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CLI Blog

  • 12/20/2019 12:55 PM | Amy Carter (Administrator)

    I feel very lucky to have served as the Chair for the Center for Legal Inclusiveness’s Board of Directors for the past year. It was a year that was filled with progress, opportunities and challenges.

    The biggest challenge is that we are still a long way from achieving greater levels of diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. While many recognize our profession has not done enough to advance diversity and inclusion, we haven’t made as much progress as we’d like.  Lawyers who face barriers - such as women, racially diverse and LGBTQ attorneys - to their success are not thriving in their workplaces. Legal employers are not retaining diverse employees as well as they should, and too many lawyers are leaving their organizations and even the profession.

    We’ve come to realize we’re never going to solve this problem by thinking of diversity as a numbers game. Diverse lawyers are unique people, each of whom bring an experience and perspective to their organization, and we need to build a legal culture that values them as individuals. When a diverse lawyer leaves a firm, the right question is “why did we lose someone we value?” instead of “how can we find another person to take her place?”

    We hope to advance this goal in 2020 with the Diversity Engagement Survey, which will look at the critical traits that support a diverse workplace. It measures traits, such as whether those within an organization are aligned around a common purpose, whether the people who work have confidence that the organization’s policies and practices support them, and whether the organization fosters a sense of belonging. If we don’t make our workplaces better for both diverse and non-diverse attorneys, we’re not going to make our profession better.  You can learn more about the Diversity Engagement Survey here; please consider joining us as we believe this will provide the insight that many organizations need to move beyond diversity to inclusion and equity.

    And there’s no reason to believe that we can’t be better. One of the best experiences I had this year was spending time with the high school students who participated in the Journey 2 JD program.  These young, talented students were exposed to the inner workings of the law for the first time.  While a few were very quick to say, “It’s not for me!” others walked away believing that they had a place in the legal profession, and we need to help them find that place. These students, many of whom had prior misconceptions of the legal system, were smart, perceptive, and talented. If we can bring them into our world, we will be better for it.

    As we move into 2020, CLI is changing. Karen Hester left us, but not before she had created new programs, brought insight, and served as a wonderful ambassador to the legal community. We’re grateful for all she did and wish her well as she continues to promote diversity and inclusion in the private sector.

    We also made a great decision to bring Phyllis Wan in as our Interim Executive Director. Phyllis brings years of experience as a leader in diversity and inclusion, and she knows the needs of our legal community. Already, she’s helped us take a new look at how we’re offering services and where we can make the greatest  impact. CLI should be a leader in our community, and we’re working on plans to increase the value we provide to CLI members.

    I have lots of hope heading in 2020. Another great addition for 2020 is our incoming Chair, Ryann Peyton. Ryann has accelerated our progress as we  begin to look at our membership model, engaging our Board more effectively, and developing better programming for our members. Ryann is an extraordinary leader who embodies inclusion in all she does.

    As the year closes, I reflected that we lost United States District Court Judge Wiley Y. Daniel this year. Judge Daniel was not only an extraordinary judge, but he was a tireless champion for diversity and inclusion. At CLI board meetings, he was a voice of reason, vision, and compassion. We will honor him if we continue to value each other, not accept the status quo, and embrace the qualities that unite us.

  • 11/12/2019 4:17 PM | Alison Oyler-Mitsch (Administrator)

    Phyllis Wan, Interim Executive Director of the Center for Legal Inclusiveness, talks about what lies ahead for CLI and its renewed focus on retention for its members:

    For 12+ years, CLI has been helping its members and others in the legal and business community appreciate the benefits and business imperative of diversity and inclusion (D&I), and understand why D&I is essential in the fabric of a progressive, successful and innovative organization.

    Despite our efforts and those of other D&I organizations and our members, the “inclusion” and “equity” pieces remain elusive.  The number of senior diverse and female private-sector lawyers and diverse and female C-suite officers remain well below the population of law school graduates for the past 30 years.  Why is that?

