This is the first of a three-part series on the key themes we took away from the CLOC 2018 US Institute. Every year, legal operations professionals from around the world gather at the CLOC US Institute to learn, network, and share experiences. In this series the Brightflag team will delve into the key messages from the conference, and the actionable insights shared by some of the greatest minds in legal operations.

Diversity and Inclusion in the Legal Department and Beyond

The most prominent theme of this year’s CLOC Institute centered on diversity and inclusion. A number of refreshingly candid sessions tackled workplace discrimination, the experiences of women in legal leadership roles, and both external and internal programs for promoting diversity and inclusion in the legal industry.

In CLOC 2018’s opening session, women GCs opened up about their own experiences of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. In a climate where more and more women are rightly speaking out about discrimination in their working and everyday lives, leaders in the legal arena shared their experiences of discrimination in a brave and constructive way.

While this session focused on the personal experiences of women leading the legal industry, sessions in the following days of the conference shone a light on the practical ways that legal departments can help the wider struggle towards an inclusive workplace.

In one session, women GCs stressed the importance of ensuring outside counsel move past half-hearted attempts at diverse staffing to true commitment to equal pay and promotion.

In another, legal operations leaders spoke about driving diversity and inclusion through legal operations. Lisa Kremer of Starbucks Corp described a survey that Starbucks sends to its top firms, scoring them on the staffing and the development and promotion of a diverse workforce. Lisa Brzycki of Northwestern Mutual emphasized the importance of promoting diversity and inclusion within the legal department, and spoke of the success of using planned but informal discussions on inclusion to foster a culture of openness and inclusion. Anna Brown from Baker & McKenzie spoke of looking beyond the professional legal world to education initiatives, in order to ensure a diverse and inclusive future workforce of lawyers and in-house counsel.

Each of these sessions, led by forward-thinking women, emphasized the onus on all legal professionals, whether working in-house, as outside counsel or as an alternative service provider, to ensure that our industry grows in a conscientious and inclusive way. As recognized by Jennifer Warner of Columbia Sportswear, none of us can single-handedly change the legal industry, or indeed the wider world. However, we can all take the small but necessary steps in our working lives to truly bring diversity and inclusion to the legal sphere.