When it comes to DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), our guests believe legal organizations want to do what’s best. But they don’t know where to start, or even have the data tools to point out shortcomings. The issue can seem so overwhelming the process falls into analysis paralysis.
But as host Carl Morrison hears, even beating a problem so overwhelming can be done with the right tool, one bite at a time, like eating the proverbial elephant.
Where can firms get the data they need? Where to start? Guests Mark Harris and Emmanuel Smith of JusticeBid explain how data from JusticeBid analytics helps the legal community progress, build diversity, and leverage available talent by expanding opportunities to all.
And because one of our guests is an NFL Super Bowl Champion (hint: Smith), we hear what the legal community can learn from the NFL’s struggles with DEI and the so-called “Rooney Rule” that’s been in the news.
Carl Morrison: Hello everyone welcome to the Paralegal Voice, here on Legal Talk Network. I’m Carl Morrison, a legal operations professional and advanced certified paralegal and your host to the Paralegal Voice.
Well, I can’t tell you how freaking excited I am for today’s show. You don’t know how excited I am, and not just because of the topic, I’m excited to be talking about this particular topic, but I have two amazing guest with me in the studio and we’re going to talk about a very important topic and what we’re going to be talking about is diversity equity and inclusion and — but it’s not just about DE&I in general, it’s more important about talking about diversity analytics and driving real changes based on the data within our own corporate legal departments and our law firms. So with all that said I’m going to start off and introduce my guests. So I’ve got two guests today. I’ve got with me, Mark Harris, whose vice president at JusticeBid, prior to coming to JusticeBid, Mark led the charge to really look at and being inclusive and providing inclusive opportunities in health and fitness for the differently-abled community and it really ultimately led him to joining forces with JusticeBid and helping transform how legal embeds DEI into their operations using diversity analytics, but not just Mark. I’ve got Emmanuel Smith, he is an NFL Star Super Bowl Champion with the Kansas City Chiefs. His faith, his passion and commitment is so apparent. I met him at Clock(ph) and I consider him and Mark my brothers so love them to death and with Emmanuel, he really was looking to help commit to underrepresented groups that you know, he wanted to do more for and so he joined with JusticeBid to help transform the legal industry with the hope of actively driving change. So enough of listening to me talk, welcome Mark and Emmanuel, thank you guys so much for being with me.
Mark Harris: Hey, thanks for having us.
Emmanuel Smith: Yes, thank you for having us.
Carl Morrison: Guys, and we’ve got so much we can cover and I know that trust me talking to them at Clock, I could talk hours on in with them so, but we have a limited amount of time and so, let’s just jump right off into it. So I’m going to start with you Mark, and one of the main legal department focus areas in both 2021 and 2022 has been DE&I. And so these past couple of years DE&I has remained a main area that corporate legal departments are hyper focused on and law firms are focusing on. But it’s interesting, when I was looking at some of the data on this, you know, when corporations were surveyed, less than 30% actually have a formalized diversity program and but 73% surveyed said that they wanted to and would be accelerating DE&I initiative. So, for you Mark, why do you think that this is, that there’s such a gap from actually having formalized diversity programs but there’s a push to do it, you know? Why did they fail to do this? Talk to us about that?
Mark Harris: Well, great question, first off, thank you so much, your intros were overstated but we appreciate it. And it is a good question. I think most firms want to do what’s best but like a lot of things, if you don’t know how to do it where do you start? And if it’s insurmountable, a lot of times, I like to put it off and then I start figuring out a little always to move, you know, make 1%, 3%, 5% moves in something and then all of a sudden it gets a little bit easier, but when you’re looking at the whole thing, it’s really hard to move. So I think that comes back to it is they want to do what’s best, they don’t know what to do and then what’s the playbook, you know, who’s done this before, who’s done it well? And what kind of information is out there? Where do you get the data to help you move this conversation forward? And I think that’s just two of probably, I don’t know, 10-15 other points, I mean the data list itself is hard, collecting the data. So all of those things are parts of it and I think again, they want to do it but how do I go about it? Is that a fair way to put it?
