Young lawyers, two steps ahead and changing the game

redesign

I had the pleasure of being invited to present on a legal panel at New England Law School in Boston this past week. Being firmly committed to nurturing future leaders, legal or otherwise, I welcome these opportunities knowing I will almost always walk away with more than expected, and this evening did not disappoint.

My first observation was the number of students of color in the room. It is usually typical when presenting on diversity or culture to have your audience reflect those who are “comfortable” with the topic as opposed to those who are not. Psychology tells us people will avoid uncomfortable situations if given the option so consequently your diversity audiences are no exception. But, I was curious because frankly I lecture quite a bit on law campuses across the country and seeing more than a handful of students of color is still a rare thing. I looked up the demographics and sure enough this school’s statistics are exceptional with over 31% of the student body population being students of color.

I will save the tiered law school post for another time because frankly, I also have a very strong opinion about that topic. Let’s just say the next day, as I wandered through the halls of Harvard Law, I did not have that same experience.

I felt compelled to write this post because of the amazing questions posed by these young people during the session. Questions about how they could learn cultural competency skills, how they could navigate some of the imbedded discrimination in the legal field, but here is where I was inspired; They asked how they, as future lawyers, can help others to overcome their biases and insensitivities. These students were not looking to be viewed as “victims” nor were they looking to have a venting session on how much they had overcome just to be admitted to law school. These students wanted to know how they could make a difference by being proactive in making the change they want to see in the field. Questions like “What do you recommend when I see people, at the firm I am working for grouping into cliques by race, how do I help to change that situation” or “What is the best way to address subtle micro-aggressions with a firm partner without risk of retaliation?” These were thoughtful, poignant, well thought out questions and clearly these students already have an advantage coming out of school with these skills and nuances of communication that almost no law schools are teaching.

Cultural competency is a skill set required to be successful not only in law but all walks of life as our demographics are shifting and as we become a global arena. If only those working in the field took this as seriously as this younger generation does. I guess at some tipping point they will be forced to, when clients choose the firm that understands them over the firm that has a “history in being the best” it will be clear.  There is a good chance your history and your client’s history in the future will not “look”alike at all. The new lawyers are arming themselves to be more competitive than you can imagine, it is exciting! So get ready, they are not only going to shake up the ivory tower they are going to disrupt and redesign the entire thing!

 

Comments
One Response to “Young lawyers, two steps ahead and changing the game”
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