Diversity has long been widely discussed in the legal industry. In the past year, however, new questions have been raised about equality in the profession, driven by prominent movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp. Even as stories continue to pour out of Hollywood and elsewhere, the legal industry is confronting difficult questions about whether women in law firms, or in the legal profession in general, receive equal representation and treatment.

This is one in a series of posts previewing the upcoming Legalweek/Legaltech conference, Jan. 28-31 in New York. 

What do #MeToo and #TimesUp mean for law firms? Law firms are often hired to represent the victims of alleged wrongdoing, but harassment and discrimination within firms are very real problems, even as firms work to install and shore up policies to prevent and punish such behavior. We’ve also seen high-profile class actions contending that women in law firms still don’t receive pay equal to that of their male counterparts.

Equality, along with many other diversity-related topics, will be a special focus at this year’s Legalweek conference. This year, a special forum, Legal Diversity & Talent Management, will be held on Jan. 30 and 31 as part of the larger conference. Leaders from top corporations and law firms will be on hand to discuss the current state of diversity and equality in law, as well as possible solutions for establishing a respectful workplace culture going forward.

Here are some of the sessions during the Legal Diversity & Talent Management forum that will address diversity and equality in the legal industry. Descriptions are taken from the agenda.

DAY ONE
10:30–11:30 a.m.
View from the GCs: Driving Diversity in Law Firms

Although many corporations now have effective D&I initiatives in place, their law firms are lagging behind. In this session, GCs will discuss how they view their law firms’ diversity initiatives, effects of Mansfield Rule 1.0, and measures they are taking to ensure law firms move the needle forward in diversity.

Key takeaways:

  • Successful corporate D&I initiatives that can be implemented in law firms
  • How GCs are holding law firms accountable

Moderator:
Joe West, Partner, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Duane Morris LLP.

Speakers:
Tami Collingwood, Attorney, GCFC US Enterprise Commercial, Microsoft; Simon Des-Etages, Deputy General Counsel, Global Retail Banking & Wealth Management, HSBC; Ann Kappler, Senior Vice President, Deputy General Counsel & Head of External Affairs, Prudential Financial; Andy Yoo, Former Vice President & Associate General Counsel, Pearson.

1:30–2:30 p.m.
Getting Buy-In from Law Firm Leaders and Engaging the Institution

Law firm leaders will discuss how and why they became D&I allies. Panelists will share their buy-in and engagement success stories as well as strategies for overcoming resistance.

Key takeaways:

  • The Business Case for Creating a Diverse and Inclusive Workforce
  • The Mansfield Rule and how is it affecting law firms
  • The Need for and path to Diversification of Equity Partnerships

Moderator:
Bernard Guinyard, Director, Diversity & Inclusion, Goodwin Procter LLP.

Speakers:
Austin T. Fragomen, Jr., Chairman, Fragomen Del Ray Bernsen & Loewy; Andrew Kassner, Chairman & CEO, Drinker Biddle; Jami Wintz McKeon, Chair, Morgan Lewis.

DAY TWO
11 a.m.–noon
ALM Legal Intelligence – State of D&I in the Legal Industry

Panel will examine by ALM and the American Bar Association on retaining and advancing experienced female lawyers into upper levels of the profession.

Moderator:
Patrick Fuller, Vice President, ALM Intelligence.

Speakers:
Haley Altman, founder and CEO, Doxly; Steve Kovalan, Director of Research, ALM Intelligence; Catherine Krow, founder and CEO, Digitory Legal Corp.

2-3 p.m.
The #MeToo and #Time’sUp Movements: Tackling Gender Inequality in the Workplace

How are #MeToo and #Time’sUp affecting corporate legal departments and law firms? What is acceptable behavior in the workplace? How are women fighting for more representation and equality? In this session, lawyers from corporations and law firms will discuss potential solutions for gender inequality and implementing a respectful workplace culture. Panelists will share their views on how to bring about meaningful change.

Key takeaways:

  • How to get buy-in from senior management – top-down approach
  • Gender bias training
  • What resources and toolkits are available
  • How to determine effectiveness of training sessions
  • The women exodus & how to retain senior women lawyers

Moderator:
Michelle Matiski, Vice President & Head of Corporate Legal Group, Aetna.

Speakers:
Jill Backer, Assistant Dean, Career & Professional Development, Pace Law School; Talita Erickson, General Counsel, Americas, Barilla; Nathalie Hofman, Principal, Fraud Investigation & Dispute Services, Ernst & Young; Eben Krim, Chief Labor & Employment Counsel, PMT, Honeywell International.

You can check out a full agenda for the conference here.