Creating a Diversity and Inclusion Plan: Tips from the CBA’s Diversity & Inclusion Summit

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Connecticut Bar Association's Diversity and Inclusion Summit, hosted at Quinnipiac University School of Law. The event was an entire day dedicated to ways legal organizations can work to increase diversity and inclusion, ways those efforts can be measured, and why diversity and inclusion are so important. 

It's no secret that creating a diverse workplace can be a challenge, but it's a challenge that is worthwhile. Diversity is not a fashionable agenda or a fleeting moment. We are a stronger workforce when we have different views and work to maximize our talents. In fact, diverse teams of attorneys are often more innovative and creative, which can only lead to better results for their companies.

Diversity is more than just the visible diversity we generally think of, like race, age, or gender. Invisible diversity, such as religion, thinking style, socioeconomic status, and personality, all help to make us unique and allow us to bring a fresh perspective to the table. But we don't want to just recruit a diverse group, we want that group to stay and feel valued. That's where the inclusion part comes in. How people experience your organization once they're in the door matters. We need to think not only about getting a diverse group of people in our doors but also how we can create an environment that acknowledges and respects that diversity and enables each and every person to feel valued.

So where do we start? The first step we discussed at the Summit is the evaluation. We need to honestly assess our current diversity and inclusion landscape and identify where we are now and where we want to be. Take note of what is being done well and look for opportunities for change.  

There are a few key elements that need to be in play for a diversity and inclusion initiative to see success. The first is a strategic plan. Sit down and outline your vision for your organization, put it in writing! You need to have a concrete plan and concrete goals to measure your progress.

Next, set up an infrastructure to advance that vision. Whether it be a diversity committee or diversity chairs, make sure there is a group of people who focus on meeting your diversity goals and affecting the change you want to see.

Third, communicate. We've all heard that communication is key, but it's true. Make sure you're spreading the word about your diversity efforts. Everyone at your organization should be on the same page and know what role they play in this new initiative.

And finally, be accountable. If you don't hit your diversity goals, take a critical look at why. Be honest about what's working and what isn't. You won't get it right the first time, but by holding each other accountable, you'll be able to move forward.

Remember, diversity and inclusion efforts aren't something you can schedule once a month or a few times a year. A successful initiative requires commitment and dedication. Don't get discouraged when you don't see immediate results. Keep evaluating your progress and keep pushing forward with your efforts. Diversity and inclusion are too important to the future of the legal profession to throw in the towel.

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