Creating an Inclusive Culture While Working Virtually

Creating a culture of inclusivity while working from home may seem impossible. But it is not. The key is that leadership remains heavily engaged with their team members plus a little creativity. (I say team members, instead of employees, for equity purposes).

Cameras On: It has become common for individuals to turn their cameras off during a meeting. This is simply not okay, encourages distance from other team members and should truly not be tolerated. People can certainly change their backgrounds or make them fade-out, but not seeing everyone on the team simply creates disengagement. 

Walk Those Halls Virtually: As a trainer, I often talk about one of the keys to creating an inclusive culture is to literally go where your team members are. Be where they are. Learn about them in a holistic manner. Find out about their family, weekend plans and likes/dislikes. How do you walk the halls virtually? Have regular check-ins with your team members (and call them “check-ins” so no one thinks they are in trouble) and find out how people are doing. 

Trauma (Vicarious and otherwise): While walking those halls, remember that your team members may be experiencing incredible trauma from Covid-19, the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans, George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter Movement, and racial reckoning. Have no expectation that your team members will be happy. Their moods may be somber, and that’s okay. Your job is to simply understand their plight.

Belonging: Belonging is still number three on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. That did not change in 2020. Belonging works hand in hand with inclusion, so do not lose the momentum here. Send around uber eats gift cards so everyone can order food during a virtual dinner. Create an articles/book/podcast club and give team members time during the day to meet with those clubs. Make-up a “shout the fact” game, where questions are asked daily and whoever wins gets some sort of prize (may seem trivial, but lawyers thrive on competition.)

Create a Virtual Inclusivity Task Force: Your team members know what they need in this very unique time in our history. Create a committee, then have the committee create an anonymous survey and find out how leadership can be better. 

EDI Transparency: Remind team members that EDI continues to be a core value of your organization and tell them what you are doing to forward those efforts.

Maintenance: maintain mentorship, reverse mentorship and sponsorship activities/relationships.

Up your Mental Health Efforts: normalize taking a mental health day, provide counseling services beyond that which your team members get for free with insurance. Make sure every individual knows that this is available.

Go above and beyond in every aspect. Do all your team members have the equipment they need to work from home? What are the expectations regarding returning emails in a virtual environment? Think about everything you can from an inclusivity lens. Then, when team members return to work, the transition will not be so difficult. (Although, I do recommend a “Returning to Work Task Force” that also includes anonymous surveys.)



Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity: Not just for BigLaw


As a solo practitioner or small firm owner, it is easy to think that Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity (EDI) is

a great concept, but not something you can implement. You tell yourselves: You are not hiring, so how

can you bring in diverse attorneys? Your culture is inclusive as everyone feels comfortable, and you are

like a small family. You don’t have any equity issues, as things are transparent at every level.

As a solo practitioner or a small firm owner, reevaluate your firm’s values. Is EDI something that you

care about? Is it important to you personally? If the answer is yes, you can absolutely have a practice

that values EDI and that supports its efforts.


First, make sure you have a tab on your website that is committed to EDI. Make sure that the web page

talks about your firm values and how EDI is one of them. Even admit that you know you can do better

with your own EDI efforts and that you join organizations like CLI, for example, to help you in this area.


Second, make sure you have an inclusivity statement on your website, and this is a separate website tab

and page as the one that addresses your EDI values. Remember that inclusivity is about belonging. And

further remind yourself that belonging is number 3 on Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs – that’s the

importance of this component.


Third, educate, educate, educate. You cannot be educated enough about EDI issues. Understand that

the plight of diverse attorneys is unique and why. Get yourselves ready to on-ramp a diverse attorney,

even if you are not hiring right now.


Fourth, remind yourselves that EDI is an ethical obligation. Now, not only is it part of your mandatory

ethics CLE requirements, but it is crucial to your representation Suppose you do not understand the

intricacies of issues such as implicit bias and micro-aggressions. In that case, you will be doing your

clients a disservice because related issues often come up in cases, and it is up to you to spot those issues

so you can continue to advocate zealously.


Fifth, commit to using minority-owned vendors for all of your

needs; for paralegal services, printing jobs, catered events, etc.


Finally, know that this list is not comprehensive, and it’s just a start. Also, know that CLI can help turn

your solo practice or small firm into an anti-racist allyship organization.


