Have you ever heard the phrase, “Go big or go home?”
While it’s often used in a joking manner, the reference reflects a significant part of American culture — and our preoccupation with size. Because in our society, size matters.
But when it comes to making progress in diversity, equity, and inclusion, it’s not the size that everyone thinks. We believe when it comes to making actual progress in this space, small matters. Because if the choice is only between “go big or go home,” the truth is most of us will just go home. We might not even try because the solution seems insurmountable and therefore not worth our time.
When did we make things so big and beyond our reach, that we don’t even get started? When did we make ourselves so small that our personal effort isn’t worth taking?
Let’s imagine what’s possible if we embrace the small, tangible actions in driving diversity, equity, and inclusion, especially as in-house counsel.
Many of us forget the incredible power we have in simply asking:
- Why isn’t the pitch team diverse?
- Why is the pitch team diverse but no underrepresented attorneys are billing the matter?
- Why are underrepresented attorneys billing the matter, but they aren’t getting substantive growth opportunities like taking a deposition or arguing a hearing?
- Why is an underrepresented attorney running the entire case from start to finish, but isn’t getting origination credit?
If our partner firm says they don’t have anyone that fits our ask, instead of shrugging our shoulders and moving on, ask “Why?” And even offer to help. We all have the ability to ask our law firm partners about their individual commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. For example, we can ask them if they are personally mentoring or sponsoring an underrepresented attorney. And if we are dissatisfied by their commitment, we can suggest ideas and offer collaboration.
Of course, we can’t ignore our own personal efforts as in-house counsel. We can:
- Mentor or sponsor an underrepresented attorney.
- Help underrepresented attorneys practice their pitch to a prospective client.
- Review resumes and cover letters of underrepresented law students.
- Share our journeys or advice over a cup of coffee or tea.
- Send the managing partner an email about the impressive underrepresented associate we met at a conference and thank them for investing in their development.
Some of these may seem small, but if everyone who takes “small” actions follows through — and invites their colleague to do the same — these actions will add up.
We’ve tried, “go big or go home,” and it’s not working fast enough. So, let’s embrace small.
DEI, Esq. is comprised of in-house counsel who share a deep passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion. While the members, Jane Howard-Martin, Connie Almond, Olesja Cormney, Jennifer N. Jones, and Meyling Ly Ortiz, work as employment counsel at Toyota Motor North America, Inc., their views and the thought-leadership expressed are their own and not necessarily the views of their employer.