How LexisNexis Is Making Its trace In The DEI Sphere: An Interview With Director Adonica Black

How LexisNexis Is Making Its Mark In The DEI Sphere: An Interview With Director Adonica Black

Global Talent Development and Inclusion Director for LexisNexis, Adonica Black (Photo courtesy of LexisNexis)
Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging are some of the hottest topics in the legal industry today, with more and more firms and organizations looking for ways to eliminate inequity in the workplace and increase diversity among their workforce. LexisNexis is committed to making a difference in this area, both internally and by helping law firms with their own D&I initiatives. We recently sat down with Adonica Black, Global Talent Development and Inclusion Director for LexisNexis, to discuss the current state of D&I in the legal industry, some fascinating D&I initiatives going on internally at LexisNexis today, how law firms can improve D&I, and more.
Can you tell us a little about LexisNexis’s commitment to D&I?
Our diversity and inclusion journey is just that – a journey, which we really amplified in 2020 after George Floyd’s murder. Our leadership looked at what was happening in the world and reflected on our mission as an organization to advance the rule of law. They made the determination that we could be doing more in this diversity and inclusion space, with a particular focus on racial equity. In 2020, LexisNexis established a formal D&I leadership role and appointed our first Chief Diversity Officer, Ronda Moore, and my role was created in 2021, joining our D&I team.
As an organization, we focused on embedding change and advancing our culture of inclusion and diversity throughout the organization. Looking forward, we’re striving to sustain and enhance our business performance as a result of our culture of inclusion and diversity while realizing a competitive advantage, because we have fully affirmed that diverse, inclusive cultures are high-performing cultures and they lead to great results in business.
What trends are you seeing in the legal industry in terms of diversity and inclusion?
I think there’s certainly been a trend since 2020 across professions, and especially within the legal industry, to make D&I a much more formal part of business strategy and to make sure it’s embedded in firms and has sustainability. I’m seeing more and more law firms create Chief Diversity Officer positions for the first time and place a concerted effort on programs to support diverse talent.
There’s also been a really big trend in terms of how firms are actually practicing. In 2020, the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance was formed, and it has over 300 member firms now, including some of the top global firms. These firms have pledged to address inequalities and social justice issues to combat racism in the law. Therefore, law firms are definitely dedicated to making sure they’re a part of this revolution.
How is LexisNexis working with law firms to implement D&I initiatives?
Nearly all large law firms have a LexisNexis consultant and a LexisNexis team that they work with to support their research needs. We’ve added so many resources to our platform to support social justice and equity, and we’re guiding practitioners to these resources to help firms figure out how to do this work and accelerate D&I at their firms. As an organization, we are looking to deepen our relationships with our law clients by providing further guidance and strategic consulting in this D&I area, and have the technology to support it. We even offer toolkits around how to build up diversity and equity in firm roles, positions, or practice groups. For example, last year we focused on bankruptcy practice and uncovered an issue where the Consumer Bankruptcy Act can be practiced inequitably based on race, and we helped firms identify whether that’s happening in their own practice and how to correct it if they need to. We also have an Equal Justice practice page that provides a wealth of information in this area. Each LexisNexis consultant is well-informed and able to work with a firm or practitioner interested in learning more in this area.
Can you tell us a little bit about the LexisNexis African Ancestry Network LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation Fellowship?
I’m the Director of the LexisNexis African Ancestry Network LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation Fellowship program, which is an extension of our commitment to eliminate systemic racism in legal systems and build a culture of inclusion and diversity within our company. In 2020, LexisNexis made a donation of $5 million over five years to pursue D&I initiatives through the LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation, at the recommendation of many exceptional leaders in our employee resource group – the LexisNexis African Ancestry Network. We used part of this donation to create the Fellowship, which is a partnership with the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Law School Consortium, including Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University College of Law, Howard University School of Law, North Carolina Central University School of Law, Southern University Law Center, Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University, and the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law and the leaders of these six law schools. Through the Fellowship, we awarded a $10,000 tuition grant to the Fellows that we selected from each of those schools. The Fellows work with LexisNexis over the course of a year to accelerate a specific project that each has individually proposed to eliminate systemic racism in the legal system and thereby advance the rule of law. They do so in partnership with the amazing talented individuals we have throughout the organization.
We’re now in our second year of the Fellowship. We began with two Fellows from each of the six schools, 12 total, in 2021. As a result of the opportunities and success of the program, our application base increased 130% for the second year, so we increased the program by 50% and have 18 Fellows this year. That’s quite stunning to me! Our leadership was so impressed by the caliber of applicants this year that we decided to “double down”. Part of what makes the Fellowship really unique is that we’re focused on addressing these issues of racial equity through LexisNexis’ technology, innovation, and talent. Our Fellows focus on an issue where we can make an impact and then figure out how to accelerate that impact using LexisNexis technology and tools. The Consumer Bankruptcy Act project I mentioned was actually a Fellowship project from 2021 by one of our fellows, Emony Robertson from Howard University Law School. She was able to create that practitioner toolkit that’s now on the LexisNexis platform, which goes to all the subscribers of our bankruptcy tools. Through LexisNexis, her project is now largely amplified and reaching many, many practitioners who can now make their legal practice more racially equitable.