    One of the primary reasons is, for the first 25+ years of that period, diverse and female lawyers were recruited, but then expected to fit into the mold of what their organization deemed a “successful” lawyer. This usually meant the personality and behavioral traits of someone in the heterosexual male majority (e.g., outgoing, confident and competitive, not necessarily collaborative or quiet) – often traits not characteristically encouraged or deemed acceptable in the cultures of diverse and female lawyers.  This became especially noticeable in a lawyer’s mid to later years as they approached promotion, elevation or advancement.  In addition, female and diverse lawyers were not encouraged to stand out and bring their “whole selves” to work, or to work flexibly in response to family pressures, and employers were not focused on developing their unique talents and attributes to expand the pie and grow their business.  Only diverse and female lawyers fitting the “successful lawyer” profile succeeded, and the revolving door turned.  Diverse and female lawyers continued to leave their employers at significantly higher rates than their male majority colleagues, instead of seeking opportunities where they felt valued and rewarded.

    Happily, we are at an inflection point in the profession’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts and legal employers are more attuned to the missing links of inclusion and equity.  The Center for Legal Inclusiveness is well-positioned and equipped to help its members and our business and legal community in continuing their path to making the legal profession a better and more rewarding place to work.  With a committed Board of Directors ready to effectuate real change, 2020 will be a year of renewed focus on our members and their retention and inclusion efforts. 

    We hope you will join us.

  • 11/04/2019 5:25 PM | Alison Oyler-Mitsch (Administrator)

    Are you interested in learning about your company's areas of strengths and improvement for diversity and inclusion initiatives? If so, join our inaugural Diversity Engagement Survey (DES). Your discounted cost to participate is $2,500.  Benefits include an overall summary with breakdown of demographics, a one-hour consultation to interpret survey results, and recommendations for next steps.

    CLI has partnered with a research team to develop benchmarks using DES. At this time, we are several more Denver law firms to participate in this pilot study over an 18-month period, starting this Winter. We will have future surveys focusing on government agencies, legal departments and law firms outside of Denver.   

    Your participation in this ground-breaking project will provide your firm with an assessment of:

    · Inclusion factors within your law firm that create the right conditions for achieving the benefits of a diverse workforce;

    · Identification of areas of strengths and improvement in diversity and inclusion efforts;

    · Data for strategic planning, enhancement, implementation and development of diversity and inclusion programs; and

    · Analysis of law firm diversity that moves beyond compositional diversity or the representation of the demographic breakdowns of race and gender, openly LGBT individuals, and attorneys with disabilities.

    Diversity is considered a driver of excellence…but only if the conditions are right. Knowing what the right conditions are requires an assessment of the organizational culture for factors which leverage differences to achieve business objectives and drive innovation.

    The Diversity Engagement Survey (DES) provides data on the organization’s level of worker engagement, its inclusive characteristics, and the degree to which diverse groups experience inclusion. DES was originally conceptualized as an evaluation tool for measuring the academic medical centers through the lens of inclusion and diversity. After a pilot using the instrument with 14 academic medical centers, the instrument was demonstrated to have value not only within educational settings, but could be successfully utilized in any organization that desires to build an engaged and inclusive workforce.

    DES is best used:

    · For building an inclusive culture that seeks to recruit, retain and promote diverse individuals.

    · To determine the level of engagement of the total workforce in relationship to specific diverse groups.

    · To assess baseline strengths and areas for improvement related to inclusion and diversity efforts.

    · To determine progress toward inclusion goals in an organizational diversity plan.

    · To measure progress of diversity plans in response to regulatory agencies.

    · To identify salient concerns such as historical baggage from stereotypes, social isolation, economic constraints and the impact of few culturally-competent role models and mentors for underrepresented groups within the organization.

    Thus, the DES functions in three ways:

    Descriptive – describes the inclusiveness of the environment by determining its level of engagement by demographic categories.

    Diagnostic – defines areas of strengths and areas of improvement for the diversity and inclusion efforts through benchmark comparative data.

    Prescriptive — points to the strategic direction for change by identifying which engagement domains and which inclusion factors to target for improvement.Join us and learn how you can create an inclusive workplace, using your unique information. Contact Phyllis Wan (; 303.313.6861) if you would like to be a part of this exciting new venture, have questions, or if you would like to be considered for future surveys.

  • 10/07/2019 11:10 AM | Alison Oyler-Mitsch (Administrator)

    We are so pleased to announce Phyllis Wan has been named as the Interim Executive Director of CLI.

