March 12, 2014

Central Ohio Legal Community Committed to Diversity and Inclusion

The Columbus Bar Association’s Managing Partners Diversity Initiative (MPDI) recently hosted a seminar on Implicit Bias and the Legal Profession. Prof. Jerry Kang, an expert on implicit bias and the law, provided a scientific introduction to implicit biases. Kang was joined by Cheryl Staats, lead author of the Kirwan Institute’s State of the Science Implicit Bias Review. They shared how a creative and comprehensive approach to understanding inclusion in the workplace can help drive genuine change.

Implicit biases are attitudes and stereotypes that we are unaware of but still affect our behavior. These subtle biases can influence hiring, social interactions, and evaluations in organizations in ways that undermine productivity, teamwork, and a basic sense of fairness. Evidence-based strategies were presented and discussed to a standing room only crowd on how to counter these effects.

“Many organizations are well-intentioned, but may not be progressing towards meaningful change in the diversity and inclusion space,” said Kurt Tunnell, managing partner at Bricker & Eckler LLP and chair of the MPDI. “After a period of initial growth, these organizations lose momentum and their diversity and inclusion initiatives end up by the wayside. The Columbus Bar’s MPDI has been anchored to real work and real results in the legal industry for over 13 years and is still going strong.”

“The MPDI partnership consists of key organizations in the central Ohio legal community,” noted Jill Snitcher McQuain, Executive Director of the Columbus Bar Association. “This group is fiercely dedicated to real change in our industry and includes 22 law firms, two law schools, three minority bar associations and two government offices.” Kang is a leading scholar on implicit bias and the law, having published more than a dozen articles on the subject in journals including the Harvard Law Review. He is widely sought after as speaker having addressed businesses and associations (ABA Board of Governors, American Bar Foundation, Association of General Counsels, Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, NAPABA, National Association of Women Lawyers, Southern California Edison, Writers’ Guild of America and Walmart); law firms; judges and government organizations.

Staats’ work is conducted at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. It is led by Executive Director Sharon L. Davies, and the Gregory H. Williams Chair in Civil Rights & Civil Liberties, Michael E. Moritz College of Law, at The Ohio State University. The Institute is known and respected nationally and deeply engaged locally.

Keynote presenter Prof. Jerry Kang of the UCLA Law School was joined by Cheryl Staats of the Kirwan Institute for an introduction to implicit bias, a series of subconscious behaviors that may persist to undermine diversity and inclusion initiatives in our workplaces despite our best efforts.

Kang and Staats flank Kurtis Tunnell, Bricker managing partner and chair of the advisory committee of the Columbus Bar Managing Partners Diversity Initiative, that sponsored the March 6 CLE.