Jan. 19, 2012 - As lawyers our job is to represent our clients with all the skill that we can bring to each situation. If our toolkit of skills includes only hammers, every client problem looks like a nail. By broadening our toolkit with diverse perspectives and experiences we can achieve the different results that clients both need and deserve.

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Diversity — It’s What Makes the Heart Beat

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Rhoades Mckee, like many businesses, has worked over the years to promote diversity within its organization. Earlier this year, we joined the managing partners of 11 other West Michigan law firms in a collaboration designed to accelerate the creation of a more diverse bar and to cement the gains achieved over the years. Anyone sitting in on the meetings would be left with no doubt about the conviction of those involved that diversity is important and that they are willing to spend considerable time and resources to achieve it. In a bit of ironic timing, our meetings this spring coincided with a visit to town by columnist Ann Coulter, who has been quoted as saying, “Never in recorded history has diversity been anything but a problem” and “Diversity is a difficulty to be overcome, not an advantage to be sought.” Based on the reporting that followed Coulter’s visit to Grand Rapids and other cities in the Midwest, it was clear that many share her thoughts.

While it was tempting to summarily dismiss Coulter’s statements as little more than red meat thrown to the far right, the stark contrast between her position and the heartfelt conviction of those in the collaborative that diversity is not only desirable but necessary, caused me to step back and consider the issue anew. Have we heard that diversity is important so many times that we simply accept it as gospel? Are we pursuing diversity simply because it is a politically correct feel-good activity that gets positive ink? Because other businesses are doing it and we don’t want to appear to be unenlightened? Or, instead, does our pursuit of diversity have a solid foundation and a proper motivation?

To answer these questions, I spent a good deal of time reviewing the thoughts of people who have spent lots of time wrestling with the foundational question of why diversity matters to the legal profession. The State Bar of Michigan’s Diversity and Inclusion Pledge summarizes the issue very well:

“Diversity creates greater trust and confidence in the administration of justice and the rule of law, and enables us to better serve our clients and society. It makes us more effective and creative by bringing different perspectives, experiences, backgrounds, talents, and interests to the practice of law.”

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