Diversity and Inclusion in the Legal Profession: The Competencies Approach
7 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2011
Date Written: April 1, 2011
Law firm and department managers today wonder about the efficacy of diversity programming (and above all, one-off diversity “training”). They want to move their law firm or company beyond mere representational diversity and on to building cultures of inclusion; yet they are not certain about the best way to get there. Members of the legal profession are asking whether there are any new ideas for opening access and creating structures, practices, and behaviors that will allow everyone (whether of minority background/orientation or not) to thrive in the law office? Some of the best new thinking on how to grow diversity and inclusion in the legal field is centered on development of diversity competencies for the various roles that lawyers fulfill.
A diversity competency is the particular knowledge, skill or behavior required to be successful in the role of creating an organization that values differences. The reason for developing a set of diversity competencies is to make diversity learning strategic, pragmatic, and applicable to all. A diversity competencies approach may also resonate more strongly than a traditional training approach to attorneys who are wary of political correctness, and who experience the civil rights and identity movements of the 1970’s as distant, if fundamentally important, history. A good way to develop a competency model is to ask what knowledge, skills, and behaviors does someone performing a certain function need to have, in order to fulfill his or her role as a builder of diversity and inclusion in the office.
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