Takeaways From Paul Lee's Beacon Award Speech

On Thursday, November 14th, more than 200 members of the Boston Legal Community displayed their commitment to diversity & inclusion by attending the 4th Annual Beacon Award honoring Paul Lee. Guests were treated to some powerful words from Paul about the progress Boston has made in his time here as well as the importance of continuing to strive for a diverse and inclusive legal profession.

Paul reminded us all that there are simple steps we can take to help advance this mission. Here are Paul’s four considerations to keep in mind and three challenges to embrace:

Four Considerations:

1) Leading from the Top. It’s not enough for an organization to just have diversity friendly policies -Leaders have to lead proactively on diversity.  They have to talk about it within their organizations seriously and continuously, make it a core part of their leadership of the organization, and demand accountability.  Each of us should ask ourselves whether the leader of our organization is doing enough, and we need to hold our leaders accountable and we need to work with our leaders.

2) Critical Mass. We need to do better in terms of achieving a diverse critical mass, especially in the senior and leadership positions.  There are clearly not enough partners of color at law firms.  One or two partners of color at a firm do not equal critical mass.

3) Work Environment. How do we ease the discomfort of lawyers of color in the workplace? I know many lawyers of color who believe they have to be twice as good to succeed.  We need to better understand why the workplace environment is giving rise to this perception.

4) How to Give Feedback. Giving feedback is an uncomfortable conversation in the best of circumstances, even for two persons of the same culture.  We all need to learn to give feedback in a way that empowers a lawyer of color to feel like he or she belongs.  Only then can the feedback be received in a less-threatening way that focuses on understanding the things he or she is doing well and areas in need improvement.  

Three Challenges:

1) Lead more proactively on diversity 

2) Take the time to learn from people of other cultures 

3) Mentor more lawyers of color 

To read Paul’s full speech, click here.