is not the solution and that developing a culture in which diversity thrives for the long term is a wholly different matter. Without a true culture of inclusiveness—where diversity is an unquestioned element of every aspect of the firm and its processes—there is only a transitory illusion of diversity. Increasing hiring numbers without retaining individuals is costly and merely reduces diversity maintenance initiatives to a frustrating chore.

The articles in this issue of Law Practice discuss a variety of principles, tactics, questions and concerns that apply in efforts to develop truly diverse and successful teams and build cultures where differences are inherently valued. Finding answers to the questions and concerns raised may be difficult, but it will be worth it for everyone. I am hopeful that we in the LPM Section can make an invaluable contribution to the legal profession through our ongoing work in this area.

About the Author

Vedia Jones-Richardson , Chair of the ABA Law Practice Management Section, is a principal with Olive & Olive, PA, an intellectual property law firm in Durham, NC.

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