    Phyllis has a long relationship with the Denver legal community and is well respected for her knowledge and expertise in the diversity and inclusion field. She has also served as the Chief Diversity Officer for Hogan Lovells US LLP, one of the world’s largest law firms, with more than 1000 U.S. lawyers.

    Phyllis developed a range of diversity and inclusion programs, including strategic plans that led to increased recruiting and retention of female, ethnically diverse, and LGTBQ attorneys and staff. Phyllis is a civic leader who has been a member of the Board of Directors of the T. Howard Foundation, the Women in Law Empowerment Forum, and the Colorado Lawyers Committee.

    Phyllis brings experience not just in diversity and inclusion, but has successfully practiced law in variety of settings. She is a graduate of the New York University School of Law.

    We selected Phyllis after the Executive Committee interviewed several very well-qualified candidates, all of whom were diverse and experienced as leaders in diversity and inclusion. The committee members came to the conclusion that Phyllis has the right mix of relationships in the Denver community, deep experience in working with legal employers on diversity and inclusion initiatives, and an ability to think creatively about how to move CLI into the future.

    Patrick O'Rourke, Chair of the CLI Board, and Ryann Peyton, Chair Elect, added, "We’re going to be working hard to make CLI an organization that makes the Colorado legal community stronger and that provides its members with robust programming and support. Retaining Phyllis is a major step forward in that direction."  

    About CLI -- The Center for Legal Inclusiveness is a non-profit organization whose mission is to advance diversity in the legal profession by actively educating and supporting private and public sector legal organizations in their own individual campaigns to create cultures of inclusion.

    CLI announce P. Wan 10.7.19.pdf

  • 10/03/2019 1:58 PM | Alison Oyler-Mitsch (Administrator)


    Each year, Center for Legal Inclusiveness honors our community's work in advancing diversity and inclusiveness at our Ball for All Gala on February 29, 2020. Help us to recognize those organizations and individuals who are working to make Colorado more inclusive.

    Visit our online application to submit a nomination. We are accepting nominations of those who honor and embrace diversity and inclusion. The five categories are: Business/Corporate, Individual, Law Firm/Legal Department, Young Professional, and Nonprofit/Government/Community Organization.

    Deadline for submissions is November 15, 2020. The online application includes a brief essay (no more than 500 words). Self-nominations are also accepted.


    Questions? Email:

    Nominate or apply for the Inclusiveness@Work Award today!

  • 09/05/2019 8:27 AM | Alison Oyler-Mitsch (Administrator)

    Dear Friends of The Center For Legal Inclusiveness,

    We are sad to announce that Karen Hester is leaving Center For Legal Inclusiveness (CLI) on September 6th after serving our community for the past 6 years. 

    While we will miss Karen’s leadership, we are happy for her because she is leaving to pursue a new opportunity with Lockheed Martin.

    The Board of Directors applauds all that Karen has brought to the organization and the vast accomplishments she leaves behind. We, along with CLI’s COO Abe Kaul, are committed to a seamless transition plan that will include a diligent search for her successor. The Board will select an interim executive director during this transition period.

    As leaders of the Board, we know that transitions can be difficult but we are committed to making sure CLI continues to meet the ever-evolving needs of the community and our mission of creating a more diverse and inclusive legal profession.


    Patrick O’Rourke
    Board Chair

    J. Ryann Peyton
    Board Chair-Elect

  • 08/21/2019 10:12 AM | Alison Oyler-Mitsch (Administrator)

    Implicit bias and Implicit bias training have become a trending topic with many firms. Moreover, it is not just law firms that are getting serious about this type of exercise – large corporations, police departments, and schools are seeing the value in this brand of training for their staff. However, what is "implicit bias" and what can we do about it?

    What is it?

    Implicit bias is most often considered an unconscious predisposition towards a stereotypical opinion. In the simplest of terms, it means one believes a stereotype is true because one has heard or seen it so much. We receive so many biased messages daily - in the media, from friends or family – that we often accept them as fact without question. Your brain – while taking in all these messages – will make a ''shortcut' to be able to process this information, primarily, putting people into categories. And yes, some of these categories are not favorable.

    Imagine that all of your life, you’ve heard messages that left-handed people are disorganized. You had a left-handed classmate in school who had messy handwriting, and a teacher called them out on it. Maybe you have seen a movie or TV show, and the bungling character just happened to be left-handed. Also, also perhaps a friend or family member chimes in about their feelings about left-handed people. Over time, these messages you receive start to become your perception of left-handed people. Now, imagine that you are interviewing a job applicant that is left-handed. Your implicit bias would make you less open-minded to learning about them as a person because this prejudice has clouded your judgment long before you even met this person.

