Happy Thanksgiving from IILP!

November 20, 2018

Sometimes, there is a tendency for those of us in the legal profession to forget that we are among the privileged. So, a reminder now and then doesn’t go amiss. Sadly, there have been too many reminders this year: hurricanes and wildfires, shootings and suicides, and anger and incivility. It’s easy to lose perspective.

In the US, we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving this week. At the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession (“IILP”) we like to use the holiday as an apt reminder that despite the sad, mad things that have filled the news, we have much for which to be thankful. Ours is work that is neither easy nor glamorous, but we feel extremely fortunate to be able to really love our work and feel passionate about it. And, we know that we don’t do it alone. If IILP is able to devote our work to a passion to make the legal profession more diverse and inclusive, it is an uncommon luxury, in large part due to the support, encouragement and generosity of the many individuals and organizations with whom we feel so privileged to work.

So, in the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, IILP would like to give thanks to:

  • The members of our Board of Directors and Advisory Board for their leadership, vision, commitment to, and hard work on behalf of, IILP; 
  • Our Visionary Partners, Partners, Allies, and Friends for their support, interest, and enthusiasm;
  • Our Social Impact Incubator members for sharing their energy, critical analysis, and enthusiasm which is always a source of reinvigoration; 
  • Our very dear friends at the Chicago Bar Association for the generous use of an office and the in-kind help regularly volunteered by its staff; 
  • The law firms and corporations who have provided us with the venues and support we needed to present our programs this year: The Claro Group; Baker & Hostetler LLP; Baker & McKenzie; Bank of America; Clifford Chance; the Columbus Bar Association; Eversheds Sutherland; Firefly Network Services; Jenner & Block LLP; Littler Mendelson P.C.; the Mecklenburg County Bar Association; Microsoft; Reed Smith LLP; Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meager & Flom LLP; Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Incorporated; Walmart; Winston & Strawn LLP;
  • The bar associations and other diversity organizations who kindly invite IILP to speak at and participate in their programs so as to provide us with an opportunity to share information about IILP’s mission and its work and those that co-sponsor our various programs as we seek to foster greater collaboration on diversity and inclusion efforts across the profession;
  • The organizations with whom we are privileged to partner on so many of our programs: the Chicago Bar Association; the New York City Bar Association; the National LGBT Bar Association; the National Bar Association; the Center for Women in Law at the University of Texas; the National Association of Women Lawyers; the Association of Law Firm Diversity Professionals; the Hispanic National Bar Association; the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association; Diverse Partners Network; Interlaw Diversity Forum; the National Native American Bar Association; the California Minority Counsel Program; the law Society of England and Wales; and Association of Corporate Counsel;
  • The wonderful lawyers, judges, law professors, and professionals who served as our speakers, panel moderators, panelists, and host committee members for our 2018 programs. If IILP has developed a reputation for uniquely thought-provoking and challenging programming, we gratefully acknowledge that it is all due to them. Their willingness to share their expertise, insights, and experience has enabled us to offer the legal profession a different way of looking at and thinking about diversity and inclusion; and,
  • You, the ones who read these emails, the ones who take the time to attend our programs, the ones who provide us with a steady stream of ideas, enthusiasm and encouragement! Words are inadequate to express our immense gratitude for your continuing friendship and support.

THANK YOU! With your help and support, all things are possible. Please accept our heartfelt appreciation and gratitude!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Sandra S. Yamate 

Chief Executive Officer 

321 S. Plymouth Court 

Chicago, IL 60604 

(312) 628-5885 

Follow us @TheIILP 

International Program in Brussels, Belgium! Coming soon: summary of the event and responses from attendees! 

Brussels Flyer 12.4.pdf

Reflection on October 2018 Chicago Symposium

By: Sudheer R. Poluru

The IILP Family Feeling

Do you know how rare it is for a diverse leader to open up candidly about their experience? It is not something I take for granted. And I am thankful to IILP for creating the types of inclusive spaces in which diverse professionals feel comfortable sharing their experiences in an authentic manner. Recently I attended an IILP Symposium on the State of Diversity and Inclusion in the Legal Profession. It felt like a family reunion, where people were looking out for each other and wanted to share what they have learned to make life just a little bit easier for the next generation. 

Feed Your Soul

If you are a diverse, hard-working professional or student, consider making time to attend an IILP event. Amidst a packed schedule with looming work deadlines, graduate school applications, and family responsibilities, I attended the IILP’s October 2018 Chicago Symposium, and it was just what I needed. I arrived stressed and sluggish and left calm and reenergized. The candid conversation and supportive community at IILP events feeds my soul.

Meeting Diverse Leaders

Day in and day out, I work to make organizations more diverse and inclusive as a consultant with Jones Diversity, Inc. I have seen the numbers and research, and I know that there is a lack of diversity in senior leadership. That lack of diversity is apparent in a variety of industries from law to business to technology. Sadly, I have also seen the trend lines, so I know progress is slow and is not something that occurs naturally without intentional work.