Carl Morrison: I think that is a fair way to put it and you hit the nail on the head that too often I think, and especially when you’re looking at the legal industry, we see this and I always like to tell paralegal students when I’ve taught in programs that when they are presented with a major issue or project or something that they’re haven’t tackled, I always say to them, how do you eat an elephant? And students goes what are you talking about eating an elephant? Well yeah, how would you approach eating an elephant? Well you do it one bite at a time that’s the best way to approach it. Now I think too often, and Mark disagree, Emmanuel disagree or agree with me, I think people just freeze, they see this major thing, they wanted to change but they don’t know how and I think you said it a minute ago, that’s I think a major part of that people get over.
Mark Harris: So you just really stole my thunder because that’s literally the analogy that Emmanuel and I were talking about, Emmanuel, I’ll just let you just speak up for me. Was that not the exact same thing I said?
Emmanuel Smith: Word for word.
Carl Morrison: See, I told you guys they’re my brothers, we’re from the same family, I’m telling you.
Mark Harris: Yeah, there’s a connection. There’s no doubt.
Carl Morrison: Emmanuel, I’m going to ask you, you know, as an NFL player, you of course, very familiar with the NFL requiring teams to interview ethnic minority candidates, and it’s known as, for those that who don’t know it it’s called The Rooney Rule. And I know I want to hear more about your story and I’d like the listeners to hear about your story about how you came to join your passion of diversity and inclusion initiatives with the legal industry. How did you get involved in driving that change from diversity-related commitments and pledges which is very similar to NFL’s Rooney Rule to active engagement?
Emmanuel Smith: That’s a good question. I got to JusticeBid and kind of create the connection, do a little bit background, my wife went to school with one of my colleague’s daughters and they reached out as an investor, (00:07:27) all season that he’s passion about and I’m like I’m always open to opportunities to hear. I heard what they were doing with DE&I, I thought they were tackling that space and I’m like this allows what my values and moral are because my corporate experience in America in the locker room, and I’m pretty sure everybody’s in the locker rooms are always loving, welcoming, we don’t care what you look like, where you come from, size, shape like these stuffs from the locker room is like probably brotherhood and I like that because it’s like a friendly nice warm bear hug, and there’s a people like use a pretty big bear hugs in the league. And I was really shocked when I got outside and saw that corporate America wasn’t really that way. And to me, it just lit a fire in me because I feel that people should always want to feel like they belong or welcoming any environment. So I wanted to make the legal field like a locker room. No matter where you come from, your background, as soon as you step into this space, you are welcomed and loved. And that way we can drive the needle forward and actually pushing the problems with DE&I.
Carl Morrison: So listeners, I actually connected with the Emmanuel and Mark way before Clock, couple of months before and we’ve had conversations and such and I was really excited to meet them in person. And I will tell you guys that Emmanuel gives the vast giant bear hugs on the planet. He is amazing and it shows your passion and your dedication for being an inclusive and creating inclusivity within the legal industry, and I was just like blown away. And so that’s why I’m so excited that you guys are on the show today to talk about something that’s sort of near and dear to my heart as well of inclusive. Inclusivity and diversity and Equity, those three things and we’re on go into — I’m going to get on a soapbox guys. So I’ll keep asking the questions but anyway.
Emmanuel Smith: That’s so uncharacteristic of you.
Carl Morrison: All right. So Mark, I’m going to ask now you a question. I’m a data nerd. I love the metrics and so having metrics in place to track employee diversity is really important. I see that it’s really important and I know that that’s what you guys focus in on as well. And Bloomberg Laws are getting thought 2021 legal operation survey revealed that the top three metrics to track diversities, includes race, gender and sexual orientation, when that is about over 80% survey.
But yet less than 50% of those surveyed said that the age, disability, veteran status, worker well-being and job satisfaction are other key metrics to measure and to look at. So what is it seemed like most organizations focus in on what I call the top three, which is the race, the gender, and orientation and not also, look at these other metrics. What do you think that is?
