June 2020

Table of Contents


Big Ideas ALA Executive Director’s Letter

Crisis Affects Everyone Differently — Here’s How to Make Sure Your Communications Reflect That

For the coming months, members of ALA’s volunteer leadership will be taking turns writing the Executive Director’s Big Ideas column. We hope you enjoy the fresh perspectives they’ll be sharing.

In a time of crisis, it is very important to embrace diversity and inclusion in the workplace. ALA is committed to maintaining an inclusive environment for the entire law community during this difficult time. 

As law firm leaders and managers continue to transition business operations to virtual spaces, all members of the legal community are encouraged to keep equity and inclusion at the forefront of their interactions. Below, we share a lot of ways you can help ensure we continue to uphold our values in regard to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Firms should be mindful of the ways in which a crisis can affect various communities and how individuals from different backgrounds (race, ethnicity, age, religious affiliation, socioeconomic status, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) may have varying responses to the same situation based on their life experiences. Be cognizant that during a global crisis there may be increased tension and heated discussions. 

Use constructive language and good judgment when communicating about the pandemic. Refer to the virus as either “COVID-19” or “coronavirus” in both oral and written communications and not by a name that associates the virus with a specific region or group of people.

Ensure that your materials are accessible for individuals who may be differently abled. For video meetings with Zoom, you can record the meeting and enable captions that will appear when the video is downloaded. You can also use the chat box feature to share written notes, which can be saved and shared later. 


When running virtual meetings, make sure you’re being inclusive. First and foremost, double-check your invitation list and make sure you are not leaving anyone off that should participate. If you are going to do a check-in, make sure you ask everyone on the call for an update — not just the people with families and children. Make sure you avoid “groupthink,” but also don’t put anyone on the spot if they are uncomfortable speaking. 

Be kind. Be flexible. Be adaptable. Be a role model for inclusive behaviors. Remember, everyone has different circumstances and is operating with different resources and could have additional stressors during this time.

You want to give everyone a chance to review the agenda, so send it out to attendees at least 24 hours ahead of time. This allows the team to come better prepared and ready to participate, while also giving those who are hesitant to speak up during the meeting a chance to share their thoughts, too. Interrupt interruptions to ensure everyone can be heard. 

Additionally, remember to be extra patient during any IM and video conversations. Sometimes communications over these new channels can break down without a conscious effort to maintain kindness. Finally, follow up after each meeting and ask for feedback.


Use language that exhibits respect and sensitivity to everyone you are communicating with. As one example, to avoid gender-specific language, you can use generic greetings like “Dear Team” or “Good Morning Team” when addressing a class or large numbers of individuals in emails, announcements and videoconferences. Additionally, make sure that you say and spell everyone’s name correctly and that you use correct pronouns. 

As leaders, we need to be cognizant of our personal biases and blind spots. While many different biases exist, the three you should watch out for in times of crisis are affinity bias, confirmation bias and attribution bias. Question your assumptions and the decisions you make about people. Ask yourself, “Why am I including the individuals I have chosen in my decision-making process, and what are the real actual capabilities I need?” Emphasize decisions, not opinions. Have the courage to hold yourself and others accountable.

Be kind. Be flexible. Be adaptable. Be a role model for inclusive behaviors. Remember, everyone has different circumstances and is operating with different resources and could have additional stressors during this time — such as an ill family member, a family member who lost a job, having to parent and teach children, etc. Now more than ever, it’s important to leverage everyone’s unique perspectives and ideas and reinforce your commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion through your daily communications and actions. 

Extra Resources
ALA’s Diversity and Inclusion resources
Tips for Increasing Equity and Access When Running Remote Meetings
5 Things to Know About Coronavirus and People with Disabilities
COVID-19 Teaches Us A Lot About Differences in the Disability Community
7 Best Practices for Supporting Employees During COVID-19
How Managers Screw Up Inclusion Efforts in a Pandemic
The Forum on Workplace Inclusion Podcast
50 Ways to Fight Bias
Using Closed Captioning on Zoom