Bruce Lindl, Muskego, WI. Photo: Milwaukee Business Journal © 2014
What does a white retired corporate lawyer from Wisconsin know about increasing diversity and fostering a culture of inclusion in the legal profession?
Whether in companies or law firms, white males continue to hold most positions of power.
Progress in diversity occurs when white males are committed to diversity. We, as white males, need to be on board to understand the benefits of diversity to our businesses and to ourselves. We need to understand better by listening to diverse interests in our business and community. By doing so, we will attract and retain the top lawyers and talent to our business, attract and retain clients, and energize ourselves, colleagues, and clients and customers.
What do diversity and inclusion mean to you? Why are they important to you and this profession?
To me they mean each of us respecting and learning from our differences. As lawyers we should be proud of our profession since we tend to be leaders in giving back to the community. Diversity is one of those paths. We give back to the community by helping those diverse from us, whose paths to success may have, or have had, more obstacles than our own.
- Years in practice: 40
- Most recent positions: General Counsel, ABB Robotics Inc., and General Counsel, Regal Ware Inc.; retired 2013
- Law school: University of Wisconsin, 1972
- Favorite quote: “Life is too important to take too seriously”
- Favorite recent book: The Martian by Andy Weir
- A favorite place in Wisconsin: The Fifth Quarter at Camp Randall on a sunny fall day, after a win over Ohio State
- Hobbies: Hiking, golf, bicycling
- Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org
With a similar theme, the State Bar task force definition of diversity is the following:
“The term ‘diversity’ has a dynamic meaning that evolves as the demographics in the state change. It is an inclusive concept that encompasses, among other things, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, age, sexual orientation, and disability. Inclusion helps to create a culture that embraces people from the widest range of talent and experience and promotes understanding and respect for all people and different points of view in the legal profession.”
Also, as an example, this past summer in our Diversity Clerkship program, there were 15 1L students from Marquette and U.W. employed by 15 law firms, companies, and government agencies. Those 15 employers stepped forward in their commitment to help create a culture that promotes respect for all people and different points of view in the legal profession.
Where did your commitment to diversity within the profession come from? Can you credit it to a particular experience or experiences?
I am not sure. I was fortunate to experience some “differences” in other people and cultures. I learned much from being a Big Brother while in college at U.W. and working two summers in a mental health facility with autistic children and mentally challenged adults.
Also, I lived for two years in Izmir, Turkey, as an Air Force judge advocate, where I would visit the prison warden and the Americans in the local prison and benefited from the exposure to a different culture and legal system.
You have been involved with the State Bar’s Diversity Outreach Committee for more than a decade. What energizes you? What disappoints you?
I’m energized by working with others to help diverse students and lawyers, and seeing more diversity on boards and other leadership positions, such as the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) Wisconsin board, the Wisconsin chapter of the ACC.
I’m disappointed when I fail to persuade a law firm or company to be a summer employer for our Diversity Clerkship program.
What have you learned about yourself through your diversity work?
How much fun it can be to work with individuals and diversity groups and to mentor, interact, assist, and get out of the way.
What would you say to lawyers who do not see the relevance of this topic in their day-to-day lives, especially if their communities lack diversity?
Please consider becoming an employer in our Diversity Clerkship program. It will be a positive experience for other lawyers in your firm and will give your firm or organization a potential candidate for future employment.
Because there are kids and folks in any community that could use some help no matter what their race, culture, gender, physical or mental ability, one positive step is to organize a community project or one-hour field trip with your lawyers to volunteer. The leadership and encouragement of the general counsel or managing partner is essential for success of such activities.
2016 Diversity Clerkship Program
The State Bar Diversity Clerkship Program matches first-year Wisconsin law students of diverse backgrounds with private law firms, corporate legal departments, and government agencies for a 10-week summer clerkship. Students gain legal work experience; employers obtain legal support; both help to promote diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.
More information: www.wisbar.org/student (click on Diversity Program).
Contact: Jerry Vang, State Bar Diversity Program coordinator, (800) 444-9404, ext. 6181; (608) 250-6181; email@example.com.
As a company in-house lawyer, take your local counsel on such an outing or to a local school. You will see good things, and learn more about each other. As an in-house counsel, when you search for local counsel, or do an RFQ (request for quotation) to retain local counsel, consider requiring such community involvement from those lawyers who will staff your project or matter.
So, where do legal employers start?
At the highest level of the organization. The message must come from the top to be effective. Too often, diversity initiatives “crash and burn” since there was no commitment by the partners. Lip service will not work. Again, those in positions of power must be committed and lead the charge. If not, prepare to fail.
What resources or material would you suggest to start or grow a diversity program?
I find the articles from the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (www.mcca.com) to be very helpful. Also, see the ABA Diversity Initiatives and the Association of Corporate Counsel, ACC website. Finally, our State Bar Diversity and Inclusion Oversight Committee can provide further information.
As general counsel for several Wisconsin corporations, how did you put your commitment to diversity to work? What efforts are you most proud of?
As other company law departments or law firms may do, one tries to lead with the law department to work toward a company culture of acceptance and respect.
You are retired, and you and your wife, Sue, are splitting your time between Wisconsin and San Francisco, where your three children and six grandchildren live. What’s on your bucket list?
That would be a three-week hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, with each of the three children finding the time to join the hike for a week.