Mark Harris: Oh, can I use the word a myriad of reasons and I would maybe — I would also add there’s other metrics like head of household, first generation, social mobility. All those things are probably things that we should be talking about and maybe the best way to answer the question for you is to kind of put it very personal for me. It’s you know, so race gender, sexual orientation are a little more tangible. You can see it, maybe you can deal with the data and you understand it, but I would go so far as to say that even in those areas, we haven’t done a great job moving things forward. But where I come from very specifically and this is my kind of soapbox is, I dedicated a company and really kind of my life along with my wife to making adaptive fitness products because a friend of mine was injured in a wheelchair and he didn’t have the ability to go and do things that other people did, and it kind of ticks me off. And he said, you know, fitness isn’t really inclusive to me. And so I said well let me see what I can do to help you. So, I put together some sketches, threw it around for a little bit and threw it to him and he said yeah, this could help. And so, I made a product and then he used it on a national stage and then I had about five people approach me with five more products and we got into about 50 or 60 different things that I’m now trying to do for people, all because we wanted to make it inclusive. And, you know, you talked about that elephant and trying to eat things one at a time, it was so overwhelming. It’s all that we can do to keep up with that and then a couple of my athletes talk to me and said, you know, our careers, it’s difficult. One of them was a dental hygienist and she’s in a wheelchair. And this is a fit beast of a young woman who was just is amazing. But she says I’ve got to go back to work and I don’t know how this is going to work. And another who is a very well-known athlete, actually you could infer who she is based on it that she has six gold medals swimming for the U.S. in Olympics. She had an ATV accident. And she severed her spine and she’s now in a wheelchair and she said, you know, I’m taking the LSAT because I want to go out and do legal work to help children but I’m looking at the legal space and man, it does not look like me. And so I looked at it and it was like .37% of the legal operations and legal firms, looks like differently-abled. So I just gave you probably three minutes longer than I should’ve what it looks like to me. How do you as an organization when there’s so many more moving parts, get your hands around that unless you can go to one source and get all the data.
Carl Morrison: Right. Exactly, right. Which brings me to my next question that a sense of urgency and Emmanuel, this really for you that I was looking at again, metrics data and surveys and Clock did a survey that 44% of the organization set that it had legal departments surveyed actually did not become more diverse and actually stayed the same, that’s a lot to me. I saw that data point and I was like, wait, what? There wasn’t — doesn’t seem to be a sense of urgency and this was just a couple of years ago, that this particular data point is showing and that they’re just basically staying the same. So how can legal departments and law firms really developed that greater sense of urgency in recognizing the importance of the diversity and start making changes now, instead of just sitting around and waiting?
Emmanuel Smith: Well, I honestly would argue that it could’ve gotten worse, I say that because are they looking at it from the lens of intersectionality, they’re hitting all the boxes and not just chained the box like The Rooney Rule, but actually hitting the boxes and driving needle forward to make change or they’re just saying we have it but not really moving the needle forward which I think comes in part with the urgency.
And as you know with Clock, we’re wearing number 63 because that was represented as 63% of women of color are leaving law firms and the question is why is that, if law firms have been staying the same, and well say, law firm like the training ground, they do the training to help lawyers get into the law departments and hiring diverse lawyers, so why are we not able to keep diverse lawyers in the field but we’re able to keep non-diverse lawyers? So where is the intersectionality piece that kind of comes back to what Mark was saying about inclusion are making people felt like they belong. Why are we struggling with that and how can we look at ourselves as far as inwards to be able to make that movement on the outside.
Carl Morrison: And that’s a great point. You got to start at home first, meaning yourself. You got to look inside first to help you be able to move the needle forward.
Emmanuel Smith: Right.
Carl Morrison: So guys, I have a hard break for a commercial. So we’re going to take a little short commercial break, so listeners don’t turn that dial.
