Small but Inclusive: DEI Initiatives for Solo and Small Firms with Alexi Freeman

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Episode Description

Are you ready to build a more inclusive legal profession? In this must-listen episode, Lauren sits down with Alexi Freeman, a diversity, equity, and inclusion thought leader. Alexi breaks down DEI in a refreshingly candid way, sharing practical tips for solo attorneys and firms to get involved and drive meaningful change. You’ll learn the barriers keeping the legal profession from true inclusion, how to avoid missteps, and metrics to track progress. Whether you’re just starting your DEI journey or want to take it further, this conversation will leave you inspired to be an active ally. Press play and get ready to be part of the solution!

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Episode Transcript 

LEXI: [00:00:00] Lawyers are trained to talk and to offer opinions and to argue and debate. And some things aren’t up for debate. Person’s lived experience while they’re sharing it. It’s not up for debate. You may not have that experience so you can’t relate to it, but they feel that way and they’re entitled to feel that way.

Welcome to a different

LAUREN: practice. I’m your host Lauren Lester, and I’m obsessed with all things business wellbeing, and optimizing the practice of law for solo and small firm lawyers. I started my solo practice right out of law school, built it from the ground up, and now work part time while earning well over six figures.

I’m here to share tangible, concrete tools and resources for ditching the legal profession’s antiquated approach and building a law practice optimized for profit and efficiency. Think of this as grabbing coffee with your work bestie, mixed with everything they didn’t teach you in law school about running a business.

Pull up a seat, grab a cup, and get ready to be encouraged and challenged. This is a different practice.[00:01:00]

Welcome everyone to another episode of A Different Practice. This is one of the most important episodes I certainly have done so far and probably will do into the future. I’m hopeful that this is the start of a conversation for us as a community. It’s certainly not the start of this conversation in general, and I hope that it is not the end of the conversation.

This is something that I know I personally want to return to, and I hope to return to here on the podcast as well, because we need to continue to talk about it. Today we’re covering the topic of DEI or diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession. This is not something we’ve historically been very good at.

There’s a reason that this topic is more prominent of late. It should have been more prominent decades ago, to be quite honest, but I’m glad that it’s starting to get the conversation and the attention that it deserves. And I think we all have a role to play in it. [00:02:00] I could sit here and talk to you about how the The reason you should get involved or that you should care about this is a business decision because it’s good for business and it absolutely is.

The right thing to do is always going to be a good business decision but that’s not the reason that it’s important. It’s important because it takes all of us and I know I personally wanted to be Someone who helped move the needle forward, it might be incremental, it might be micro progress, but I really have been thinking for the last several years, how can I get more involved?

How can I do more? And so I’m really excited to have this conversation today to learn just more about DEI, how it shows up in our profession in ways that maybe we didn’t realize, and really how we can each do our own part to Make the profession more diverse, more inclusive, more equitable across the board.

I hope that you’ll find [00:03:00] this conversation illuminating. I hope that it gives you a different perspective. I hope ultimately that it inspires you to take some action. to make a small change in your corner of the world that will hopefully ripple out. If we all make those small changes, we will actually begin to see some real progress, but it is going to take all of us.

So I feel really honored and fortunate to have this conversation today. I thank you so much for listening to it. Before we jump in, I want to tell you a little bit more about my guest today. Speaking with Alexi Freeman at Denver Law, Alexi serves as the Associate Dean for DEI, the Director of Externships and Social Justice Initiatives and Professor of the Practice.

In these roles, she leads the nationally recognized externship program at the law school. She teaches social change lawyering courses and oversees a range of efforts dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion. Lexi was [00:04:00] awarded the prestigious Robert B. Yegi Excellence in Teaching Award at Denver Law in 2019 after being there for only six years.

She has also been the recipient of multiple awards including the Colorado Women’s Bar Association’s Raising the Bar Award, the Colorado LGBT Bar Association’s Ally of the Year Award, and the Center for Legal Inclusiveness individual award. Prior to joining Denver Law, Freeman worked as an attorney at the Advancement Project, a national civil rights group where she assisted grassroots organizations across the country on social justice advocacy campaigns around education and juvenile justice policy, housing, and voting rights issues.

