Electronic Discovery Institute Class 33: The EDI Diversity Initiative


Here's my final posting about the Electronic Discovery Institute's online e-discovery certification program, that you can subscribe to for just $1. I last blogged about this program on October 21, 2018. Go to https://www.lawinstitute.org/ to sign up for it. The course entitled, The EDI Diversity Initiative is taught by Alex Ponce de Leon, a discovery counsel for Google; Veronica Gromada, Senior Associate General Counsel and Section Head of the Litigation Support Group for Walmart Stores, Inc.; Ashish Prasad, general counsel for eTERA Consulting; Demetrius Rush, assistant general counsel for Zurich North America; Vince Catanzaro, an attorney with Shook, Hardy & Bacon.

The Diversity Pledge

American society is very diverse and becoming more connected to the rest of the world through technology. People who come from different backgrounds, bring different approaches to problems. Greater racial and gender diversity helps encourage a greater diversity of thought. Companies have an interest in having the ethnic background of their staff mirror that of their customer base. Only about 30% of attorneys are women, and a smaller percentage of law professors are women. There is a greater diversity in the medical profession and other businesses than in the legal profession.

Cantanzaro believes that law firms have not been as committed to promoting diversity as other businesses. Part uf the problem may stem from the fact that white men may be more inclined to promote other white men.

Diversity may have been hindered by the propensity to be competitive with other individuals, which loses sight of the greater good of the firm and its clients. Diversity committees can help firms take the first steps in the right direction.

The EDI diversity initiative hopes to build upon the efforts of bar associations that have been active in encouraging greater diversity. The EDI wants it to be widely acknowledged that diversity should be a priority. Many initiatives in the legal industry have been in place for decades - the National Bar Association and other organizations have had a lot of success with their efforts. There is more diversity then there was decades ago, but the reduction in the demand for legal services over the past 8-9 years has led to less diversity in some areas. Corporate legal departments, such as those for Fannie Mae, Microsoft and Google, have made a lot of progress is recruiting more diverse staffs. They have programs to tackle implicit bias.

Rush recounted how when he relocated from West Virginia his thinking was changed by interacting with different ethnic and social groups. Cantanzaro discussed how the diversity initiatives at his former employer DuPont were greatly assisted by the support of the corporate heads of the company. Gromada talked about the successes of Corporate Counsel Women of Color, an organization she is involved with that has a program called My Life as a Lawyer, that reaches out to students. Mentoring younger lawyers can be an important way to build a more diverse staff. Gromada is proud to be able to tap into a diverse network she has developed of up and coming legal professionals.

The EDI's Diversity Pledge asks lawyers who take it to encourage diversity in the hiring and promotion of electronic discovery professionals. The EDI believes strongly in the importance of mentoring, and has developed a program to pair up senior professionals with young people entering the field.