Tip: CLI Brings Solutions to Our Members

We hear a lot about “pipeline.” We know it can be daunting to find the perfect hire. Building equity, diversity, and inclusion in your organization often starts with finding the right fit for your needs and culture. But where do you find these?

Right here. CLI’s resume Collect was a tremendous success. We have over 100 resumes from outstanding, interesting, great candidates. To learn more about how to gain access to these, send an email to SJSnyder@legalinclusiveness.org.

Not only is this an excellent resource for your organization to find suitable candidates, but it is a good metric to measure your atmosphere and philosophy. Many qualified candidates are not just seeking a job; they are also intent on finding a good culture fit. So, not only are you looking at their resume, but they will also be looking for the right fit.

Have a look at our Resume Collect candidates and evaluate what you need and what you can provide. And, if you think you need a second look at your culture, we’d be thrilled to help you with that also through our consultation services.


Tip: Celebrating Pride All Year Long

As the calendar turns to June, we all are inundated with reminders about Pride month.  We see many organizations and businesses break out their rainbow flags and confirm their support for the LGBTQ+ community.  And while we celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, we shouldn't feel restricted to a single month.

June should not be the only time we open our minds and hearts and celebrate the struggles and contributions of the LGBTQ+ community.  Instead, CLI chooses to be constantly mindful of the LGBTQ+ community . . . not just in June. Let’s use June 1 to remind us to take stock of our behaviors and actions. We encourage everyone to use this month to refresh their support.    

As we mark Pride month, we would like to ask everyone to take a few minutes to engage in a mental check of ourselves, our actions and our biases. This can also be an excellent time to remind ourselves and others about the importance of pronoun use and – most of all - remember what Pride is about. Pride is about celebrating who we are and being able to be who we are at home, at work, with family and friends.

The great news about this time of year is that there is no shortage of resources celebrating the LGBTQ community.  We've compiled some resources and some interesting Pride-related resources here.

The History of Pride: https://www.history.com/pride

ADL/Anti-Defamation League: https://www.adl.org/education/resources/tools-and-strategies/lgbtq-pride-month-and-education-resources

GLAAD/Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation: https://www.glaad.org/resources/ally/2

ACLU/American Civil Liberties Union: https://www.aclu.org/issues/lgbtq-rights?redirect=issues/lgbt-rights

HRC/Human Rights Campaign: https://www.hrc.org/campaigns/celebrate-pride-with-us

We wish everyone a Happy Pride Month.  And we hope we can all celebrate more love and less hate, more understanding and less judgment and more kindness this month and every month!


Tip: Leverage Your CLI Membership

As CLI members, you are part of an organization committed to bringing diversity, equity and inclusivity (DEI) to Denver's legal community and beyond. Your membership makes a statement. It shows that as an organization, you understand the great need for DEI efforts and that you are part of an organization that trains, consults, and puts on monthly training in this area. This should be something you mention to your clients when they ask about your DEI efforts. It should be something that is placed on your website and that bolsters your DEI efforts. You should have a statement (as part of your inclusivity statement) that reads something like:

“As you have read, one of our organization's (or insert your organization name) core values is DEI and we work hard to put this at the forefront of all of our planning. While we continue to work hard at our DEI efforts, we know that there is more work to be done. As part of that process, we are members of the Center for Legal Inclusiveness (CLI), a non-profit that supports bringing diversity, equity and inclusivity efforts to the community through training, programming, and consulting. With CLI as a partner, we will take our diversity, equity, and inclusivity commitment to the next level.”


Tip: Celebrating Black History Month All Year

Its Black History Month. I know we all want to celebrate and mark this important month, and it can be daunting when we are all so busy.  And then there is a sense of shame or guilt if we can’t make time.

I've asked myself a few times in the last few days, 'what can I do?' and 'am I doing enough.' These feelings drove me to compile of list of ideas and resources.  This list isn't complete by any means, but I am happy to share what I know with my community.

What can you do to celebrate and honor Black History Month?

