One of Shakespeare’s rather famous or infamous quotes is from Henry VI, where he says, “First, let’s kill all the lawyers.”
This oft-repeated joke reflects the general negative sentiment many people have toward lawyers, which is nothing short of being on par with the kind of unfriendliness displayed toward investment bankers. Some people hate lawyers until they need one. But more needs to occur to change the negative perceptions of lawyers and the work they do in society.
Legal professionals must see themselves first and foremost as servants of society. Service is about recognizing that we are all part of the human family and that treating each other with dignity and respect is the only key to human progress.
Unfortunately, the legal process in America is no longer geared towards noble concepts such as justice, fairness, or impartiality but rather financial power and connections. It’s sad that money—or the lack of it—has become the deciding factor in the American judicial system.
We could argue that the justice system has never been fair but has instead always operated on the concept of privilege. In the past, this privilege heavily depended on the concepts of gender and race, thus favoring white males. Today, however, it gears heavily toward financial power above all other metrics. Lady Justice is meant to be blind, but in the current system, it is clear that she seems to notice the color green.
Ways some people receive unjust treatment under the lawHere are some ways the judicial system systematically and unjustly treats poor people:
Staying in prison because they can’t afford bailThose accused but not yet convicted of a crime are imprisoned because they can’t afford to pay bail. It’s difficult for wealthy policymakers to imagine that some people are too poor to pay a few hundred or a couple of thousand dollars set as their bail. However, many Americans can’t afford this amount and have no choice but to stay in prison for weeks or months as they await their day in court. Imprisonment can lead to a loss of jobs and income and other problems that quickly cascade. So, some individuals are dealing with the burdens of a conviction, even though they have not pleaded or been found guilty by a jury.
Lack of access to legal servicesOn the civil side, sometimes individuals need assistance with family law matter, real estate transactions, or financial troubles. Still, due to a lack of access to legal services, the situation gets worse. Lawyers are well equipped to guide individuals facing these matters and intervening early before they lead to havoc in other areas of their lives.
BiasWe all have biases, but when we are in positions of power, those biases can have a tremendous impact on the lives of others. Lawyers, judges, and members of juries are examples of people who hold power over others and should work to uncover biases and not let mere assumptions get in the way of dispensing justice. Unfortunately, these biases can disproportionately impact poor people and minoritized communities, being imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.
How lawyers can be of serviceLawyers can serve humanity by using their skills, power, connections, and knowledge to help the disadvantaged and oppressed. Their work in service to humanity does not mean they can’t make money at all; it just means that they recognize that they have a social responsibility to the rest of humanity.
Here are ways to be of service:
Pro bono workPro bono is Latin and translates to for the public good. Lawyers wishing to engage in public good can offer their legal services for free to people who cannot afford a good lawyer but are in desperate need of justice.
The best cases to take on involve an individual who has experienced extreme damage to their health or financial well-being. An example would be a case where a factory has been using dangerous chemicals that harm the local community resulting in cancer or other medical conditions.
Students just out of law school can get some real-world experience by doing pro bono work that allows them to sharpen their skills in the real world. Law school tends to be too theoretical and needs to teach how cases in the real world evolve.
Financing scholarshipsMany lawyers are quite wealthy; this wealth is an opportunity to give back financially to causes that matter. Scholarships to law students from poor backgrounds are a great way to give back to the community.
Sharing knowledgeKnowledge is more valuable than money. Experienced lawyers can give back to the community by offering their knowledge and experience to junior associates and people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“We have to transcend our differences to transform our future.”
Diversity involves embracing people from different backgrounds irrespective of factors like age, class, ethnicity, gender, health, or physical appearance. Diversity applies to the public and private spheres, especially regarding hiring in companies, factories, firms, and governmental organizations. It also applies to memberships in learning institutions, clubs, and fraternal societies.
According to U.S. News and World Report, 62% of law students in America were white, 12.7% were Hispanic, and 7.8% were Black.
Given that the population of African Americans in the country stands at 15%, there is a clear discrepancy between the actual number of law students versus what one would expect to find.
Regarding sexual orientation, a poll by NALP found that only 2% of partners and 4% of associates openly identify as LGBT. This is in contrast to the fact that 7% of the American population identifies as members of the LGBT community.
Fortunately, the news isn’t all bad because we have made tremendous progress on gender. More than 54% of law students today are women, and the number is growing. 
This begs the question, why has there been such an improvement in gender but not race or sexual orientation? Part of the answer to this question is that
 "Law Schools, Law Firms Must Share Responsibility for Diversity." 21 Jul. 2021, https://news.bloomberglaw.com/banking-law/law-schools-law-firms-must-share-responsibility-for-diversity. Accessed 7 Oct. 2022.
 "NALP Research: LGBT Representation Among Lawyers in 2019." https://www.nalp.org/0120research. Accessed 7 Oct. 2022.
 "Women Outnumbered Men in Law Schools in 2020...Again - ENJURIS." https://www.enjuris.com/students/law-school-women-enrollment-2020/. Accessed 7 Oct. 2022.
there has been greater advocacy on the gender question over a longer period, leading to greater action. As a society, we accepted women’s rights far sooner than racial civil or LGBT rights.
A common misconception about diversity is that it’s about meeting quotas and requirements. In truth, it is about improving workplace performance and efficiency.
Diversity improves productivity by increasing creativity, boosting innovation, encouraging wider strategic thinking, and allowing organizations to pool knowledge from different backgrounds.
