Diversity, Equality, Inclusion (DEI) and the Law – It’s About Your Soul
Dec 05, 2022
BY KEVIN KAMPSCHROR, Esq.
Partner & Workers Compensation Department Attorney for Shook & Stone Injury Lawyers
In Judaism we believe that your soul lives on forever. Although I recognize that the NJA audience is not all Jewish, DEI and ultimately your law firm culture is really about your soul. Why? Our profession is progressive in content but behind in something like DEI. As you know, it was only until very recently that the ABA and our profession were putting DEI at the forefront. And now that it is, it seems like many firms in all shapes and sizes are focusing on DEI and being more inclusive and innovative. Many firms and organizations (including NJA) have committees and focus groups with specific hiring agendas to capture diverse talent. With that, because it is our profession, comes big promises to diverse new lawyers; bright lights and big cities, flashy cars, flashy billboards, and grandstanding.
How do we grandstand DEI, you might ask? And what does that have to do with your soul? With aggressive diversity initiatives you will find yourself in potential unfamiliar territories with minority communities recruiting more diverse candidates because your firm may not be very diverse. Sure, every predominantly white straight male legal culture can point to their “token” Hispanic, lesbian, or Asian who were hired in the ice ages, to check the box that you do have a diverse firm and look how successful our diverse lawyers are! Then once that new lawyer gets to your firm, what does the soul of the firm look like? Many of the “tokens” as I have referred to above can be fairly disconnected from diversity and are not good benchmarks to up and coming talent because they have done well themselves, so have not had to perhaps tackle the diversity challenge the way a new lawyer would now. They may also have that “when I was a young lawyer” mentality and be dismissive due to their development in the legal community decades ago being VERY straight, white male. They had to do it so why can’t new lawyers understand that and thereafter have little to no sympathy to current lawyers and DEI. Their minority status may be the same, but their perspectives are starkly different. The new lawyer will see that and be able to see and judge for themselves what your culture is – what your soul looks like. If it is genuine and DEI initiatives were already in place making your law firm culture truly diverse (and not a corporate formal check the box culture), you will retain the new lawyer who will surely improve the depth of your culture. If not, they will leave, and you will be at square one. That is why DEI must be about your soul.
When NJA decided to engage in DEI, one of the first questions during our roundtable was what the current NJA “house” looked like. Further, if you decided your “house” needed renovations or new rooms to add on to the ever-changing world, what steps do we take to get there?
So, what is the soul of NJA? Our DEI Committee that was formed last year has the soul necessary to make changes and to be more inclusive. Since I am part of that Committee, perhaps I am biased. Or, perhaps you can look at the firms or individuals on the Committee and recognize their work places have souls. For larger firms, who is at the top and do people stay, specifically Attorneys? For solo practitioners, can they attract diverse talent and even clients? Because they may have more limited means, their souls are equally crucial.
In closing, look at your firm. Does it really look like the soul you see or envision? What do your staff, your clients, the public see? DEI is more than an acronym; it should be a goal or a passion in order to become a reality.
Kevin Kampschror is the Workers’ Compensation Partner at Shook & Stone. Kevin has been with Shook & Stone since June 2014. Alongside of law practice, Kevin is on the National Commission for the Anti-Defamation League (“ADL”) as well as the Regional Board for ADL Nevada. Memberships include Nevada Justice Association where he currently co-chairs the Diversity, Equality, & Inclusion Committee, Nevada Attorneys for Criminal Justice, Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group, Nevada Disability Prevention Coalition, and is the Section Leader of the LGBT section of the Nevada State Bar. Kevin loves to travel and is obsessed with Mykonos.