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Embracing Change

Change … it is the key word that all of us who manage legal services organizations should learn to embrace. As Andrés Tapia outlined in his closing keynote address during ALA's 2013 Annual Conference & Exposition, the demographic makeups of our organizations, communities, country, and world are changing. Technology has pushed all of us to embrace working differently. It is becoming impossible to achieve and maintain professional success without being able to leverage technology to meet the demands of today's work world. The same holds true for how our organizations manage diversity and inclusion. We want to share what ALA's Committee on Diversity and Inclusion has been up to during the past year and what we have planned for the coming months.

The guiding mantra that focuses our efforts is that long-term success is not achievable without increased diversity in our organizations. Increased diversity has to come with a true commitment to ensuring inclusion is the underpinning of everything we do. Tapia is correct when he says, "Diversity is the mix. Inclusion is making the mix work." ALA and its Committee on Diversity and Inclusion are developing and updating tools and resources to ensure that all of us are successful in meeting the challenge of being prepared for what the future has to bring. Our resources range from monthly Tip Sheets, the new ALA Diversity & Inclusion Scorecard - Road Map to Change, ALA Diversity Toolkit, and the ALA Guide to Cross-Functional Mentoring. With the mission to help the profession attract, retain, and develop diverse attorney and staff, ALA continues to host a wide range of resources on its website for administrators, firms, and chapters interested in broadening their knowledge of diversity and inclusion best practices. These resources include news items, must-read reports, studies, podcasts and web links hosted on the ALA Diversity Resources page.

ALA continues to look for ways to increase diversity and inclusion within our membership, leadership, business partners, and headquarters staff. The ALA Board has increased the Association's support of our efforts to provide new resources. We introduced the ALA Diversity and Inclusion Scorecard - Road Map to Change. The "Road Map" is a tool to assist ALA Chapters and legal workplaces to advance diversity and inclusion. In the future, it will also serve as a means to gauge trends and best practices among legal workplaces and ALA Chapters. It is a significant undertaking for ALA, but one that will deliver meaningful change and results in the future.

The Association continues to invite Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises (MWOBE) to the Association and make them aware of the opportunities that exist for providing products and services to our members. The initiative that we started last year will receive additional focus in the coming year.

The Committee presented an education session during ALA's 2013 Annual Conference & Exhibition in National Harbor, Md., and two sessions during the 2013 Chapter Leadership Institute in Atlanta. In National Harbor, we presented an educational session instead of hosting an Idea Exchange, and the session received high marks. Our plan is to do the same at future Annual Conferences. For the second year, the Committee also held a mid-year meeting. It enabled us to continue our strategic approach to diversity and inclusion in the Association.

In addition to these efforts, we recognize that the best way we can create change in our profession is to extend opportunities for you, your chapter, and your firm to become involved in creating more inclusive, respectful workplaces. We are continually looking for opportunities to support advocacy-related activities at both the Association and Chapter levels. To that end, you can join the ALA Diversity and Inclusion Discussion Forum on LinkedIn.

"A Change is Gonna Come", a song written and made famous by Sam Cooke, tells us: "It's been a long time coming … But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will." Well, that change is here. For some of us the change has been here for years, and for others it is truly on the way. It is no longer a suitable proposition to say that "yes, we probably should make a results driven commitment to diversity and inclusion, but we really don't see a need: or "we are not ready." As leaders of legal workplaces and organizations who want to be successful, we cannot ignore that change is here.

The Committee's plan over the next year is to continue developing resources that support theALA Diversity & Inclusion Scorecard - Road Map to Success. We will also continue to develop other resources and tools and presentations for ALA Chapter meetings and events. The Committee is also looking forward to two educational sessions at the 2014 Annual Conference & Exposition featuring diversity and inclusion expert Tim Wise. (Learn more at www.timwise.com.)

We want to forge new relationships with organizations in the legal community who have a focus on diversity and inclusion. Finally, we will continue our ongoing efforts to improve support of Chapters and members who see that the change is here and want to make a difference.

In conclusion, we appreciate your taking the time to read this update. We invite your suggestions as well as any comments you have about how we are doing as an Association in the area of diversity and inclusion. We want to know what you need and what challenges you face both within your Chapter and within the workplace. To submit a comment, email John Delavan, Staff Liaison, Committee on Diversity and Inclusion.

Sincerely,

Robert G. Stevens, CLM
2013-2014 Chair, ALA Committee on Diversity and Inclusion
Bennett Bigelow & Leedom P.S.

 
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