How lawyers can improve diversity in the workplace
Law firms can take several steps to help promote diversity in the workplace. These steps work best when taken incrementally and strategically. It is also important not to present them to the workplace antagonistically; instead, it is best to present them as a necessary step toward greater organizational functionality and progress.
#: Take account of the current situation
A law firm can take workplace surveys using questionnaires to get effective feedback on gender, race, orientation, and employees; health; the firm can then quantify this data in percentages to determine areas that lack sufficient diversity.
#: Communicate your vision
A common mistake by firms with good intentions but poor execution is to start implementing programs without effectively communicating why the new measures are important. Taking time to talk to people shows respect and appreciation, thus reducing hostility and backlash.
#: Hire deliberately
Contacting friendly organizations such as universities and bar associations is an effective way to find high-quality employees that help meet diversity goals. It’s important to ensure that quality is always adhered to even as you improve.
#: Keep diversity in mind when promoting
Despite improving numbers in terms of hiring, there is still a problem with the number of minorities in high-ranking positions such as partners, managing partners, CFO, and CTO.
How lawyers can promote diversity in the world
The legal profession is one of the most powerful careers in the world; therefore, it can create immense positive change. Lawyers can create this change by taking the following steps:
#: Take on discriminatory cases that promote diversity
Many employees have been denied employment and promotion opportunities based on age, race, orientation, or disability. Taking on these kinds of cases is an effective way to promote diversity in the world.
#: Take on diverse clients
Many prestigious law firms have embraced diversity in their hiring but not in the cases and clients they actually take on. As of 2019, the percentage of fortune 500 companies run by white men was 85.6%. This reflects the general state of corporate America and, therefore:
#: Offer mentorship and pipeline programs for diverse students
Offering mentorship to young people is an effective way to help them navigate the challenges that emerge with coming from diverse backgrounds.
Poverty is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to success; offering scholarships and guidance can help bridge the gap that disadvantages many young people.
“Prejudice wears a variety of hats, none of them becoming.”
In a world that is gradually prioritizing fairness and acceptance, it’s easy for most people to convince themselves that they are paragons of virtue and impartiality.
Unfortunately, this lofty vision of themselves rarely matches reality. We all carry some degree of prejudice against other people, a prejudice that affects how we treat the people around us. By nature, prejudice is so deeply buried in our psyche that we hardly notice how it affects our behavior.
One of the most powerful displays of bias is our refusal to associate with other people because they are different in some way. This difference could be because of their mental abilities, physical form, sexual orientation, class background, or race.
What inclusion is really about
Inclusion is not just about accepting a student to a learning institution or hiring them in an organization; it goes far deeper. Inclusion is about making people feel welcome in a group setting and giving them a sense of belonging. Inclusion means truly incorporating someone in the social setting and giving them a place and a voice that carries weight in the group. Inclusion is about showing appreciation and acceptance of individual differences and learning how to take advantage of these differences for the benefit of society.
Critics of the concept of inclusion have attempted to paint the idea negatively by claiming it negatively impacts organizational productivity. This fallacy lies at the heart of why the concept has remained not as fully adopted as much as it should be. Therefore, it is necessary to offer a response to this before moving any further.
First, inclusion does not create inefficacy; it has the exact opposite effect. Inclusion allows groups and organizations to hear different and unique points of view that they would have otherwise ignored.
Secondly, fostering inclusion and acceptance in an organization helps motivate people to offer their best performance because they feel like they have a stake in the group.
It’s important to note that high intelligence does not guarantee you will understand the importance of inclusion. Lawyers and law students consider themselves to be—and actually are—pretty smart people. And yet, this does not prevent them from falling into the trap of bias. This bias is first observable in law school in how students treat other students who are different.
A 2020 study by the American Bar Association found that 23% of black law students felt that their schools did “very little” to foster or support an inclusive environment.
Many students also felt that their environment treated them differently based on gender, religion, and sexual orientation. Prejudice impacts whether students who are different will be invited to study groups, whether they will receive peer advocacy and whether they will make friends.
What started in law school eventually translates into behavior in law firms. People who are different are not hired; even if they are hired, no effort is made to help them feel at home. This eventually affects the kinds of clients and cases lawyers are willing to take.
Inclusion in firms isn’t just about how lawyers treat their coworkers; it’s also about how they treat their clients or potential clients. Lawyers should show fairness in how they treat their clients regardless of race, gender, orientation, or class.
Here are some steps to take to improve inclusivity in law schools and in the workplace:
 "Blog - LSSSE." https://lssse.indiana.edu/?m=202012&cat=80. Accessed 7 Oct. 2022.
To understand that inclusion is important, people must first become aware of it. Talking to people is the first and most important step toward promoting greater inclusivity.
#: Establish a culture
We are what we do regularly, not what we do sporadically. Establishing a culture is about fostering patterns of behavior geared towards encouraging a way of thinking and behaving.
#: Work with bar associations
National, state, and local bar associations have programs designed to foster a culture of inclusivity in the wider legal community, including encouraging lawyers who are different to speak at events and providing financial support to unique programs.
These posts were proofread by Grammarly
Joseline J. Hardrick is the Founder and President of Diversity Access Pipeline, Inc. She is also an author, professor, and lawyer and resides in Tampa Bay, Florida. Guest bloggers are students in the Journey to Esquire® Scholarship & Leadership Program.