What are some of the other current D&I initiatives at LexisNexis?
We launched an internal talent program called NetWorx last year, which is a formalized mentorship opportunity that’s available to everyone within the organization. It provides a structure around mentorship that is sometimes hard to capture and gives our talent access to different parts of the business and new opportunities to grow their careers. The program has been very successful in helping to identify high-potential talent, keep them engaged, provide them with opportunities, and connect people within the business that previously would not have had an opportunity to work together.
We have also just launched what we’re calling the LEAD program this upcoming year, led by my colleague Lizzi Jones, where we focus on high-performing women in the organization and provide them with resources to support their leadership development and skills. It also gives them formal sponsorship by male allies who are leaders within the organization to provide structure and support for success.
Our framework around our culture of inclusion and diversity is four-pronged. It focuses on leadership, advancement, recruiting, and retention. If we’re able to increase leadership, visibility, and accountability with communication and metrics, and if we’re able to support strong sponsorship and develop diverse talent, we’ll be able to recruit and retain more diverse talent, engage them in meaningful opportunities, and continue to embed a culture of inclusion within the company.
What advice would you give law firms looking to boost their D&I efforts and build a similar culture?
LexisNexis is here to help. Our law firm representatives are well-equipped to share our story and our D&I resources. For example, for firms that are building D&I programs, we have toolkits to help with that.
Beyond that, from a holistic standpoint, it’s really important for firms to ask questions of their current diverse talent and listen carefully to the answers. Many law firms are facing a challenge in retaining their diverse talent, and in order to do that effectively, they need to engage the entire team. The entire firm needs to be on the same page with regard to why D&I is important to the firm, and then they need to provide effective mentorship, nurturing, and strategic sponsorship to improve the firm’s efforts. Additionally, give associates and newly hired lawyers from under-represented groups meaningful work to build their expertise, and offer opportunities for greater exposure. There needs to be some accountability around the support the firm is providing. Data-centered approaches to D&I tend to make the biggest impact by informing a meaningful dialogue, particularly with a focus on the type of work being done by diverse talent. Coupling that with training will lead to that culture shift that will be sustainable.
Keeping a focus on D&I as part of the conversation, particularly amongst leadership, and providing the necessary departments with the resources they need will help you reach your goals. D&I should be treated with the same level of priority as any other part of the business. Once you do that, it will sustain itself.
What trends do you expect to see in the D&I space in the next few years?
Accountability is a big trend. The Great Resignation, the pandemic, and all the challenges of the past couple years have changed how the profession will be practiced in the future. Law firms have to be authentic, because potential employees are looking for proof that they’re making real efforts in the area of D&I. Clients need to be able to demonstrate to their shareholders that they’re contracting diverse legal teams and getting diverse suppliers. That means law firms have to be accountable for what they’ve pledged and transparent with their measures of diversity. We actually have a tool, CounselLink, that many firms and corporate legal offices have deployed to track this very thing and maintain accountability.
As for incoming law firm talent, they’re increasingly looking for flexibility. I think hybrid work is here to stay, so that’s something law firms really need to deliberately plan for in the present and future. Hybrid work gives some leaders pause when it comes to firm culture, but it shouldn’t. If you’re creating a culture where people feel psychologically safe and like they belong with their teams, you’re going to have that winning culture whether you’re on Zoom or in person. When you focus on D&I and create that kind of culture, you’ll be able to sustain it through hybrid work and keep employee engagement high in the process.
Why are diversity and inclusion good for business and why do we need to keep pushing for more progress in this area?
When people feel like they belong, they do their best work. Additionally, diverse perspectives have been proven to increase success in a business. It opens up diverse markets in a whole new and often profitable way.
Lawyers have such a significant place in how our society functions – in a way, the law dictates the world. I believe there’s an obligation in the legal industry to create a better society if we can, and, for many, that means making it a more just, inclusive society. There will always be opportunities to increase justice, and as we become more equitable and we dive deeper into D&I issues, we’ll understand those opportunities even more. I think if you stop evolving in these areas, there’s the risk of sliding backwards and losing progress. Thus, we must keep pushing forward.
Global Talent Development and Inclusion Director for LexisNexis, Adonica Black (Photo courtesy of LexisNexis)
Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging are some of the hottest topics in the legal industry today, with more and more firms and organizations looking for ways to eliminate inequity in the workplace and increase diversity among their workforce. LexisNexis is committed to making a difference in this area, both internally and by helping law firms with their own D&I initiatives. We recently sat down with Adonica Black, Global Talent Development and Inclusion Director for LexisNexis, to discuss the current state of D&I in the legal industry, some fascinating D&I initiatives going on internally at LexisNexis today, how law firms can improve D&I, and more.
Can you tell us a little about LexisNexis’s commitment to D&I?
