When we launched TBD Law last year, we were determined to assemble the most diverse and inclusive conference in law practice, and to be transparent about our efforts. We take it as a given that innovative lawyers come in all kinds of genders, colors, abilities, and sexual orientations, and we want TBD Law to reflect that diversity.
Of course, the legal profession falls far short of the U.S. population on key demographics. While 28% of Americans are people of color, only 12% of lawyers are. While 50% of Americans are women, only 36% of lawyers are. And that’s just the beginning of the legal profession’s diversity problems.
We are determined to do better.
But on our first try, we didn’t. We did worse. As Reg Davis of the ABA Journal pointed out in his article about the first TBD Law meeting (TBD1), there were “few women and people of color there.” That’s true, but in keeping with our transparency commitment, we didn’t hide it. Before TBD1, I posted a breakdown of TBD Law diversity numbers.
But we learned a lot, and we worked hard to improve for the second meeting of TBD Law (TBD2), which kicks off this Sunday in St. Louis, MO. We just closed applications, the TBD Law attendee list for TBD2 is final, and we’re excited to share the results.
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For TBD2, 19% of attendees are lawyers of color, up from just 7% at TBD1. 51% of TBD2 attendees are women, up from just 41% at TBD1. Apart from compensating for the application and acceptance biases we noted after TBD1, we reached out to TBD Law alumni for help identifying ways we might be unconsciously discouraging women and people of color from attending. We learned some really important things, made some changes, and I think the results speak for themselves.
Now, we realize there is more to diversity and inclusion than numbers. And we realize these aren’t the only numbers that matter. In fact, as Heather Hackman recently pointed out on our podcast, if all you focus on is “doing diversity” by the numbers, it will probably backfire.
But we aren’t just focused on the numbers; we are focused on the future of the legal profession. The TBD Law community will lead the way in shaping the future of the legal profession, and the legal profession is not going to be 88% white and 64% men for much longer. It will, increasingly, look like the general population, and small firms seem likely to get there first. Which is why it obvious to us that the TBD Law community has to welcome innovative lawyers of all kinds.
And if you want to know what that means for the future of small-firm practice, apply for an invitation to the next TBD Law.