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Carl Morrison: Welcome back to the Paralegal Voice. Before the break, we were talking about creating a greater sense of urgency when recognizing diversity and starting to make those changes now. And so, Mark what do you think is one or you may have more than one of the biggest challenges that firms corporate legal departments are facing when incorporated these DE&I initiatives into their company.
Mark Harris: You’re dead on when you say I’d probably have more than one, but I’m going to try to simplify it for you. I think gathering the data, putting your arms around something like that. You know, data is great and I love data, I’m a data nerd myself but when you pull in all this data, then what do you do with it? And so, that’s kind of where Emmanuel and I are at it. We are trying to come up with ways to make the data manageable. Make it usable and figure out ways to actually make 1%, 3%, 5% moves because you start adding up those little numbers and they turn into big numbers.
Carl Morrison: Right, it’s again the elephant, eating that elephant, little bit at a time. So Emmanuel, I was reading an article just recently on DE&I and the person that they were interviewing, her name is Aubrey Blanche and she’s a leader in the DE&I arena. And she was quoted in this particular article saying diversity is demographics, inclusion is experience and equity is the gap in between the experience of different groups, and I thought, wow that’s a really powerful quote, and what data should law firms, legal departments, should be collecting to support the DE&I work? Is one area meaning is diversity more versus inclusion versus equity. Are they all equal? When we look at all those three data points when we’re collecting it, what’s your take?
Emmanuel Smith: Well, that’s a great quote by Aubrey. And my take on that comes from I don’t think one is more important than the other, it’s like a fist, if you have a fist, what one finger is more important, together it makes the fist. So I think DE&I comes together to make that fist and I think it’s more the greater question is how effective are we in those three areas, looking at it from the intersectionality lens. Like how we impact an inclusion with an experience and a culture of our law firms to where are people in. And the equity is the comparison of people and of the lawyers of just the industry itself as a whole, how we look at it as a comparison to drive that change forward. So I don’t think there is one key way to look at others as better, this inclusion better in diversity, diversity is better than equity, I think they all play a hand together to make the end goal stronger which means to look at how effective are we on all three of those areas.
And to find — the best way to find the in-house data for lawyers, no free shut outs as the firm one said but I’m going to say JusticeBid does a great job of being able to knock all those down especially from an intersectionality lens.
Carl Morrison: Well it’s funny that you know, your answer is correct. No, I’m not grading you. Seriously, I’ve seen too often where departments, companies, organizations, firms, when they start that they haven’t had the DE&I initiative and I start building a team. They start really hyper focused on one area. They’re focusing on diversity first versus equity and inclusion, or they only focus on inclusion and not the other two. I agree with you 110%. You can’t have all three of them are vitally important because if you focus in on one, you’re not getting to that point where you need to be.
Emmanuel Smith: Yes. Yes. Wholeheartedly agree with that.
Carl Morrison: Mark, we were talking about this earlier and that, you know, eating that elephant. I’m going to beat this analogy into the grounds today, right? But it’s such a great — what we’re talking about is such a great analogy. But it is a beast and people and departments and leadership, you know, they see it as thinking it’s overly complicated or it’s overwhelming and they get you know, they shut down because it’s just such a beast and we’ll just worry about it tomorrow. How can we as you know, little old me as a legal operations professional or the paralegals that are listening, paraprofessionals listen to the show, focus our efforts?
Mark Harris: The word that comes to mind is courage. And a lot of times when I think of the word courage, I’m thinking of fighting something big and overcoming that but it’s not always that way. Courage can be having the understanding that making a 1%, 3%, a 5%, and I’ve said that a couple times but I want to emphasize it. If you’re only getting small moves, you’re still getting moves. And that’s better than where, you know, we get paralysis by analysis by looking at all this data, but if you can find a good data set and you say, you know what, let’s just pick this part of the elephant and let’s move it, 1% this quarter, and then the next quarter, let’s push into three and the quarter after that let’s go to 5. Those are huge moves when you start accumulating that data over time. So I would say take it that small bite at a time, find a good data and then go find out where you can tackle it best and make those moves.
