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February 03, 2024

GOOD Guys continue fight for diversity in workplace

Since 2016, the National Conference of Women’s Bar Associations has promoted self-awareness of men and specifically the importance for male leaders in the law to become activists for the financial and non-financial benefits of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) in the workplace.

On Feb. 2, the group teamed up with the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division to present a 90-minute workshop on why and how male leaders in law firms need to speak up on DEIB and challenge workplace norms that should be changed.

“We have to acknowledge what we don’t know,” Steven Velkei, a Los Angeles lawyer and chief presenter said. “We can’t know what we haven’t experienced. As men, we forget that.”

The workshop at the ABA Midyear Meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, was titled, “Calling All GOOD Guys: Maximizing the Incredible Financial and Intangible Benefits of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB).” GOOD stands for Guys Overcoming Obstacles to Diversity.

Since launching its effort eight years ago, the women’s bar has teamed up with other bar groups, including the ABA YLD previously, across the U.S. to evangelize for the need for more male leadership if law firm culture is going to change and the number of diverse equity partners is going to increase.

“This concept of bias goes deep,” Velkei said. “I have found what many lawyers won’t do is say, ‘I am sorry.’” He added that the three tools that help to lead to change in the workplace culture of the legal profession is: ask, listen and say, “I’m sorry.”

While GOOD Guys is a program designed to break the impasse in women’s advancement in the legal profession by engaging people who have been missing from the conversation for too long – men ― it reaches beyond women to other diverse groups, such as Black people and members of the LGBTQ community.

Teresa Beck, a Chicago lawyer and one of the founders of the GOOD Guys program, explained that the intent is to get men and women “together and talk about what we can do to change things.”

In addition to Velkei, four male lawyers discussed their efforts to support DEIB in the workplace.

Daniel Van Horn, a partner at Butler Snow in Memphis, Tennessee, captured the sentiment of the group when he stressed the importance of spending “time really getting to know people” and build relationships “so when you have to have the hard conversations you can.”