The future of DEI programs in the legal industry

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The legal professional lacks diversity. In other news: the sun is hot, law school is expensive and junk food is bad for you.

Not to be funny, but the lack of diversity when it comes to race, gender, sexuality, disability and social class within the legal profession is nothing new. However, over the past decade there has been a gradual increase in diversity in all areas.

According to the most recent ABA, for example Profile of the legal profession reportAccording to the US Census Bureau, women make up only 39% of lawyers in this country, despite women making up more than 50% of the population. Nevertheless, that 39% is actually an increase from where it was 10 or even 20 years ago.

Meanwhile, racial minorities make up just 21% of lawyers in this country – an improvement from a decade ago, when the figure was just 11%, according to the report. There are similar trends when it comes to sexual orientation and disability.

However, diversity, equity and inclusion programs, or DEI for short, have come under fire recently. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down affirmative action programs for college admissions, and several groups have begun to question the legality of DEI programs at law firms and corporations.

Are we looking at undoing all the progress made in recent decades to make the legal profession more diverse?

In this episode of the Podcast for legal rebelsLisa Kirby and Kavita Ramakrishnan of Diversity Lab, a think tank that uses metrics, behavioral science and design thinking to develop initiatives that cultivate diversity and inclusion in legal organizations, talk with Victor Li of the ABA Journal. They discuss diversity in the legal profession and where DEI efforts can go.

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In this podcast:

Lisa Kirby

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Lisa Kirby

Lisa Kirby is president of inclusive talent systems at Diversity Lab. She has worked as a lawyer, talent management professional and consultant at law firms. After beginning her career as a litigator at two major law firms, Kirby then spent several years in professional development at Goodwin Procter, where she helped establish and lead the firm’s Women’s Initiative.

Kavita Ramakrishnan

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Kavita Ramakrishnan

Kavita Ramakrishnan is the Mansfield Rule and senior director of knowledge sharing at Diversity Lab. Ramakrishnan spent nearly a decade as an attorney at the New York offices of Cravath, Swaine & Moore and Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello, where she defended companies in complex civil lawsuits and represented individuals and entities under investigation by various federal and state authorities. She also represented indigent defendants under the Criminal Justice Act and worked closely with nonprofit organizations as co-counsel in pro bono cases.

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