Have the Tough Conversations
About Diversity and Inclusion by Lindsay Ford Ellis For the past several years, I have been asked to serve as a panelist on the topic of diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. This is not an odd request because I currently serve as the Immediate PastPresident of the John Mercer Langston Bar Association and have served as President and President-Elect for the past several years. Moreover, I’ve served as Co-Chair of the Minorities in the Law Committee for the Columbus Bar Association. As you can see, I’m always delighted to converse about how we can continue to increase and retain diverse talent in the Columbus legal community.
A few months ago, I was asked to serve on a panel about — you guessed it — diversity and inclusion in the legal profession in the context of my role as in-house counsel. I agreed, but immediately thought about all of the panel discussions that were taking place about this topic. In these conversations, we only seemed to be scratching the surface by responding to a moderator with a list of prepared questions. We were not engaging our audience and really discussing the challenges that hiring partners and managers face in finding and retaining diversity. That is when another thought struck me: as apparent as it may seem, the topics of diversity and inclusion are not a comfortable space for everyone. I do not mean that people are not committed to increasing diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. I have found that having an open and honest dialogue about
The topics of diversity and inclusion are not easy topics to address, but we can decrease the difficulty by acknowledging and recognizing that leaving our comfort zones is okay. 12 | Columbus Bar L aw yers Quarterly Winter 2018
diversity and inclusion is not as easy for others as it is for me. The topics of diversity and inclusion involve discussions of race and ethnicity – obviously sensitive topics. No one wants to say the wrong thing for fear of being deemed racially insensitive. My guess is that many people choose to remain silent on the topic. This fear stymies truthful dialogue about diversity in the legal profession. The fear results in a lack of candor with panelists merely reciting their thoughts and the audience members silently listening. With each panel convened to “discuss” diversity and inclusion, I become more frustrated because there is no real progress made toward diversity and inclusion when there is not honest discussion. I racked my brain trying to think of a way to make the panel more of a dialogue. I was struck by how ironic it is that a group of professionals trained to have adversarial and
Published on Jan 11, 2018
Published on Jan 11, 2018
In this issue, Columbus Bar Lawyers Quarterly examines the First Amendment: from fake news to hate speech, lawyer advertising to protests an...