  • Attend a performance art addressing issues of racial equality. The Colorado Black Arts Festival is a great place to start:
  • Storytelling: tell your children about your own experience in an age-appropriate way.  Have elders in your family do the same. Family Education has a great list of Children’s Books for Black History Month
  • Celebrating a new person who made a difference in Black history every day of the month, this doesn’t have to be limited to Black people.
  • Go to a Black church online and learn the different ways religious beliefs are celebrated.
  • Watch films that demonstrate the injustice experienced by Black people. Oprah's site has compiled a list of Black Movies on Netflix now.
  • Explain to children and adolescents what the Black Lives Matter Movement means and prepare them with counter arguments such as "All Lives Matter.” Parents magazine published an excellent article last year on this topic
  • Create a family tree and understand your heritage.
  • Learn about Historically Black Colleges and Universities, why they are an essential part of history and remain an important part today.
  • Eat “soul food” and explaining the meaning behind it.
  • Explain why it is a tradition today in marriage ceremonies to “jump the broom” as a sign of commitment.
  • Choose a cause and have the family cut their budget to put forth the money to the cause making sure children/adolescents understand the purpose.
  • Address questions from children/adolescents straight on –this is part of knowing how to have difficult conversations.
  • Commit to shopping Black and minority business whenever possible.  The Black App is a great place to start. And there are many resources for finding minority and women-owned businesses.
As this is a conversation, we’d love to hear from you.  How do you honor Black History Month? What things are you doing this month that you’d like to share?  Thank you!
 - Sara


Tip: Keeping You and Your Team Healthy and Productive While Working Remotely

On January 27, 2021, Professor Eli Wald examined this question in a CLI webinar.  I strongly suggest you watch a copy of the webinar and learn the invaluable insight the Professor Wald offered as it relates to this issue.  But for now, here are some of the major takeaways and tips that we hope you will consider as your law firm or legal organization examines this important question. 

First, the initial data indicates that remote work has not undercut productivity.  An associate, for example, who know she must bill eight hours in the day will do so, just maybe in a different order than she typically would at the office.  It is time that the legal profession enters the 21st century and realize that this is not a reason to require lawyer’s to be at their desk in the office.

Second, the lawyer’s well-being.  Now that we know there has not been any proof that productivity has taken a hit, it is time to consider the wellness factor that comes with working remotely.  Commuting time, autonomy, the possibility of work-out breaks that achieve greater focus.  these are some of the many things that make working from home increase a person’s ability to keep their heads above water during this over changing time.

Third, be transparent.  Make sure your entire team is clear about their expectations without fail.  This means that there are discussions among leadership about all the many facets of working remotely and what your leaderships specific policies are regarding the same.  Then communicate these policies – not in an “it depends” lawyer way – as clearly as possible and in writing.

CLI is not necessarily making a case for working remotely but rather giving tips on why this may make sense for your organization and how to begin the process of bringing such a change to fruition.  Just like in the office, there are concerns related to implicit bias, equity, equality and ideas on how to rectify these ongoing issues.  Professor Wald does an incredible job addressing these issues and we strongly suggest you check out his video in our virtual library – you will not be sorry.

If you missed this program and would like to watch, please contact our team here: info@legalinclusiveness.org




Tip: Getting Pronouns Right

Our tip of the month is going to help anyone who struggles with getting pronouns correct.  Yes, it’s relatively new, but proper pronouns are not going anywhere, so let’s do our best to get it right. 

Your embracing the correct pronouns of your co-workers is a valuable and genuine signal that they are safe bringing their whole self to work.  It is a positive step to allyship.

  • 1.       Start by your own pronouns.  Put your pronouns (e.g., they, them, theirs) in your email signature and social profiles, etc.  This is a good reminder for everyone.
2.       Practice. Practice. Practice.  Stop assuming you know someone’s pronouns based on their appearance.  Make an effort and practice learning pronouns.  Think of it as simply remembering that who you want to refer to as Chrissy wants to be called Christina, you can easily master pronouns. Practice your apology, too.  If you get it wrong – and you might – apologize and accept the impact.  Remind the person that you will work on getting it right.  To continue to misuse a pronoun can be interpreted as a micro-aggression. You can do better.
3.       Be prepared to ask. When meeting someone, please don't assume you know someone's gender ID or their preferred pronouns.  It is okay to ask. This is how we learn. 
4.       Get over it.  If you are uncomfortable, you need to shift your paradigm and get used to it.  The world is ever-changing, as is our lexicon.


Tip: Don't forget to Relax! 

Our tip this month is a quick guide to meditation - see for yourself below.  Thanks to Peggy and our friends at Refresh Studios!