Carl Morrison: I think too often, especially from and not to dis on lawyers that are listening to the show. I love you. I love you lawyers. However, sometimes most lawyers are not project managers by design and they don’t think in the project management standpoint. And that’s where a particular skill set that legal ops people like myself and paralegals have a really strong project management. And to me, you approach it for a project management standpoint. So you look for those practical wins. You look for the small things that you can tackle and easily have those 1%, 3% success rates that demonstrate you’re moving things forward and larger projects, larger aspect to the DE&I, you work on and figure out how what the plan is going to be so that you can accomplish that. Too often, we get bogged down by paralysis by analysis. You get all this data and you go oh my gosh, okay, well, how do I tackle this beast without going okay, well let’s analyze this, let’s look at it from my project management standpoint. How do I get? How do I tackle those practical wins? How do I you know, what in the next 60 days, what’s my goal in 60 days with this particular aspect? All right, we are going to set up a diversity equity inclusion team. Okay. Well, 30 days, all right, great we’ve set that out now, the next, the next, the next, as you keep moving it, that’s where I think you see the major successes. You have to look at it my standpoint from a project management perspective.
Mark Harris: 100% agreed and project management is such a great word for what’s really going on in the industry, right?
Carl Morrison: Absolutely, 110% agreeing. All right, so this question is for both of you guys, but I’ll have you guys answer one at a time. So I want to know where are you on your DE&I journey? What are you thinking about? Or are you learning about currently? And I’m going to start with the Emmanuel first, you’re on the hot seat.
Emmanuel Smith: I’m the hot seat.
My DE&I journey, I’ll say where I’m learning about currently, I didn’t know this space to be honest really existed. Coming from a locker room and just being around athletes my whole life, this space really isn’t talked about and not really known, so the fact that this opportunity presented to me to allow me to learn that this industry is here but also (00:25:25) drives change in society and I’m learning more daily from everybody that I talked to, interactions on just different perspective on how DE&I is affecting everybody in a whole. So that’s kind of where I’m currently and my journey I guess it’s just been DE&I felt like has been part of my life. Just being in the locker room, dad is a cop, we’ve always been tight. Every time we interact with somebody, you treat them as a child of God and you love them, you don’t — nothing bad about them, you just always give them love and hope and I think that’s just been embedded in me, so now every time I go somewhere I’m like if I ever interact with somebody I don’t care what you identify as, what color you are, you can be purple, green, Emmanuel is going to love you for who you are and I think that is just pouring to what I’m doing with DE&I and legal space.
Carl Morrison: Mark?
Mark Harris: Wow, you want me to follow that?
Carl Morrison: I’m just saying you’re going —
Mark Harris: Oh my goodness, I have to deal with this all the time, you know what I’m saying. Emmanuel, Emmanuel, it’s like Mark who? You know, maybe I can look at that from a different perspective, I can’t add anything to what he said because as, it’s so typical of Emmanuel, you can find this young man in any situation and he’s genuine. So, my perspective is I’m much older and I know you can’t tell that from my voice, but you know, he’s in his mid-20s, and I’m in my something of 50s or something like that. And where I’ve been and what I’ve seen and the change that I’ve seen in my lifetime and then getting to interact with folks that kind of fit all spectrum, man this is a good journey because we’re talking about it, right? And talking about it’s one thing, but when you actually can see progress, which is where my perspective is, I’ve seen things come a long ways from when I was in my 20s. I wish I was as smart as I am now as what I was in my 20s, but it’s just a good time. And if I could just throw in one other thing and that is from a paralegal perspective and people looking to be involved in an industry, this is the industry to do this in. I see nothing but opportunity here in man, if you’re looking for a great career, this is it. I mean my gosh, just walk around Clock and see what amazing opportunity it is act.