Lexi also received a JD from Harvard Law School where she was recognized for her leadership on campus and public service commitment. She received her BA in Journalism in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She identifies as a proud working mother of two children who keep her on her [00:05:00] toes always.

If her credentials don’t show you already, Lexi certainly knows what she is talking about in this space. I’m so thankful that she is here with us today to share her experience and to continue this really important discussion. If you’re looking for more resources, do be sure to check out the show notes page where Lexi has shared a bunch of resources about DEI that can help you continue to learn how to be an ally.

Here’s my conversation with Lexi Freeman. I am so thrilled for this conversation today. It’s been one that I have been wanting to have for a long time. It’s one that feels very important to me, but to be honest, I feel very helpless about cause I don’t know what to do. So I’m so excited. Welcome Lexi Freeman to a different

LEXI: practice.

Thanks so much for having me. I’m really excited that you do this podcast at all. You know, the world of podcasting is still a little new to me, so I’m honored to be, to be on, um, and excited to [00:06:00] share my experiences. This is, these are challenging topics, so I don’t think anyone’s an expert, but happy to share my experiences.

LAUREN: Yeah, and I kind of really want to start at the basic foundational level. So DEI or diversity, equity and inclusion has become a big topic in the legal profession. We see it everywhere and for good reason. But if somebody isn’t familiar, uh, or just sort of knows those three words, but wants to know, but what does that mean?

What are the principles that we’re trying to achieve Can you just start by Giving us a really kind of rough definition or rough mission statement, maybe almost for DEI and why it’s become such a prevalent topic.

LEXI: Yeah, so I think that, um, DEI looks and feels and plays out differently in different settings.

And I think actually it’s really important for offices to be, um, quite specific, right? About why these things matter to them, right? What, where their [00:07:00] gaps are, um, et cetera and so forth. So with those caveats, um, in mind, I would say sort of the following. DEI has become a, um, Important term, as you know, it’s also become a hot button term, um, uh, across the country.

I often get very frustrated with that framework, obviously, but also because what we’re really talking about is trying to broaden who is in our profession, right? Um, knowing historically who has not been in our profession. We’re trying to make sure that everyone in our profession feels like they belong and feel supported.

And we’re trying to, I think, make connections with the, the people and the causes and the communities that lawyering serves. And I say that because I think when our offices are able to elevate and amplify the different experiences and perspectives of the people in their office, they can then better connect right with, um, clients with, um, uh, better understand, um, other causes [00:08:00] from different perspectives.

So I think we are by making ourselves. More diverse by making ourselves full of people who feel like they belong, feel like they can contribute, feel like they’re valued. We are then, I think, making lawyering better and then making client experiences better. So it’s not just about how do we feel in our office, right?

Which obviously is incredibly important and who’s there. But it’s because that also has like a domino effect, right, on how the profession is perceived, how we do our job. You know, I think at the heart of lawyering is really it’s a people profession, right? But it’s not representative of all the people at all.

It’s far from it. So we need, I think, to really think about how to bridge that gap better, um, and a starting point is who’s in our space. And then I think how do they feel once they’re in our space, right, is sort of the, the second point. So maybe I’ll, you know, the DEI, what is DEI, is a, is a book, right? Um, but maybe that was at least a of a, I think it matters a little in what we’re working with.

LAUREN: No, that’s very [00:09:00] helpful. And, and I apologize for handing you such a massive question, but that was really helpful to me to illuminate it and be able to put some words around it. I can sort of feel the importance of it, but to be able to explain in practical terms, what that actually means is really helpful.

I’m curious. Is the focus. Only on folks in the profession right now, or can DEI efforts expand to the clients that are served too? Cause I mean, you touched on that to say when we’re more inclusive in our firms and in the profession, we can better serve clients, but is there a. focus also to on the clients who are traditionally served are also not diverse.

It’s also not equitable. It’s also generally not inclusive. Is there an element of that in it as well?

