“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.
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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.