Diverse mentors and role models in senior positions of leadership are few and far between, and I know there is much to learn from any diverse professional who has successfully navigated their industry and made it to a position of leadership. Unfortunately, it is not easy for me to ask incredibly busy, diverse leaders out to coffee or lunch just to ask them about their career, life, and strategies they have used to overcome obstacles. But IILP fills this gap.

Diverse Leaders Candidly Opening Up

At IILP Symposia, diverse senior leaders share their candid thoughts. At the October Symposium IILP had gathered top leaders from law firms, corporations, and non-profits. They were diverse professionals themselves or allies and strong proponents of diversity and inclusion. I was struck by these leaders serving on the panel or giving a presentation, especially because I would normally not have had access to hear the views and passions of these professionals.

In October, I heard Collette Woghiren speak about the barriers that undocumented immigrants face as they strive to become practicing attorneys; I heard Rutgers Law School Professor Stacy Hawkins talk about the legal defensibility of various diversity and inclusion practices; and I listened to Martin P. Green discuss the challenges of business development as a Partner of color at an MBE law firm in Chicago.

Win-Win Situation

IILP Symposia are win-win situations. At IILP Symposia, senior leaders have the opportunity to reflect on their careers, something they may not have the chance to do when in the midst of a firestorm of work. Additionally, young professionals like me,  have the opportunity to take in valuable advice and lessons learned from accomplished, diverse leaders. As a millennial just starting out in my career, it was reassuring to learn at the last IILP Symposium that diverse leaders wrestle with many of the challenges that are currently on my mind: questioning my purpose in life, figuring out the best way to demonstrate my value, and trying to balance work with a personal life.

Our Collective Effort

Sometimes I get discouraged when I see the slow rate of progress with diversity and inclusion efforts. And I wonder if my individual effort really makes a difference. Leaving the IILP Symposium, I know that I am not the only one fighting the good fight and speaking truth to power. It is uplifting to meet so many accomplished diverse professionals pushing for progress and change in their organizations and their spheres of influence. It is vital for each of us to fight for progress in the pocket of the world we inhabit. Our collective effort can make the world a more diverse and inclusive place. And yes, overall a better place.

Interview with IILP Board Member Floyd Holloway, Jr.

Esquire Coaching interview board member Floyd Holloway, Jr. on their Radio Show last week. Mr. Holloway talked about IILP and broader diversity and inclusion efforts within the legal profession. To listen to the interview, click here

IILP Signs Consortium for Advancing Women Lawyers letter on MDL Standards

IILP is pleased to be a signatory to a letter from the Consortium for Advancing Women Lawyers urging amendments to MDL Standards and Best Practices to include specific guidance to promote diversity in court appointments. 

Read the full letter here: MDL Standards Letter.pdf

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  • 18 Jul 2012 3:23 PM | Sandra Yamate (Administrator)
    IILP CEO Sandra Yamate has been named as the recipient of the Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section of the American Bar Association's 2012 Liberty Achievement Award. The Liberty Achievement Award recognizes career commitment to and achievement in diversity efforts in the legal profession. The award will be presented during the 2012 ABA Annual Meeting on Friday, August 3, 2012. To read more about it: 
  • 18 Jul 2012 3:09 PM | Sandra Yamate (Administrator)
    Some of the findings in IILP's Report on "The Business Case for Diversity: Reality or Wishful Thinking?" was recently cited in Chicago Lawyer Magazine's annual diversity issue (July, 2012) Read the article at Chicago Lawyer Magazine - Strengthening the business case for diversity.mht.
  • 31 Jan 2012 4:03 PM | Sandra Yamate (Administrator)
    IILP was the subject of an in-depth profile in the ABA's Bar Leader Magazine! Read the article here: ABA Bar Leader - Winter 2012.pdf
  • 01 Sep 2011 10:16 AM | Sandra Yamate (Administrator)
    IILP released its inaugural review, "IILP Review: The State of Diversity and Inclusion in the Legal Profession" today. The IILP Review features current data and statistics about diversity in the legal profession, articles exploring the diversity within diversity and inclusion, and a "Diversity in Practice" round-up of programs, strategies and other efforts from around the country that are showing promising results in fostering a more diverse and inclusive professionIILP Review Press Release.pdf.
  • 02 Aug 2011 3:50 PM | Sandra Yamate (Administrator)
    The National Bar Association (NBA") awarded IILP its 2011 Pinnacle Award during the NBA's 86th Annual Convention which was held in Baltimore. The Pinnacle Award was presented on Tuesday, August 2, 2011. IILP Board Member Jim Potter accepted the award on IILP's behalf.
  • 29 Jun 2011 11:23 AM | Sandra Yamate (Administrator)
    The IILP and its report, "The Business Case for Diversity: Reality or Wishful Thinking" were featured in the Summer 2011 issue of The Philadelphia Lawyer.

    Click here to view the article.
  • 20 Apr 2011 1:00 PM | Sandra Yamate (Administrator)

    April 20, 2011
    By  Maria Kantzavelos
    Law Bulletin staff writer

    While a business case for diversity does exist for law firms and their corporate clients, it falls short of providing an environment for achieving meaningful economic and social results for significant numbers of diverse lawyers, according to a study by the Chicago-based Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession.