LEXI: Yeah. Um, I think if I’m understanding your question, um, correctly, it sounds like you’re talking a little bit about the broader access to [00:10:00] justice problem, right? When we think about who can access lawyers, um, both in terms of Um, you know, both in terms of financially both in terms of physical location, both in terms of causes that might be underrepresented, you know, throughout history.

And I think this still very much exists. There are certain communities and people who tend to fall into those buckets, right? Folks who are economically, um, not as, uh, stable, right? Folks who are in rural locations, folks who, um, you know, don’t have college education, right? Folks who are folks of color, immigrants, um, people who are English is not their first language, et cetera.

And so forth. It’s not an exhaustive list, but, um, Folks from traditionally underrepresented and under recognized communities need access to lawyers and are always the populations who are not served as well. When you look at any study, right? That says who doesn’t have services, et cetera. So I think for sure.

We want to have lawyers who support. Personal and professional identities better speak to people, different people’s experiences so we can better understand the impact of our profession and better, you know, lawyer and serve them, but [00:11:00] also for sure, we want to make sure that the profession is accessible to everyone.

And I think that accessibility comes also from making sure there are lawyers who can connect and relate. But accessibility also comes to like, how affordable are we, right? Where are we located? What language do we use, right? And not just in terms of English, but also in terms of making things understandable for people who don’t have our practice and discipline and study.

So all of those things to me are related to DEI because, Very often, the lawyering profession has been seen as this elite space, right, that others can’t access and that you can, others can access as lawyers, but also others can’t access for the services that we’re supposed to render. And I think, you know, the Colorado Access to Justice Commission has done a lot of really important work lately, well, for some time, but recently pulled out some reports that really show how much this justice gap exists across issues, right?

Many civil issues, etc. So I think that. We need to do a better job in thinking about overall, how does our [00:12:00] profession treat each other that it’s members? And how does our profession treat those who we are impacting with our, with our work?

LAUREN: What would you say the challenges could be that a firm would face if they Neglect DEI if they say, I don’t need to worry about that.

Not a big deal. My firm feels inclusive. I feel inclusive, but they’re not taking maybe actionable steps. What are the potential consequences that a, a single firm could certainly experience, but be that could ripple out into the profession?

LEXI: One is it’s really interesting to think about this generation of lawyer, right?

And I’m obviously speaking in general terms, but as a law professor, I think I have a pretty decent insight into sort of who’s who’s coming in right and what their priorities are. And this generation of lawyer and. Really cares how they are treated treated. They really care how they’re nurtured. They really care about values alignment.

Um, they care about wellness. They care about diversity of which I think very much connects to wellness. I [00:13:00] think these are good things and I know there are lawyers who’ve always cared about these things to be to be clear, but I do think we’re getting this sense of, like, Far more folks weighing these things and considering where they want to work, considering what practice area is the best for them, et cetera, and so forth.

So, if we don’t focus on our environments, which I believe very much include, are they inclusive, right? Do people feel welcomed, right? Who’s in the space, et cetera. And we don’t try to foster that belonging. I think people are either not going to want to go there. In the first place, or they’re going to leave, right?

There’s a, there’s huge retention problems. There are sometimes offices that can recruit folks, but then they don’t stay right. And this includes people who pay a whole lot of money, right? It’s not just money, right? That is, that is keeping folks. So I think we have, we really have to think about wanting to be responsive Incoming lawyers needs and priorities and be also think about like the investment of our own resources and time.

You know, we recruit someone and if they leave, like, we have not, that’s not [00:14:00] beneficial for our office either. We’ve got to start a new right? So it’s not, it’s not economically smart either. Right? You want to invest well. So people want to stay. They want to bring in clients, right? They want to do the work, et cetera.

So I think that we really risk not being able to both get people and to retain them if we don’t think about this stuff more broadly to your point about ripple effect. I think, you know, we all know the research around there about, you know, lawyers sort of being quote unquote unhealthy having substance abuse problems and all that and all that.

