Identifying and removing barriers: The OSBA commits to diversity and inclusion

July 24, 2017

By Stephanie Hanna, OSBA Senior Manager of Member Outreach and Engagement

Identifying and removing barriers: The OSBA commits to diversity and inclusionJust last year, The Washington Post reported that the law is the least diverse profession in the nation. Meanwhile, studies show that diversity in the workplace disrupts conformity, and prompts people to think more deeply about problems and to avoid miscalculations. That is why earlier this year, leaders from the legal community gathered to ask: “What are we going to do about it?”

On May 31 and June 1, over 60 bar leaders from across the state convened at the OSBA to begin working on the answer. Recognized expert, Kathleen Nalty, Esq., led attendees in a two-day implicit bias training aimed at education about implicit bias and developing strategies for creating cultures of inclusion. The hands-on, dynamic training touched on several topics, including:

  • ​Understanding the difference between diversity and inclusion;
  • Making the business case for diversity and inclusion;​​​
  • Recognizing unconscious biases and strategies to interrupt those biases; and
  • Defining an inclusive workplace and creating a diversity and inclusion action plan.

A popular topic at the training was addressing critics in your organization that may not see the immediate value of strategically incorporating diversity and inclusion initiatives in the organization. From Nalty’s book, Going All-In on Diversity and Inclusion: The Law Firm Leader’s Playbook, which all attendees received, here are a few common concerns and responses leaders can use to address them:

Concern: The diversity and inclusion costs outweigh their return on investment:

Response: Actually, it costs the firm $____ every time we lose a good attorney we’d rather keep. Plus, diversity and inclusion is really about good management skills, so if we start managing all talent better, there shouldn’t be any significant extra costs.

Concern: We already have several diversity programs (and are receiving awards for them) so why do we have to add inclusiveness?

Response: Diversity is about getting different people in the door and inclusiveness is about keeping them. We have done a great job on traditional diversity but we have a higher attrition rates for attorneys in underrepresented groups. We will be better positioned to retain and advance them if we work to uncover hidden barriers to their success through an inclusiveness initiative.

Concern: I don’t have enough time to add another program to my daily workload so I’m not going to participate.

Response: Inclusiveness isn’t a separate program or an add-on; rather, it is the very foundation of what will help us be more successful. It is about messaging everyone well, not just a few. It is about investing in everyone’s success and behaving in a way that is respectful and inclusive of everyone. inclusiveness is really something you incorporate into everything you do, just like making money on our client matters, acting ethically, and providing quality work for our clients. Research tells us that people are more inclined to invest in their affinity group. So if you aren’t intentionally including everyone, you are unintentionally excluding some people. That means we are leaving money on the table by underutilizing assets. If you practice being inclusive, however, it will become second nature.

Concern: I’m not diverse so why do I have to participate?

Response: Everyone in this organization contributes to the prevailing climate and culture so everyone must be engaged in making our organization more inclusive of everyone, not just a few people. And to the extent you supervise or manage any attorneys in underrepresented groups, you could be part of the problem without even knowing it.

The OSBA is committed to helping further important diversity and inclusion education in our profession. For more information and resources, please visit




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