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In 1970, a mere 3% of all lawyers in the United States (of 326,842 total lawyers) were women. Since then, we’ve witnessed significant progress both within the legal industry and beyond — much of which has been driven by trailblazing women in law.
So, what’s next? With women now comprising 38% of all U.S. attorneys, we still have gender equality challenges to face in law. Progressing toward a fully equitable industry (and world) requires year-round, strategic, and continuous effort — but it’s helpful to utilize special periods of reflection, such as Women’s History Month (celebrated each March), to reflect upon how female attorneys have been invaluable changemakers, as well as to renew our own commitments to advancing equality under the rule of law.
With reflections and new commitments in mind, this article provides resources and tips for creating change in the legal industry and beyond. If you’re here, you might be:
Either way, the aim is to support you on your journey. But first, what does it actually mean to be a changemaker in the legal industry?
Generally speaking, a changemaker is someone who uses their unique skills, social networks, and experiences to positively impact the world. Within the legal industry, this can take multiple forms, from using litigation to enact policy change to providing pro bono services to advocate for marginalized individuals. For many attorneys, their conviction to advance the rule of law in pursuit of justice and equality serves as core inspiration for their “why.”
If you’re serving as a changemaker in the industry, your community, and/or your broader world, we at LexisNexis® want to assist you. Where do we stand in the fight for gender equality? On your side.
LexisNexis believes in “advancing what’s possible through inclusion and diversity” including, and certainly not limited to, gender inclusion and diversity. Internally, we make intentional and continuous efforts to promote gender equality in the workplace, knowing that innovation is dependent upon people of a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences working together. Externally, we strive to recognize changemakers and equip those we work with to make a positive impact. Examples of both internal and external efforts are below.
Our internal efforts include, but are not limited to:
Additionally, LexisNexis strives to prevent unconscious bias in the recruiting process and regularly reviews people policies to ensure fair workplace practices; in total, 51% of our employees identify as women.
Of course, we also seek to promote gender equality outside the organization — after all, this is an essential component of our mission to “advance the rule of law.” External initiatives include:
Most broadly, all Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts at LexisNexis are related to the Rule of Law Foundation, which seeks to promote:
In sum, we aim to be a support to both our employees and the law firms we work with, so that they may advance equality under the rule of law. According to Adonica Black, Global Talent Development and Inclusion Director at LexisNexis, “LexisNexis is here to help. Our law firm representatives are well-equipped to share our story and our D&I resources.”
Ready to make a difference? Here are our best tips for legal changemakers.
Regardless of practice area, sex, gender identity or expression, or background, you can be a changemaker in the legal industry. Perhaps you are already committed to some of the suggestions below, or maybe you’re starting fresh. Regardless, there are multiple ways to get involved — here are 5 of them.
Create a habit out of ensuring that legal frameworks are gender-sensitive and do not perpetuate gender-based discrimination. This could include advocating for gender-neutral language in legal documents (i.e., “members of Congress” as opposed to “Congressmen”), pushing for stronger laws against gender-based violence, and working to eliminate discriminatory laws and policies.
Want to lend your expertise? Try providing pro bono legal services to individuals and organizations working on gender equality issues. This could include representing victims of gender-based violence or discrimination, helping organizations that support gender equality with legal advice and assistance, and contributing to gender equality advocacy efforts. Suggestions for organizations to provide services to include:
Serving as an expert witness requires considerable time and effort but provides you with an excellent opportunity to provide a testimony on the effects of a particular law or policy on women's health, economic security, or access to education. You might also provide insight into the ways in which gender discrimination operates in a particular industry or workplace.
The impact of serving as a witness is significant. Your expertise and analysis can be crucial in cases involving complex legal and policy issues related to gender equality and can help to ensure that legal decisions are grounded in a thorough understanding of the issues at stake. Ultimately, serving as an expert witness is a powerful way to shape legal outcomes.
Generally speaking, you are well-positioned to educate others on gender equality issues, including the legal frameworks and policies that promote gender equality. This could involve organizing workshops or seminars, writing articles or op-eds, or speaking to community groups or policymakers.
It might be helpful to get involved with a group, such as:
There are daily ways to advocate for gender equality, simply by challenging gender stereotypes and gender-based discrimination in your own workplace and life. This tip reminds us that gender equality is not “just” a women’s issue — it's important for male allies to get involved.
A significant step toward challenging gender stereotypes in the workplace involves confronting your own “unconscious bias” or potential microaggressions. In other words, our own tendency to make implicit associations without thinking much about them. Everyone has unconscious bias — men, women, and gender nonconforming individuals — and it takes intentional work to unpack our biases and see how they impact our professions at an organizational level.
With intentionality, we can work to ensure that women are represented in leadership positions and that all attorneys are held to the same standards regardless of gender identity.
Watch how attorney-author Diane Jenkins is enacting change in the legal profession:
As an attorney or legal industry professional, you are well-positioned to be a changemaker within your own workplace and beyond. Of course, having the right resources available can help you maximize your impact.
LexisNexis prioritizes making it easy for attorneys to find what they need. We streamline the research process so that you can make a difference in this world, faster. Natural language search in Lexis+®, coupled with a variety of built-in features, makes it easier to uncover key facts and issues about your case. And with an extensive library of primary and secondary materials, you're likely to find exactly what you need with regards to your efforts in pursuit of gender equality.
(View of Lexis+ homepage when searching "women"; Click to enlarge)
We're here to help you make that impact and fulfill your obligations. Thank you for your efforts, changemaker.
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