I certainly think if people, when people are unhappy, they don’t feel supported. Uh, well, I don’t have the research right in front of me. I’m pretty sure that makes them more likely, right, to engage in behavior that is perhaps unhealthy. And I think that that’s not good for people’s individuals or for our profession or our reputation.

But I also think this is, again, going to come back to business and clients, right? There are businesses and corporations that care about diversity. And if they don’t, they don’t feel supported. See practices and policies and people, right, that demonstrate that you care about that. They may go elsewhere. I think individual clients what may go elsewhere if [00:15:00] they don’t feel like they can connect with the lawyer, you know You need to be able to build a rapport by no means am I saying one identity automatically means you build a rapport, right?

But I am saying if you’re not even thinking about these things and you’re not doing the work on your own Also to make such connections Right. So I think there’s a huge potential for our profession going in a negative direction. If we don’t think about these things, the, the law impacts everyone. The law also, I believe disproportionately has negatively impacted certain communities.

And I think that that’s a part of like, What we do because we are in this profession, so we can’t necessarily change what’s happened in history. We can’t necessarily change every decision that comes down. I wish I wish we could change some of them, but we can change at least like how we run our offices, what we focus on, how we choose to invest our time, our money, um, et cetera.

LAUREN: What have you seen have been some of the barriers that individual law firms in the profession has come up against, [00:16:00] let’s say in the last 10 years, because like you said, I would love to go back and rewrite a little bit of history, but we can’t do that. But even in the last recent times for folks who maybe have wanted to do this, I have wanted to implement it more.

Those law students who are coming in, the clients who are running up against, what are those barriers that we need to know exist so that we have the awareness to be able to overcome them?

LEXI: I do want to say the barriers around DEI in our profession, you know, have existed for some time and also don’t exist anymore.

Start when one goes into an office, right? I work in a law school. The institutionally created barriers of the access to law school around outset around cost, right? Other traditional markers. They, you know, they never tell a whole story about a candidate or the potential, and I believe they restrict access.

Right? So, I just want to be very clear that it’s not like, One legal offices is starting this problem and obviously in law schools aren’t even starting the problem, but are certainly a player. So I, you know, I think it’s a, it’s a long term situation involving [00:17:00] many different players that have got us to where we are.

I would say there’s a couple of things that legal offices can think about despite having the history that we have, right? So what is I actually think of when they think about who they’re hiring as a starting point. Oftentimes, many legal offices, not all, but many legal offices just continue to look at traditional markers.

They continue to look at grades. They continue to look at law review. And I think that those things. are some valuable data points, but they are far from the only valuable data points. I think if law offices generally looked a little more holistically at applicants to get them in the door, looked at, you know, their experiential learning opportunities, knowing that that’s really how people learn, right?

Um, looking at activities they’ve had around relationship building, knowing that we need to develop rapport with clients to get people in the door to want You know, have our services if they look at leadership opportunities that that students have gotten involved in or or lateral lawyers, whatever, right?

Whoever we’re looking at. I think we need to expand what what and how we [00:18:00] evaluate a candidate and what makes a good lawyer. Because I think that most lawyers would say it wasn’t the law review or the grades that makes someone a good lawyer, right? And there’s been countless studies. But it indicated what people actually look at.

But yet when we, when we decide who to pick, we still default. And I think that’s because we’ve been just acclimated to defaulting this way, right? It’s not anyone’s personal problem, but it is something we need to work on because we’ve been so institutionalized to think this way. So I do think we need to really, really consider, um, how we, um, how we assess people.

I should also mention, just in terms of barriers, I, I continue to think the bar exam is a barrier. Um, I don’t think it, I mean, I think we’re moving toward a better bar exam in terms of the next gen version, which should be looking a bit more at skills, um, versus just sort of memorization of substantive law.

But there are some states now that are moving, I think, towards some more experiential options that I think would be really beneficial to allow access. The other thing I think is interesting is that, you know, we are, We’re having more students and more lawyers who are first generation. That’s excellent, right?

