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How can you be a good ally for diverse lawyers?

How can you be a good ally for diverse lawyers?

Phil Steventon


Reading time: five minutes

This week is Neurodiversity Celebration Week (21 – 27 March). It’s a week to celebrate neurodivergent (ND) people, their abilities, skills and contributions they make to society and businesses.

It’s also the time to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions about neurological divergences and encourage more inclusive and equitable cultures that embrace difference.

Days and weeks like this are great in celebrating cultural, social, economic and political achievements of diverse individuals and communities, for promoting acceptance, inclusion, and having hard conversations, particularly around institutionalised bias and prejudice.

But then what happens after the day or the week is over?

The large corporate firms and companies, quite often with large pay gaps for women, disabled people and people from our diverse ethnic and cultural communities, post their glossy photos and catchphrases and so on the day, but then on the other 364 days/51 weeks of the year, how much more do we hear from the bigger firms? Much? Not much?

Celebrating people on one day/week of the year is great, but what can we do to continue celebrating people, including people, and working towards greater community cohesion and closing pay gaps based on gender, heritage, or disability?

What we're talking about here is being a good ally on all the days of the year, not just the named days/weeks.

The importance of being an ally

An ally is anyone who uses their privilege to actively support, oppose bigotry, amplify voices of, and promote the rights and representation of underrepresented groups.

Examples include a straight/cisgender person for the LGBTQ+ communities, a man or person AMAB (assigned male at birth) for women and persons AFAB (assigned female at birth), and a white person for persons from our diverse ethnic and cultural communities.

Read this LCN Feature: ‘LGBTQ+ history: how the legal profession can be a better ally’.

In the workplace, allyship is important for the growth of a team or organisation. It means appreciating other people's experiences, recognising the challenges that people from different groups and communities face, and supporting them.

By being a good ally, you would be facilitating positive change and reinforcing a positive and inclusive employer, workplace and brand.

Read this LCN Feature on why law firms should increase accessibility in the workplace: ‘Assuring diversity: accessibility and disability in the legal profession’.

What can you do?

Continue to educate yourself

Read online articles and personal blogs written by diverse individuals, watch documentaries to learn more about different experiences, connect with and follow people on social media.

It’s important to understand that you can't rely on just one person to teach you everything about a community, cause or group because there are so many different people in that community with their own experiences and perspectives.

So, learning from lots of different people gives you a much broader knowledge of the ups and downs that community experiences.

Some ND people you can follow on social media include:

Buy from businesses run/founded by diverse individuals

By buying from businesses owned by diverse individuals, you can help close those wealth and employment gaps, create more opportunities for diverse individuals, strengthen local economies, celebrate the culture and experiences and abilities of these individuals, and support the representation of business ownership in minority communities and groups.

We know there are pay gaps between men and women, disabled and non-disabled people, and much more. So, by supporting these businesses, you will be playing a part in closing these wealth gaps and helping to foster greater equality and representation in business communities.

Challenge opinions

This includes calling out bigotry, offensive comments and actions. Here you could speak informally to someone who made hurtful comments, with or without management, or help improve EDI policies within the workplace.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority is proposing new rules to empower firms and members of the profession to challenge toxicity in legal practice environments, including bullying, harassment and discrimination. This is great, even though it's something we should all be doing anyway but having a greater ability to do so should empower more people to challenge poor behaviour in work directly.

What should you NOT do?

Get defensive if you’re challenged

This won't help anyone. It is natural to get defensive when challenged about what we think we're doing well, but trying to convince people of what you're doing, maybe by listing everything you have done for the community ("qualifying"), means you invalidate the real experiences of that community that the members themselves have had.


Just don't! It is a form of emotional abuse and bullying to make the victim question their reality and experiences and take power away from them. So, ask the question: will the community you want to support benefit from having an abusive bully as an ally? (spoiler alert: no!)

Shame people who want to become allies or advocates

Advocacy and allyship are journeys with no end date. But every journey starts with a first step. Shaming people to start will put them off starting in the first place, or they won't be 100% behind the cause, which won't do the benefitting community any good.

Each person's advocacy/allyship journey is unique, and what works for them may not work for others. Some people prefer to do visible advocacy, and others prefer to do things more quietly. Both are perfectly acceptable.

So, by shaming someone into your way of advocacy, the community could lose a potential ally because that person will then think "what's the point?"

While this is my view on being a good ally for diverse lawyers, including neurodivergent lawyers, many other people will have different opinions on how you can be a good ally for them and their communities. It's important to keep an open mind and take in as much as you can. The more you can, the better you can support that community.

Listen to this LCN Podcast episode where I provide insights into neurodiversity.