    The findings of the study of corporations, law firms and diverse partners in law firms suggest that there is still a long way to go to make the legal profession inclusive through the full integration of diverse lawyers and law firms into the corporate legal marketplace, the institute said.

    IILP Chairman Marc S. Firestone, who is executive vice president, corporate and legal affairs, and general counsel for Kraft Foods Inc., said in a prepared statement that the legal profession has sought solutions and increasingly focused on diversity and inclusion, acknowledging that the profession has made "much progress" in this area.

    "Equally important, however, is the fact that we must acknowledge that there is a measurable level of frustration, and even skepticism, about the pace undefined and the possibility undefined of significant change in key areas of measurement," Firestone said in the statement. "Our findings show that diverse lawyers are disappointed with progress and law firms are finding that their diversity efforts are not a clear priority when dealing with corporate clients."

    The study, which was conducted from August to December last year, set out to examine how the business case for diversity undefined the notion that clients value diversity and therefore are finding ways to include that value in determinations of the qualifications of lawyers to handle their work undefined has impacted three primary stakeholders: corporate clients, law firms and diverse partners.

    "It's proven so important in terms of efforts to promote diversity in the profession and yet all the major stakeholders, when you speak with them by themselves, express tremendous frustration with it," said Sandra S. Yamate, the institute's CEO. "We did this study to try to find out why that is. Why is it not meeting peoples' expectations and needs?"

    The legal profession has been hearing about the so-called business case for diversity undefined where corporate clients are said to apply the "carrot" of continued or increased business and the "stick" of an implied decrease, withdrawal or loss of business to encourage law firms to become more diverse undefined for more than 20 years, Yamate said.

    "Initially, when we first started talking about it, it was the notion that as businesses had more diverse consumers, customers, clientele, that they would be better able to serve those markets by having greater internal diversity," she said. "Over the years, though, within the legal profession it evolved into a sense that corporate clients who were emphasizing greater diversity in, let's say, their business practices, wanted to see greater diversity in their legal service providers."

    But the study found that few corporate law departments use any kind of incentive, such as promotions, raises or bonuses, to encourage in-house counsel to retain diverse outside counsel. That finding was striking to Wildman, Harrold, Allen & Dixon LLP partner Sarah L. Olson, who serves as the firm's professional development and diversity director.

    "In law firms, I think there is some financial motivation for developing diverse teams. Our compensation has always had a component related to diversity efforts," Olson said. "You would think that would be something businesses would consider.

    "For diversity to grow, there needs to be more than an inspirational message."

    The respondents of the study, which involved a three-pronged, online survey of the attitudes and practices of general counsels, law firm management and partners at law firms, included: 52 corporations representing 10.4 percent of Fortune 500 corporations; 391 law firms representing 65.8 percent of law firms with more than 500 lawyers and 39.8 percent of law firms with 251 to 500 lawyers on the National Law Journal's list of 250 largest U.S. firms; and 1,032 diverse partners.

    They were asked questions about how corporations choose to allocate their budget for diverse outside counsel; how law firm management determines whether there is any correlation between a firm's diversity efforts and business generation; and about the actual revenue amounts generated from corporate clients by law firm partners who are women, racial or ethnic minorities, lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transsexuals or partners who are disabled.

    Although many corporate general counsel and in-house counsel have indicated that their corporations have sought to change their relationships with law firms based on poor performance against their company's diversity metrics or objectives, only 12.5 percent of the survey respondents indicated that they had actually done so, while 89.6 percent reported that they had not, according to the findings of the study.

    Of those corporations that did change their relationships with law firms based upon poor diversity performance, 83.3 percent said they reduced the use of the firms as outside counsel, while none pulled any matters from a firm, and only 16.6 percent terminated the relationship with the firm, the study found.

    Those findings reflect "a good start," said Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP partner Leslie Richards-Yellen , who serves as the firm's chief diversity and inclusion officer.

    "If corporations tied diversity metrics more to allocation of work, I think you'd see a significant change in the way law firms try to nurture diverse talents," Richards-Yellen said. "Law firms are very savvy economic animals. If you incentivize behavior, they will react."

    Another finding suggests that although some diverse partners are, indeed, benefiting from this business case for diversity undefined seeing business coming from corporate clients who have expressed a commitment to greater diversity undefined a great many more are not, Yamate said.

    The study also found that:

    • 72.7 percent of law firms surveyed receive zero to 5 percent of their gross revenues from clients who ask about the firms' diversity;
    • 80 percent of law firm respondents said they have never been told that they had received business, in whole or in part, because of the diversity of the lawyers in the firm or the firm's diversity efforts; and
    • 84.1 percent of diverse partners surveyed have served on their law firm's diversity committee, but only 8.1 percent have ever served on their firm's executive committee.

    The report also provides recommendations for both corporations and law firms to help make the business case for diversity more effective.

    For more information about the study, visit
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