This is a wonderful thing, but [00:19:00] when you join the profession, we sometimes assume that everyone has the same knowledge base, the same expectations, the same definitions of professionalism. People don’t, right? Um, people don’t for any number of reasons. And you certainly, if you’ve not been exposed to lawyers and lawyering for You probably have a very different lens in some ways.

That’s great, right? Because that’s like, how are we adding value, right? Versus just adapting to what already exists. But that means the office has to also, I think, one, see value in these other skills and experiences that people have and also be more clear on expectation setting. So oftentimes people will get into an office and then.

there is a disconnect with sort of what someone thinks they should be doing or how they’re doing it and what the law office expects or wants. Neither is necessarily wrong, right? But we’re just sort of not, we’re, we’re driving past each other. So I think offices need to do a lot more to invest in training, right?

To invest in expectation setting, to invest in like, Clear practices, because I think then we are setting [00:20:00] people up for more success, and I think when we don’t do that, we get excited that we got someone a door for whatever reason, but we’re not investing in them. And this applies to be clear to anyone, right?

But I think it’s often more likely to have an impact in folks who perhaps haven’t had some exposure, right? To legal, legal profession, you know, since since they were kids, right? Like, some of us are some people have been exposed to lawyers for their whole lives. So there was something that they just see our 2nd nature.

But if we want to diversify our profession, that’s not going to be the default anymore. I think that’s a good thing again, but we have to invest in our people. I think investing in our people also means focusing on mentorship and focusing on relationship building. And I, and I think we have to consider if our office doesn’t have certain connections, especially think about a small office or a solo, we can’t, you know, check off every box.

It’s impossible and that’s okay. But who do we know that can help us? Right? I think we can think about. Okay. Support groups, coalitions, you know, employee resource groups, whatever, that can transcend the walls of our buildings so that we can provide different ways to support our people. I [00:21:00] think we get nervous sometimes about like competitive business or they’re going to, you know, leave.

And there’s always those risks. But I think if you invest in your person and you realize that sometimes that means Making connections outside of your, um, office. I would hope that an employee is going to realize, right. That that’s a valuable thing, right. And that’s a positive. So, um, I think we need to think about those sorts of things.

LAUREN: That was wonderful. I think those are all great and fantastic for folks who have employees, but I was sitting here thinking as somebody who doesn’t have employees and from a business standpoint, doesn’t ever. Want to at least for now, I have always struggled with wanting to do more with DEI to put my self in the ring to add support, to lift people up who are not generally included in our profession.

But I have found I have struggled knowing, well, what do I do? Cause I would love if I was hiring folks like this all makes sense. I [00:22:00] could do all of these things that are so wonderful and I can see the benefit. Both from a interpersonal standpoint and also a business standpoint, but as a solo, who’s not hiring folks, or maybe somebody who doesn’t run a law firm or they don’t have the influence to make those decisions, what would you say we can do if DEI is really important to us and we want to lift everybody up, how, how do we do that?

LEXI: Yeah, that’s a great question. And I, um, apologize for sort of taking the lens of, um, having it, uh, assuming people have a, have a team or an ability, um, to grow the team. And that’s not always the case and not always should be the case. Right. So, um, I would say that one of the things, you know, we have a really great group of affinity bars.

They are active, they are connected to each other. They are also severely under resourced and are often called upon to do a lot. So, um, by no means am I suggesting that folks who don’t share affinity like, you know, take over those awards. That would not be a good idea, right? But I am suggesting, and often, um, such organizations are happy when folks [00:23:00] join as, um, to be allies, right, in the group, to attend their events.

Um, also, by attending the events, you’re elevating, right, their work. You’re giving them, them credit. You’re amplifying it. You’re also presumably learning, um, which then is going to, whether you recognize or not, is likely going to affect, right, decisions you make. conversations you have, etc. Um, and by showing support, I think it is another way to validate the existence of these orgs and the existence of what they’re doing, right?

And what they’re promoting. I tend to also think, you know, there are with Colorado now having an EDI, um, CLE requirement, I think is an easy way to do that and go to one session and check off a box. No, we probably all do that a little bit when it comes to any CLE things, right? That’s just a reality of life.

