Discussion Deemed Key to Diversity
Keathan Frink
Keathan Frink is with the Law Office of Keathan B. Frink, P.A. in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and can be contacted at kfrink1@yahoo.com.
Increasing diversity is at the forefront of the legal community. Due to America’s ever-changing population, lawyers reflecting our diverse country are needed now more than ever. Unfortunately, diversity in any field is not easily achieved for many reasons, not the least of which is a lack of communication and understanding within the profession.
Many are reluctant to accept people with different backgrounds, beliefs, experiences, and cultural practices. Their reluctance may be due to a fear of the unknown. Unfortunately, this fear hinders one’s ability to talk with another individual and learn about the person’s race, culture, ethnicity, life experiences, or disabilities. It is only through communication that we can learn about each other, overcome our fear of change, and embrace diversity in the legal profession.
How can we as attorneys talk openly about diversity and explore our differences? Below are just a few suggestions.
Talk with attorneys with diverse backgrounds in your office. While in the office attorneys are busy billing hours, working on their files, and simply practicing law. Attorneys do, however, also need to eat lunch. Invite another associate, summer associate, or partner out to lunch and simply talk. Do not be afraid to ask questions and simply get to know him or her. Keep an open mind, and remember to listen twice as much as you speak.
Attend a specialty bar meeting. Whether you choose a meeting of the local affiliate of the National Bar Association, National Asian-Pacific American Bar Association, Hispanic National Bar Association, National Lesbian and Gay Law Association, or another specialty bar, all of these organizations will welcome you and give you an opportunity to learn about their members. Of course this may require you to step out of your comfort zone, but you may find the experience of attending the meeting very rewarding and informative. You can learn about the issues important to its members, and you may even find yourself joining their cause.
Attend the ABA Young Lawyers Division “Diversity: The Next Generation” Summit Saturday, April 19, 2008, at the ABA YLD Spring Conference in Washington, D.C. The YLD and other entities within the ABA will engage in an open discussion on diversity in the legal profession. This discussion will explore solutions and determine how young lawyers can ensure that the profession is as diverse as the community it serves, and fosters an inclusive legal community. Your participation could help the YLD create long-term diversity goals through resolutions drafted for the YLD Assembly. Visit http://www.abanet.org/yld/spring08/diversitysummit.html to learn more and to register for the Diversity Summit.
These are just a few suggestions for opening the lines of communication as it relates to diversity in the legal profession. Open communication can lead to understanding differences among people. Understanding people who are different and diverse creates comfort with those people. When we are comfortable with different people we are more willing to work with them, which results in a diverse legal profession. So let’s talk!