Tip: Vicarious Trauma - WE ARE ALL EXPERIENCING VICARIOUS TRAUMA

The Office for Victims of Crime defines vicarious trauma as the negative impact on people who frequently witness and empathetically engage with victims of traumatic incidents. This was and still is a well-recognized struggle for first responders, caregivers, and health-care workers tending to victims under extreme distress. But through the window of our televisions, computers and phone screens, Black, indigenous, people of color people and Allies are now subject to this form of trauma too.  With social media, viewing and reading other people’s trauma has been normalized. We were not meant to watch, read and absorb so much trauma and, as a result, people are experiencing vicarious trauma.

 Not only are we regularly witnessing the rawness related to systemic racism that seems to be never ending, but we are also immersed in images and statistics about Covid-19.  For those of us who are empathetic beings, we are experiencing vicarious trauma in some sense.  Do not confuse vicarious trauma with burn out.  Yes, we are all burned out with zoom fatigue, but trauma is something different.   Burnout happens when you are not appreciating your work, feeling overworked, not feeling challenged, exhausted, worn out, etc.  Vicarious trauma, however, is a state of tension and preoccupation of the stories/trauma experiences shared by others.

Vicarious trauma is more likely to result in traumatic symptoms such as dissociation / disconnection from self (walling off painful feelings, denial, avoidance, numbing); disconnection from others (loss of trust, difficulty relating); loss of meaning (loss of spiritual faith, purpose, meaning in life, the goodness of people / life).  The feeling is that there is no time or energy for self or enjoyable activities; disconnection from loved ones, friends and social contacts; increased sensitivity to violence; cynicism; generalized negativity, loss of faith; increased edginess, sharpness and anger.

Like direct trauma, however, one can get through vicarious trauma.  The first step is recognizing what you are experiencing and understanding the implications if you do not act.  Here are some tips to combat vicarious trauma:  take action (e.g., join BLM or similar efforts); take breaks from social media; listen with empathy; bring compassion into difficult conversations; fight Zoom fatigue and create ways to stay connected during Covid-19.   


Tip: There are NO Shortcuts When it Comes to DEI Efforts: Let Experts Help!

Read about what happens when organizations rely on their non-expert employees to create diversity, inclusivity and equity programs. Click here

Getting serious about DEI requires intentional effort by an organization to bring in experts to teach how to incorporate these values into the fabric of your company culture.


There are no such things as shortcuts when it comes to DEI efforts.  No matter where you are in your DEI journey, the Center for Legal Inclusiveness can help. 


Contact us today and let's make a plan: ceo@legalinclusivness.org


Tip: Watch your Mouth!

This month’s tip is a challenge to all of us to watch what we say.  Often, we speak without thinking which can strain relationships and have bigger consequences than we may realize.  As we draw closer to the election – a divisive and charged time – we are challenging ourselves and others to adopt “clean speech” for the next 30 days. 

You can learn more and take the pledge with Clean Speech Colorado here


Tip: "Psychological First Aid"

In the age of two pandemics – COVID-19 and the pandemic of systematic racism in this country - the emotions that come with living in this situation are simply overwhelming.  This week’s tip is about an article that explores the absolutes as it relates to selfcare in the Covid-19 pandemic. 

An article that is directly parallel to the selfcare necessary in the age of racial reckoning and the Black Lives Matter movement.  Please read this and think about the changes that need to be made in your life so that you may be able to withstand these two pandemics as best as you can.

You can read the full Washington Post article here


Tip: Respect and Friendship Despite Division


As we mourn the great loss of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we are also reminded of her unlikely friendship with another Supreme Court Justice. They were very much alike in some ways: they were both native New Yorkers, around the same age and liked many of the same things- opera, traveling, nice wine – to name a few. They first serve on the same bench on the D.C. Circuit Court, and later both served on the Supreme Court.  When Scalia was asked about his friendship with someone who so notably disagreed with his view of the law  he replied, “some things are more important than votes.” While Ginsburg noted “you can disagree, without being disagreeable” when speaking of Scalia. me Court Justice, the late Antonin Scalia. They often disagreed on their views of the law, but their decades long friendship was genuine, although surprising to many. 

As we enter the election season, we are constantly reminded of harsh and growing partisan divide. We are also faced with the pandemics of systemic racism and Covid-19.   Difficult, painful conversations have become somewhat the norm as we work hard to have a sense of compassion with each other’s opinions. 