Being busy, but I think one can go deeper, right? I think one can do the EDI session or two. I think one can do a whole lot more than just the minimum, making that more of their CLE requirements, taking out the majority of those credits that they need. And I also think one can think about. Okay. You know, almost at [00:24:00] every CLE, they give me resources for what to do next and how many of us, like, don’t, we write them down, but we never look at it.

Right. Or we just forget when we get busy and that’s okay. We have family. We have friends. We have work. But I think we actually want to follow up on those things. Follow up on those things so that we are constantly learning a lot of what people say is you just need intentional and sustained exposure to topics to issues to perspectives, and sometimes that means reading a book.

Sometimes that means going to a session, but I think the issue is that we often do one off. So we don’t get into deep analysis and conversation. And I think if we surround ourselves by, by, um, learning from others by reading different materials, we seamlessly integrate. Such things in our day to day lives.

So I would recommend that we start. You can start with an with an event with the C. L. E. Etcetera. And then you can build right off of what sparked your interest, right? What was the follow up that you want to do that? You want to engage? And I also think there’s ways [00:25:00] relatedly to build connections when we’re talking about employees.

I think you can build connections with colleagues and have, you know, reading groups, right? You can have brainstorming. You can have idea sharing. So it feels a little less lonely and also so that you can get involved. Yeah. You know, you may have fewer perspectives in your space. You have only your own, right?

Or your paralegals or whatever. So broaden your own world when you can, whether it’s in an informal or formal way, I think that will ensure that you’re processing and also ensure some accountability, which I think is what’s key here. Cause this is sort of like a individual journey, right? So it, I think it is accountable if you have to go to other folks and talk about these things or ask questions or just simply listen.

LAUREN: Is there a approach that we should take or maybe I guess, uh, a pitfall that we should be aware of or pitfalls we should be aware of when trying to get more exposure, putting ourselves in these different groups that maybe are not our norm so we can learn and get different perspectives. That sounds great to me.

And then I thought [00:26:00] I. I feel like I’m going to mess up what I say, like, I don’t want to be offensive to any, like, that’s not why I’m here. I just want to learn and be an ally and get these different perspectives. Are there ways that lawyers and law firms can avoid being offensive, avoid kind of pitfalls in approaching, implementing, or getting more involved in DEI in a way that is not helpful?

LEXI: Yeah, so yeah, you don’t want to, the worst result is you get engaged and then you somehow result in causing more harm, which honestly I think lawyers in general, I think folks with majority identities in different spaces, like we all, we have all done this, right? And I believe we’ve done this in history.

So certainly there’s, there’s a risk. Um, but I think one of the, it’s going to sound so simple. I think one of the first things we need to do is when we go into spaces, um, We need to simply listen and absorb. Lawyers are trained to talk and to offer opinions and to argue and debate. And some things aren’t up for debate.

Person’s lived [00:27:00] experience while they’re sharing it. It’s not up for debate. You may not have that experience, so you can’t relate to it, but they feel that way and they’re entitled to feel that way. So I think one of the things we really need to do is when we go to, uh, An affinity bars event to show support showing support means being there.

It means occupying a seat. Um, it means perhaps telling someone else to go to and it means listening and taking notes and, you know, that that sort of stuff. It doesn’t mean questioning the perspective. Um, at this time, I think those sorts of things, those kind of hard dialogues can happen, right? And it is part of discourse, but I think those are those kind of conversations.

Um, are much better for everyone involved when there is a relationship. You know, we, we need to sort of invest time in relationships, just like with clients, right? We’re not going to go tell a client right away. This is what you need to do or deciding to do it. But I hope we never actually do that. But we certainly.

Are not going to just come in like ready to go. We’re going to take time to develop that relationship. So there’s trust. It’s the same thing with human people who, especially people who [00:28:00] might have experiences that are different than you. So, I think that I think that is not the default of lawyers, though, and working in a law school.