    How do you minimize the impact implicit bias has on your decision-making?

    Now that we know what implicit bias is, how can we conquer it? While it is not a hard task, it does need consistent attention. We need to stay aware of the message we are taking in. It's easy to use a stereotype to categorize a person we don't know, and that is where the problem lies. We should be taking the time to get to know the person and appreciating their unique experience. Further, we should be countering these statements when we hear them.

    I’m sure we’ve all heard the lament “millennials are lazy." Not only is it not true, but it's also an excellent example of how implicit bias can alter perception. "Millennials" are people from all cultures and background that were born around the same time. Each person in this group has had different experiences shape the way they think and act. They may work differently, but to label all of a specific age group as “lazy” is, well, lazy.

    While much more specific training surrounding implicit bias is so essential to all culture, genders, and age groups, becoming aware of and acknowledging your bias is a great beginning.

    Once you recognize implicit bias, be aware of how these messages and stereotypes could impact your judgment – even in a way that you think is positive. Also, if you believe that your implicit bias is not grounded in a negative stereotype, then work to ensure your judgment does not swing the other way and give preference to those because of a positive stereotype.

    Center for Legal Inclusiveness offers training on many topics, including implicit bias. Please contact us ( or 303.313.6860) to schedule a training.

  • 08/15/2019 4:23 PM | Alison Oyler-Mitsch (Administrator)

    CEO, Karen Hester, talked with Dot Org this week about our mission and our programs. 

    KGNU's Dot Org program highlights local non-profits and the work they do to enrich our community.  

    If you missed it, please use this link to hear more. 

    KGNU Dot Org

    If you want to know more about membership and how you can become more involved with the Center for Legal Inclusiveness, please click here.

    Our Membership includes training, consultation, access to educational and networking events, free job postings, our manual and much more!

  • 07/17/2019 10:33 AM | Alison Oyler-Mitsch (Administrator)

    A successful diverse lawyer was, at one time, a successful law student and law school graduate. But recruiting and retaining diverse attorneys has not led to successful outcomes. So how do we ensure that diverse attorneys are placed where they can be successful? Legal employers are becoming more adept at fulfilling the needs of a different new generation of students-cum-associates, but there is always room for learning more. We have two sessions designed to address the unique needs of hiring and training attorneys. Where once these lessons a "wouldn't it be nice," it is now a must-have across the board.

    Zack DeMeola will present "Foundations for Practice Project" based on what essential competencies lawyers, firms and judges are looking for in new lawyers. And how can employers best assist and make sure they can "hit the ground running."

    In 2015, The Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS) began its "Foundations for Practice" project. They surveyed more than 24,000 lawyers across the country to identify the characteristics, competencies, and skills that new lawyers need right out of law school. Since publishing the results of the survey, IAALS has been using those results this past year to work with law schools and over 30 employers selected by these schools to develop a set of learning outcomes, assessments, instructional designs, and hiring tools to instill and identify desired characteristics, competencies, and skills in future lawyers.

    The culmination of all this work is a Foundations-based Learning Outcomes Model. A set of Foundations-based hiring tools, and recommendations for how educators and employers can effectively use them for more objective and reliable assessment of student performance and hiring criteria. A Foundations-based hiring process that is intentional, explicit, and consistent, more aptly aligns the needs of the employer with the abilities of a candidate. This requires employers to clearly define the capabilities they seek in new hires and tie those abilities to their hiring criteria. This results in more compatible matches between new hires and employers and has more potential to reduce the influence of bias in hiring than relying on traditional approaches alone.

    At the end of this program, participants will:

    · Be familiar with Foundations for Practice research on what new lawyers need for success;

    · Understand how Foundations for Practice research can be used as the basis for designing learning outcomes and hiring tools;

    · Understand how to take advantage of and apply the results from the Foundations for Practice study as another tool to improve or supplement legal education and career development, including the use of objective criteria to reduce the influence of bias in hiring

    Once a diverse new lawyer is hired, the process is not over - likely it is just the beginning. Employers and lawyers need to work together to find the best methods for coaching, giving and hearing feedback, mentoring, and growing. Eli Wald's session "Coaching the Diverse New Attorney: How to Succeed and Advance in Your Law Office" addresses this topic with timely and realistic information.

