The legal profession often excludes white men from discussions about diversity and inclusion. Some view this as a mistake, given that white men are still a majority within law firm leadership, and leaving them out of the diversity discussion lessens the chance for real change to take place.

Many of those in a position to effect change fear saying the wrong thing. "One of the barriers to honest discussion is fear of saying something inadvertently offensive or making a comment that is taken in a way that is not intended," said Mark Stewart, Chair of Ballard Spahr.

Law firms that understand inclusion is good for business have a competitive edge. There is also a "moral imperative" to advance diversity in the profession. But which is the more effective argument for creating a more diverse work environment? Mr. Stewart stated, "The goal is to have an organization that listens to and respects various viewpoints. The value of that is not necessarily self-evident, meaning that it may take time for an organization to see and reap the benefits of a more diverse and inclusive workplace. In cases where it is not self-evident, an organization must look for ways to build a diverse workplace. The question of how you create that workplace has many answers, including [the business case and moral imperative rationale]."

How should law firms encourage the involvement of white men in advancing diversity? Mr. Stewart said that Virginia G. Essandoh, Ballard Spahr's Chief Diversity Officer, "provides us with simple tips on how we can easily begin to get involved in diversity and inclusion. These range from including diverse lawyers in social invitations to consciously putting together a diverse team for a pitch. She also advises us to be aware of the need to talk to everyone, not just our inner circle, at parties and other gatherings."

Related Area

Diversity