I think that is not how we are trained, even though I think we’re maybe a little better than we were when I was in law school. We still have a long way to go. So I think number one, extensive listening and listening for like not going to two meetings and then talking. Right? I think you’re listening for a whole long time.

I also think you’re probably doing some work outside of those spaces. You’re doing some additional reading and reflection, um, and some mindfulness practices to make sure that you are not having to ask people things that you can already find out on your own. One of the things that comes up a lot is that folks from underrepresented identities do all of the work without compensation and reward recognition.

We need to avoid that. We want to spread the task. So if there are things that people need people’s help on, if, if, um, expertise or, um, just simple tasks are being solicited by anyone and everyone jump in and volunteer, right? Take the burden off of someone. If you feel equipped to do something, I mean, and I’m not talking about anything necessarily [00:29:00] deeply related to identity.

I’m talking about someone’s hosting an event and they need someone to pick up the pizza, right? Like pick up the pizza, you know, it sounds so silly, but that starts to develop relationship and starts to develop trust. And makes us, I think, begin to realize that any on any of these efforts, they all take work.

And we just sometimes have certain people doing all that work. So I think 1 really great way of being an ally is simply stepping up when you are able to write when you have less risk in conversations, but also when you have time and when you have connections. So, you know, use the sort of strategic partnerships and connections that you have to elevate another group.

I don’t think you risk yourself, uh, for much exposure or mistake by saying, hey, would this be helpful? Someone says, no, no problem, right? You move on and that’s it. But you’ve like tried to open up access, um, to something you have right to another. So that might be some, another kind of way to think about it a little bit.

LAUREN: No, that’s really helpful. Yeah, that makes me me personally feel more comfortable. And hopefully any of the listeners who were kind of thinking the same [00:30:00] that I was knowing that, yeah, we don’t have to go in there and make a big splash. We really just want to go in there and do a lot of listening and help where we can.


Are there key metrics that you would have law firms or attorneys look at? Like, how do we know we’re getting Better, I guess at this, which is, it’s not something that boils down to numbers. I know, but how do we know like we’re making progress? We are doing our part to help move the profession forward in this area.

LEXI: Yeah, it’s, um, you know, one that these are whenever I talk about, you know, bias, DEI, et cetera, I’m always like, this is a lifelong process for everyone, myself included, you know, despite occupying some marginalized identities, 100%. We all have barriers, right? We all have things we need to improve upon as individuals within our offices within our profession.

So one of the things we can’t stop is putting our foot off the gas, right? We have to keep even [00:31:00] if we think we’ve hired someone, right? Or we think we did a good event. Great. What’s next? So I think we need to always be thinking about these things and always be working and willing to evolve. I also want to stress that, you know, whenever we talk about measurement, um, which you basically already acknowledge, which I appreciate, you know, we’re talking about real people with real emotions and real lived experiences.

So, as much as I, you know, used a whole lot of data doing civil rights work before, we also told a whole lot of stories about people. Um, and I think storytelling is the crux of good learning and certainly, um, uh, DEI conversations. With that said, I think we can look about, think, think about things like recruitment, who is coming to our profession, who is coming to our office, who is coming to our law school, retention, right?

Who is saying, um, who is succeeding, right? Um, in terms of getting through the steps that they need to get through. Promotion, right? Who is getting different leadership roles? Things like, uh, belonging, right? How do we actually measure belonging? There’s been some studies now in legal education around measuring belonging, and I think it could apply to the [00:32:00] profession, too, in the sense of, like, this is the qualitative information of how people feel, right?

Are they satisfied? You know, do they feel like they’re getting support? Those are things we need to do just along, as we also look at the quantitative data numbers, right, of who’s in the space. I think we also need to get just like I’m sure many offices do satisfaction surveys from clients. How are clients feeling about who we are, what we’re doing?

We talk about implicit bias tests and all those things. I think we, as individuals, we need to keep doing those things. There’s various cultural competency markers. I don’t like to use the word test. So assessments, I guess, that are meant to be informative, right? And I meant to help you reflect. I think we need to do those things all of the time, right?