Carl Morrison: I could not agree with you more. The two of you together. So for the listeners understanding I was just like blown away, I can’t say enough about these two that their light shines and emits so brightly. And I am so lucky and blessed to be on the journey with you guys that you have invited me along to be on this journey together and you guys are amazing on what you’re doing for the industry and I was so happy that you guys agreed to be on the show. So thank you guys so much for you know, the little bit of time that we get to talk about this. We could have a multi-episode, you know, series on all the sub areas that we really couldn’t even tackle today, but I always have to have and have to end my shows with fun questions. And so I’ve got, yeah, be afraid Emmanuel. So my fun questions, I’ll start with Mark first. So you were talking about being involved in the health and fitness. So, I got to know, what’s your guilty food pleasure?
Mark Harris: Oh, that’s such a great question and you know, because I’m involved in the health and fitness industry, part of the reason I am is because if I don’t stay healthy I can’t eat ice cream and there’s a place called Bobby’s Frozen Custard, it’s got kind of a 1950s theme drive up and they have this huge bucket of custard that they call a Hard Rock Cashew and I save calories so that I can go devour that with my granddaughter and that is 100% my guilty pleasure. It didn’t even take a thought for that question.
Carl Morrison: I’m a foodie. So I like to eat and I like to eat good food. And so food is just my guilty pleasure in general, food. So Emmanuel, here’s your question and being that I was thinking of a multitude of different questions and because you went to Vanderbilt, you’re a Vandy and I’m a huge Giant Florida Gators fan, so —
Emmanuel Smith: Oh no.
Carl Morrison: Do you not like me now because you’ve learned that —
Emmanuel Smith: Oh it’s still love, it’s still love, just a little bit of animosity towards you but not a lot.
Carl Morrison: But I can ask you a football question, but I’m not. So I’m going to do something totally different. Throwing you a curveball here. I want to know, are you the type of person to sing in the shower and if so, what do you sing?
Emmanuel Smith: Oh Lord. If my wife is here she would yell at me but yes, I totally love to sing in the shower, I got a little shower speaker that I put in and I’m a big R&B type of person like 90s R&B. R&B today is it’s kind of what it is, but the 90s R&B, as a little kid was like my jam, I remember the song called Let Me Love You by Mario, is my first love song. Don’t know why. But that’s the one that I scream at the top of my lungs, I might even break out and just mid-action and start dancing, my God, my little shampoo bottle as the mic and I’m going, I’m going to town in the shower, I might slip a couple times but that’s my go-to song.
Carl Morrison: Mark, he just dated us when he said he was a little kid in the 90s.
Mark Harris: I don’t think I want to do this anymore Emmanuel.
Carl Morrison: Gentlemen, thank you so, so much. We are running out of time, unfortunately, but before we wrap up, if any of the listeners want to get in contact with you guys, what’s the best way to reach you all? I’ll start with Mark.
Mark Harris: Email seems to be the source for everybody these days so [email protected].
Carl Morrison: And Emmanuel.
Emmanuel Smith: Follow with that my is [email protected]. Look forward to chat with anybody that wants to chat.
Carl Morrison: You guys. Thank you so, so much and I can’t wait to see you guys in person again. I’m going to have to come out your direction before Clock next year, just so I can sit and talk with you guys and get a giant bear hug so.
Emmanuel Smith: Yes.
Mark Harris: Well we’re truly grateful for this opportunity Carl, thank you so much.
Carl Morrison: Thanks guys. So, hang tight everyone, we’ll be right back after a break for station identification.
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Carl Morrison: Well guys, unfortunately, that’s all the time we have for today’s show on the Paralegal Voice. If you have any questions about today’s show or the guests I had on today’s show. You can email them to me at [email protected] and stay tuned for more information and upcoming podcasts for exciting paralegal trends, news and engaging, and fun interviews from leading paralegals and other leading legal professionals.
Thank you for listening to the Paralegal Voice produced by the broadcast professionals at Legal Talk Network. If you like more information about today’s show, please visit legaltalknetwork.com, find Legal Talk Network on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn or download Legal Talk Network’s free app in Google Play and iTunes and reminding you that I’m here to enhance your passion and dedication to the paralegal profession and make your paralegal voice heard.