Today, however, we should take a moment and consider the lessons from the friendship of Justice Ginsburg and Justice Scalia.  When speaking our own truths, we should remember the way these two notorious Justices disagreed and learned from one another.  Let’s be reminded of this infamous friendship as we do our best to navigate these difficult times. 


Tip: Working from Home

While many people have found their groove working from home and have developed a level of comfort, although they may be suffering from “zoom fatigue”, it is important to remember that for many people of color this is not the case. In general, people of color tend to keep their work lives separate from their home lives for good reason. Depending on an organizations’ diversity, equity

Please read this insightful article from the Harvard Business Review that utilizes an inclusion lens while discussing this important topic. and inclusivity efforts, many people of color feel they have to be “on” at work and do not let down their guard until they return home that evening.


Tip: Be an Ally

It can be daunting to think about how you can be an ally, but, hot tip: it's not hard. Becoming an ally is a series of small, meaningful steps.    CLI has got a few tips for you here. And if you need information, please reach out. We would be thrilled to help.

Get educated: if you don’t know how to be an ally, get educated.  There are hundreds of resources on google that will lead you to relevant websites.  CLI can also point you in the right direction.  Ask your friends how they are good allies.  The information is there; you must want to see it.  Don’t stop learning.

Get to know and support your local minority-owned businesses: and don’t say you don’t know where they are.  Resources like The Black App can point you to hundreds of black-owned businesses.  Check out your local Chambers of Commerce for more local information.

Get brave: all of this takes courage, but we know you can do it and CLI will support you every step of the way. If you don’t know, ask. Most people will understand if you are genuinely seeking information. This also includes not idly standing by when you see or hear something that is not right. 

Get honest: take some time and look within.  Unconscious bias is real.  And there could be stereotypes or outdated ideas that linger.  Not recognizing your own biases will inhibit you from being an ally and bringing your best self.  

Remember:

Allies agree to:

  • ·         Have your back when you are not in the room
  • ·         Support minority efforts
  • ·         Empathize with what people of color are going through
  • ·         Act


Tip: Self Care

The news, the pandemic, the election, homeschooling, systemic racism; it all adds up and takes a major toll on all of us.  It is now more important than ever to make sure you stay well and take care of yourself..  Take a walk, get some exercise, breathe, and make time for just you each day.  Research shows that those who have some sort of gratitude practice live a more whole life than those of those who do not.  

You cannot solve the world’s problems when you’re not taking care of yourself.  It doesn’t have to be cumbersome or time consuming but take the time to take care of yourself. We gathered some tips here in case you need a place to start:


 - Take 10 deep breaths. Breathe in for 4-5 seconds and out for 6-7 seconds. 

 - Choose a day to take a break from the news and social media.  Turn off the news, log out from social media and clear your mind.

 - Stay hydrated.  Even slight dehydration can have an impact on your mind and body

 - Get outside (safely) and take in some fresh air.

 - Start a healthy habit and commit to at least one healthy, mindful activity each day. 

- Meditate.

- Start a gratitude practice.


Tip: Inclusivity Statement

If your organization values Diversity and Inclusivity it is imperative that you create an inclusivity statement that is shared on your website. It should be a separate tab on your homepage and speak to your intentions of maintaining a diverse and inclusive workforce.

How to Create an Inclusivity Statement?


- Create a headline/title for your statement

- Make the statement conversational and easy to read

- Communicate values

- Be actionable for everyone


You can read our statement by clicking here



Tip: Helping Hands

We can’t quite recall how many decades ago it was when there was a “Helping Hand” program. If you remember, homes would place stickers of a hand in their window.

The thought was simple: if you were experiencing some sort of danger and/or fear you could run to the helping hand house and be assured the door would be open and you could find physical safety inside.

Although that was a long time ago, our law firms, the government, and other legal organizations could sure benefit from a Helping Hand right now.

The Center for Legal Inclusiveness suggests using a Helping Hand sticker that senior attorneys could place on their office door demonstrating it is okay to come into their office and have a safe conversation about systemic racism, diversity efforts, feeling alone or whatever sentiments come to mind.

The Helping Hand is just a simple signal that demonstrates safety for whatever needs to be said as we navigate these trying times.


303.313.6860

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

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software