July 22, 2019 Spotlight on Diversity and Inclusion

In the July/August GPSolo Magazine: Diversity Matters

By Cedric Ashley

The upcoming issue of GPSolo magazine, “Diversity Matters,” focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion (D, E & I) within the legal profession, the ABA, and the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division.

Denise M. Sharperson, an attorney and certified diversity professional, looks to move the needle of D, E & I by highlighting the importance and value of “inclusion” in the process. Denise makes clear that for diversity and inclusion efforts to be truly be effective, we are all responsible for ensuring that everyone is accepted, appreciated, and actively engaged; and that there is a seat at the table for everyone—even if you have to bring your own folding chair. Look out for her article, “Moving Beyond the Illusion of Inclusion.”

In their article “A Case Study in Diversity: Strategic Alliances,” Lisa D. Love, Diane Fleming Averell, and Renée L. Davis provide insight to the formation of a successful diversity alliance between a majority white-owned mid-sized firm and an African American–owned small firm. Through this long-term alliance, the firms have been able to successfully pursue and secure business opportunities that they would be unable to secure individually.

In “Looking Back to Move Forward,” Thomas H. Prol explores the history of the advancement of LGBTQ rights before New Jersey state courts. Dr. Artika R. Tyner explores the timely and important topic of “Unconscious Bias, Implicit Bias, and Microaggressions.” And in a related vein, Celeste Fiore explores what it means to be a culturally competent lawyer in today’ profession. The issue of disabilities is often overlooked in the diversity space; Kathleen Balthrop Havener explores this crucial topic in her article “Four Steps to Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities.”

Sometimes D, E & I initiatives are slow to gain support. However, at no time should anyone have to suffer though harassment or discrimination because they are a member of some protected class. In the article “ABA Model Rule 8.4(g): What It Is and What You Need to Know About It,” I provide an overview of this Model Rule intended to prevent harassing and discriminatory conduct in the profession. What you thought was just “boys will be boys” conduct may quite possibly be grounds for professional sanctions.  (You can read more about the origins and impact of ABA Model Rule 8.4(g) in the inteview with Former ABA President Paulette Brown that appears in this issue of the GPSolo eReport.)

Unlike lawyers, whose venue for redress or discipline is a self-policing authority, litigants find refuge for their claims in the courts. During the past two years of various “breaking news” headlines, the Trump administration has quietly reshaped the federal courts for decades to come. James Alexander Lewis V explores this topic in his article “A More Perfect Union: Advancing Diversity in the U.S. Courts” and provides insight on the staggering lack of diversity in these appointments.

The GPSolo Division of the ABA started on the D, E & I process more than 20 years ago. The Division was quite visionary by adopting a Diversity Plan and establishing a Diversity Fellows Program prior to the ABA’s adoption of its own plan. In the article titled “A Journey to Diversity: Reminiscences by Wynn A. Gunderson,” former Division Chair and inaugural Diversity Fellow James M. Durant III introduces the personal diversity journey of Wynn Gunderson, who as GPSolo Chair was instrumental in rolling out the Division’s diversity initiatives.

To further highlight how diversity truly matters, four former Diversity Fellow are featured in interviews collectively titled “Profiles in Diversity.” Each of these former Diversity Fellows proves that if organizations are intentional about reaching out to diverse persons and provide those persons with an opportunity to serve, success and retention can be achieved.

In order to reach out to new persons, sometimes we have to get out of the natural silos and cliques of our own comfort zone. Current GPSolo Diversity Board Chair Lisa L. Atkinson provides practical, actionable guidance on how to achieve this in her article “Start Networking with People Who Are NOT Like You.” (And you can read the story of how she reached beyond her own comfort zone in her article for this issue of the GPSolo eReport.)

Finally, three authors take on the topic of diversity as it relates to legal tech and law practice management. Aastha Madaan looks at diverse pioneers in the world of tech; Joshua Lenon looks at the promise and potential of human capital in his article “Neither Up, Nor Out: Seizing the Untapped Potential of an Existing Diverse Workforce in Your Boutique Law Firm”; and Jeff Lantz explores the topic of image in “What Does Your Home Page Say about Your Firm?”

Just as the GPSolo Division paved the way with its initial Diversity Plan and Diversity Fellows Program, we hope the “Diversity Matters” issue of GPSolo will move the needle on the issue of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the profession.

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Cedric Ashley (cedric@ashleylawfirm.com), Esq., is a sole practitioner (Ashley Law Firm) in Princeton, New Jersey, concentrating in business, employment, and criminal litigation. He currently serves as the Assistant Editor of GPSolo magazine. He is also an elected member of the General Council of the ABA GPSolo Division for the 2017–2021 term.