    Legal employers are hiring new attorneys who may have priorities and needs that may differ from hires in the past. Understanding and addressing those needs and priorities are critical in the recruitment and retention of that talent.

    At the end of this session, participants will:

    · Determine how to get honest and helpful feedback and assessment of their work.

    · Understand how to find and cultivate advocate mentors in their office.

    · Identify ways to make themselves invaluable.

    · Learn how to ask their supervisors for top assignments.

    · Understand implicit biases, its impact on their professional development, and how to navigate it.

    · Determine how to assess their standing in their office accurately.

    · Allies will learn tips on coaching new diverse attorneys in private firms, public law offices, corporate legal departments, and other law-related work situations.

    With our Summit, just days away don't miss your chance to engage on these essential topics.

  • 07/08/2019 1:09 PM | Alison Oyler-Mitsch (Administrator)

    Our diversity and inclusion conversation continues with two speakers who will cover self-assessment and self-promotion within the legal profession. As we talk about these programs and ideas, we must be able to assess our achievement and be able to feel comfortable effectively promoting our accomplishments.

    Jonathan White, professional Development Counsel at the Colorado Supreme Court Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel, will present "Proactive Lawyer Self-Assessments: Promoting Professionalism, Inclusivity, and Access to Justice.” Mr. White’s talk will describe a self-assessment tool created by Colorado lawyers and non-lawyer professionals who volunteered their time to help other lawyers succeed in practice. Those volunteers provided practice suggestions and guidance through a series of voluntary, confidential self-assessments.

    These assessments encourage lawyers to think about how to serve clients better, meet ethics obligations, and respond to changes in the legal marketplace. The topics evaluated included are access to justice and promoting greater inclusivity in the profession. The evaluation also encourages lawyers to think proactively about how to expand access to justice by making small changes in their practice, or how to bring about greater inclusivity by thinking about how diversity in a law firm can benefit the bottom line. Then this becomes a model for addressing two paramount concerns facing the legal profession: the fact that many Americans do not have the means to afford legal services and that the profession’s diversity does not reflect that of the nation.  Many lawyers have heard of these issues. Many are concerned about these gaps. But how can the profession translate these concerns into action? The self-assessment model is one important answer. Questions coupled with educational resources that are solution-oriented can transform a practice and the legal culture more broadly.

    At the end of this session, participants will:

    • ·           Gain an increased understanding of voluntary, confidential proactive practice review programs and their benefit to lawyers and their clients.
    • ·           Become more familiar with the publicly-available resources that discuss lawyer ethics as well as concepts ranging from lawyer well-being to inclusivity.
    • ·           Learn how to create such programs and, in tandem, market them to lawyers.

    Another key for inclusiveness in the legal profession is the ability for lawyers to feel comfortable touting their achievement in the field as well as their accomplishments in diversity and inclusion programs. 

    Tiffani Lee, Holland & Knights Diversity Partner will speak on “Mastering the Art of Self-Promotion: Effective (but Tactful) Ways to Toot Your Own Horn and Accelerate Career Progress” Women attorneys and attorneys of color often express feeling uncomfortable touting their achievements and advocating for themselves.

    Experts and law firm leaders know, however, that self-advocacy is a critical tool for career advancement, including accessing networks, getting stretch opportunities, and making an attorney's accomplishments (or potential) visible. Ms. Lee will share the research, her observations, and practical tips for how women attorneys and attorneys of color can strategically (but tactfully) promote themselves in the workplace to accelerate their career progress.

    At the end of this session, participants will

    • ·           Understand the importance of self-advocacy to career development.
    • ·           Become aware of some of the barriers to self-advocacy and unique challenges faced by women attorneys and attorneys of color.
    • ·           Develop practical and diplomatic strategies for self-advocacy that can be used individually or shared with others (ex. in associate mentoring and coaching roles).

    Our robust program at this year’s Summit is full of captivating speakers, cutting edge ideas and thought-provoking conversations.  We hope you will join us on July 29th


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Center for Legal Inclusiveness
1290 N Broadway, Suite 1700, Denver, CO 80203

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