Every 6 months, every 3 months, which is not all the time, but still with some sort of regular basis as individuals. So we can see where we are. I think we need to. Make sure as a profession, who is, um, who are we elevating overall, right? Who are our leaders in our profession who are, what are our memberships in different groups?

And I don’t mean necessarily [00:33:00] only affinity bars. I mean, various sections of the, of the bar and all that, who are in your spaces so that when I, when you look at that, that can help you see a little more global perspective, right? As to what’s happening in our people leaving the state, um, not even just leaving the office.

Are people staying where, where are, what are the offices where people are Longer is a government. Is it large firm, middle, midsize firm, et cetera. We can learn a lot from that and then think about, uh, how those folks feel. Right. And I think talking to people who are in these spaces or considering these spaces is the number one thing we need to do.

I need to think about what, what would make things better. Right. Um, and what would, what’s making things worse. And I think those conversations need to lead all of our decisions alongside. Right. The other kind of, you know, data metrics that we can look at.

LAUREN: There’s, there’s so much work for us to do, I feel, but I’m so, I feel so privileged and happy that you are in this space because you really help break it down in a way [00:34:00] that feels doable.

Like you said, it’s a long road. It’s a never ending road. We need to constantly be aware of this and working on it, but it doesn’t feel unachievable, or at least in terms of progress. So, Thank you for all the work that you do. And I feel very lucky that you are here in Colorado with us leading the march as a member of the profession, doing such important work.

How do you define success? So

LEXI: I appreciate your kind words. I will say that, um, I am forever. What keeps me up at night is that I feel like we have so much more to do on the DEI front, just even in the law building. So, well, I, you know, we have good moments here and there. There’s, there’s a lot of work to do.

Um, but I, I do think that it does get, you All of us have to play a role, right? Which is what I think is important. Sometimes we think so big, we can’t, we don’t know where to start. So I’m glad that a couple things resonated. In terms of me, what I use to describe success, doing work that aligns with my values, where I feel like I am values aligned, you know, 9 times out of 10, um, 10 times out of 10.[00:35:00]

Um, that feels right to me. I think doing work that generally allows me to experience joy, uh, my greatest joy is working with law students. It’s a, it’s a wonderful, very, very privileged space that I’m in to help people find their fits, you know, where the head, hand, and hearts meet. Like that’s what, what a joy that is, um, to, to experience.

So that helps me feel successful. And then I would say I’m the mother of two children, a 12 year old and a 9 year old. And I believe success is also doing work that I’m proud to talk to my kiddos about that. I feel good about what I’m doing. And, um, I’m not going to that, you know, I’m not playing this one thing with you right now because I have this important call.

And this is what this call means. I mean, that makes me feel like hopefully I’m also trying to share some lessons outside of just our profession to the next gen about, you know, what do we want to be thinking about? How do we want to treat people? What are the values we want to see in the world?

LAUREN: I love that.

That’s that hits home as a fellow mama of like doing stuff that makes our kids proud and that we want to share with them. So [00:36:00] that’s wonderful. If anyone would like to get in contact with you or learn more, where could they find you?

LEXI: My email is easy. It is alexi, a l e x i dot freeman, which is freeman at d u dot e d u.

If you google D U Law, Alexi Freeman, you know, there’s a, there’s a page, there’s a number, all the things. But I would be happy to talk to anyone about any of these issues. And I really appreciate what you’re doing too and finding a different way to have lawyers think about these topics that we often don’t, don’t create time to think about them.

So I appreciate, um, your, your work and your elevation of, um, DEI.

LAUREN: Yeah, absolutely. This was so wonderful. Thanks so much for your time today. I learned a lot. I’m feeling fired up and ready to start making some change, hopefully making some impact. So hopefully our listeners feel the same way. Awesome. Thank you so much.

Thanks Lexi. I’m over here giving you a virtual high five because you just finished another episode of A Different Practice. For more from this episode, head over to adifferentpractice. com slash [00:37:00] podcast for the show notes. If you found this episode helpful, I’d love it if you’d share it with someone who might like it too.

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