President's Message: Turning Introspection into Action

  • December 04, 2020
  • Charlene Theodore

A convergence of cataclysmic events – a tenacious global pandemic chief among them – has wrought chaos on individual lives and on the international stage in recent months. On a personal level, not to mention a political one, I think we can agree that this has been a year unlike any other. It’s forced us to be very fast on our feet.  At the same time, social upheaval has combined with social distancing to offer us both cause and opportunity for greater reflection, reckoning and recalibration. For innovators, for advocates, for agents of justice (in other words, for OBA lawyers), there can be no better time to advance the priorities that define us – to turn our introspection into action.

I am troubled by the abuse of justice I’ve seen in the world, by the institutionalized racism and exclusionary practices that have continued for far too long, but I know that as lawyers we’re well positioned to right these wrongs and root out oppression and exclusion. I assumed the OBA presidency in September confident that, together, we can transform our desire for progress – in our profession, in our sector, in our workplaces – into meaningful change. My confidence in our collective power has only increased over the past three months as I’ve spoken to members, justice sector partners, media, and workplace mavericks across multiple industries, all of whom have responded positively and collaboratively to the two mandates I’ve launched: Not Another Decade and Work that Works.

It’s become abundantly clear that the link between the ‘why’ – the identified need and  intention to advance equality or effect a substantial culture shift in legal practice – is inspiration buoyed by a practical plan for implementation: the ‘how’ explained and itemized. The OBA is committed to empowering you in this regard. Whether it’s the tools to create a feasible, measurable plan to move the dial on EDI in your organization, or the strategies to build a workplace that promotes wellness and productivity, inclusion and access to justice, rewarding work and innovative solutions, we will help you chart an ambitious, achievable course.

I’ve been connecting with status-quo challengers and workplace changemakers within the legal profession and beyond in recent weeks for my Work that Works podcast, and I’ve been fascinated not just by the extent of the success they’ve had in fostering healthier, less homogenous workplaces, but by the almost instant improvements they’ve witnessed – in morale, in efficiency, in creativity, in retention, in revenue. The types of changes they’ve introduced are innovative, not radical. They may seem that way in the context of a notoriously staid legal culture, but the innovations these visionaries have adopted are, in fact, quite practical and sustainable. Introduced strategically, they have made immediate and undeniably positive impact on employee, employer and client satisfaction. I encourage you to listen to what these trailblazers have to say and find out how you can follow their footsteps in your own firm or workplace.

In the last year, the justice sector has advanced by leaps and bounds in modernization. By next year, I hope we’ll be able to look back on similarly substantial –and carefully plotted – progress when it comes to innovation and inclusion in our own legal workplaces.