Advancing Diversity & Inclusion in 2021

Tara Marshall-Hill (2).jpg

              Tara Marshall-Hill

By Scott E. Pacheco, marketing and communications manager at Lerch, Early & Brewer, Chtd.

The many troubling events over the last year really brought into focus the injustice that many people have been experiencing for so long. This increased awareness has led to many positive steps being taken: Firms and organizations publicly stated their support for the fight against racial injustice, Juneteenth became a part of everyone’s lexicon (and a deservedly paid holiday for many), and many diversity and inclusion professionals gained higher levels of support for initiatives they’ve long had on their plates.

But the road is long, and the work has just begun. With so much attention on these issues, where should law firms start? How can they avoid drinking from the proverbial fire hose and implement meaningful initiatives to further their D&I goals? Just as importantly, how can they avoid doing things that will have very little impact?

Tara Marshall-Hill, the new director of LMA Mid-Atlantic Region’s Diversity, Advocacy and Community Engagement Committee, provides below three areas that D&I and legal marketing professionals can focus on in 2021 to further their firms’ goals:

1. Recognize that we are ALL called to be “accomplices,” and develop a strategy accordingly.

We’ve likely already all heard the refrain, “Don’t just be an ally; be an accomplice.” The next step is usually for the most visually privileged group to take up the mantle, put aside their privilege and do the work. First and foremost, before I go any further, let me be one thousand percent clear: In the United States of America, descendants of stolen Africans have a history of egregious oppression and marginalization that is so incredulously systemic, that it will require deep and pervasive paradigm shifts at every level of every institution to even begin to create an equitable system. I do not subscribe to “all our oppressions are the same” – they just simply, objectively, are not. That being said, I also do not subscribe to participation in an “oppression Olympics.” It serves no one and is a colossal waste of energy that could be directed into more useful activities. In the words of Willie Jackson, “It’s important to acknowledge privilege that may coexist with marginalization.” It’s one of the reasons I’m so passionate about the Diversity Heritage Celebration and Awareness Initiative – it’s a chance to go a step further than simply highlighting achievements or learning about a certain culture or group. But it’s also a chance to develop greater awareness about their struggles and how those in a position of privilege can become better accomplices.

2. Encourage stakeholders within your organization to do individual work in alignment with the organization’s diversity, equity and inclusion strategy.

In order for the institutional paradigm shifts to take place as a precursor to systemic equity, they must first take place at the level of the individual – after all, institutions are built by individuals, maintained by individuals and create benefits/disadvantages for individuals. Just as with any other professional development or wellness program that touts personal benefits for employees, what programs or initiatives can you put in place to nurture empathetic accountability amongst individual employees? Racism, ableism, bigotry, sexism, xenophobia … it all takes a mental, emotional and financial toll on all of the marginalized groups, and it is certainly not up to them to fix it. Create the right incentives – beyond a moral imperative – for unpacking and unlearning behaviors that support the systems of oppression within society, and resultingly, the workplace.

3. Metrics, metrics, metrics: Create a framework for accountability and measurements of success.

I’ve always been amazed when law firms that have NO metrics around measurable outcomes for diversity “initiatives,” which were often one-offs, end up getting diversity awards. I’m not aware of any corporation, law firm or similar organization that does not have a growth strategy. As part of that growth strategy, very specific initiatives are developed with very specific key performance indicators as a measurement of success. KPIs serve the function of not just determining success, but being able to determine the efficacy of the initiative as it is being implemented to inform any necessary course correction to increase the likelihood of success. I want to be explicitly clear here – there is a distinct difference between 1) collecting data to improve success of DEI “outcomes” within an organization, and 2) putting together financial projections to convince someone of the “business case for diversity.” As a practitioner, you can easily determine which you are being asked to do based on the data points you are asked to collect. Pay attention, and draw attention, where necessary to ensure alignment with the real DEI agenda.

In the newly created role on the regional board, Marshall-Hill will spend the next two years working with the board, LSC leaders and volunteers to reflect LMA’s diversity, equity and empowerment of legal marketers of color through intentionally inclusive programming, policies, leadership development, membership outreach, and more. If you’re interested in serving on the Diversity, Advocacy and Community Engagement Committee, please contact Marshall-Hill at lma.midatlantic.diversity@gmail.com.

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