Our diversity and inclusion journey is just that – a journey, which we really amplified in 2020 after George Floyd’s murder. Our leadership looked at what was happening in the world and reflected on our mission as an organization to advance the rule of law. They made the determination that we could be doing more in this diversity and inclusion space, with a particular focus on racial equity. In 2020, LexisNexis established a formal D&I leadership role and appointed our first Chief Diversity Officer, Ronda Moore, and my role was created in 2021, joining our D&I team.
As an organization, we focused on embedding change and advancing our culture of inclusion and diversity throughout the organization. Looking forward, we’re striving to sustain and enhance our business performance as a result of our culture of inclusion and diversity while realizing a competitive advantage, because we have fully affirmed that diverse, inclusive cultures are high-performing cultures and they lead to great results in business.
What trends are you seeing in the legal industry in terms of diversity and inclusion?
I think there’s certainly been a trend since 2020 across professions, and especially within the legal industry, to make D&I a much more formal part of business strategy and to make sure it’s embedded in firms and has sustainability. I’m seeing more and more law firms create Chief Diversity Officer positions for the first time and place a concerted effort on programs to support diverse talent.
There’s also been a really big trend in terms of how firms are actually practicing. In 2020, the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance was formed, and it has over 300 member firms now, including some of the top global firms. These firms have pledged to address inequalities and social justice issues to combat racism in the law. Therefore, law firms are definitely dedicated to making sure they’re a part of this revolution.
How is LexisNexis working with law firms to implement D&I initiatives?
Nearly all large law firms have a LexisNexis consultant and a LexisNexis team that they work with to support their research needs. We’ve added so many resources to our platform to support social justice and equity, and we’re guiding practitioners to these resources to help firms figure out how to do this work and accelerate D&I at their firms. As an organization, we are looking to deepen our relationships with our law clients by providing further guidance and strategic consulting in this D&I area, and have the technology to support it. We even offer toolkits around how to build up diversity and equity in firm roles, positions, or practice groups. For example, last year we focused on bankruptcy practice and uncovered an issue where the Consumer Bankruptcy Act can be practiced inequitably based on race, and we helped firms identify whether that’s happening in their own practice and how to correct it if they need to. We also have an Equal Justice practice page that provides a wealth of information in this area. Each LexisNexis consultant is well-informed and able to work with a firm or practitioner interested in learning more in this area.
Can you tell us a little bit about the LexisNexis African Ancestry Network LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation Fellowship?
I’m the Director of the LexisNexis African Ancestry Network LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation Fellowship program, which is an extension of our commitment to eliminate systemic racism in legal systems and build a culture of inclusion and diversity within our company. In 2020, LexisNexis made a donation of $5 million over five years to pursue D&I initiatives through the LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation, at the recommendation of many exceptional leaders in our employee resource group – the LexisNexis African Ancestry Network. We used part of this donation to create the Fellowship, which is a partnership with the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Law School Consortium, including Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University College of Law, Howard University School of Law, North Carolina Central University School of Law, Southern University Law Center, Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University, and the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law and the leaders of these six law schools. Through the Fellowship, we awarded a $10,000 tuition grant to the Fellows that we selected from each of those schools. The Fellows work with LexisNexis over the course of a year to accelerate a specific project that each has individually proposed to eliminate systemic racism in the legal system and thereby advance the rule of law. They do so in partnership with the amazing talented individuals we have throughout the organization.
We’re now in our second year of the Fellowship. We began with two Fellows from each of the six schools, 12 total, in 2021. As a result of the opportunities and success of the program, our application base increased 130% for the second year, so we increased the program by 50% and have 18 Fellows this year. That’s quite stunning to me! Our leadership was so impressed by the caliber of applicants this year that we decided to “double down”. Part of what makes the Fellowship really unique is that we’re focused on addressing these issues of racial equity through LexisNexis’ technology, innovation, and talent. Our Fellows focus on an issue where we can make an impact and then figure out how to accelerate that impact using LexisNexis technology and tools. The Consumer Bankruptcy Act project I mentioned was actually a Fellowship project from 2021 by one of our fellows, Emony Robertson from Howard University Law School. She was able to create that practitioner toolkit that’s now on the LexisNexis platform, which goes to all the subscribers of our bankruptcy tools. Through LexisNexis, her project is now largely amplified and reaching many, many practitioners who can now make their legal practice more racially equitable.
What are some of the other current D&I initiatives at LexisNexis?
We launched an internal talent program called NetWorx last year, which is a formalized mentorship opportunity that’s available to everyone within the organization. It provides a structure around mentorship that is sometimes hard to capture and gives our talent access to different parts of the business and new opportunities to grow their careers. The program has been very successful in helping to identify high-potential talent, keep them engaged, provide them with opportunities, and connect people within the business that previously would not have had an opportunity to work together.
We have also just launched what we’re calling the LEAD program this upcoming year, led by my colleague Lizzi Jones, where we focus on high-performing women in the organization and provide them with resources to support their leadership development and skills. It also gives them formal sponsorship by male allies who are leaders within the organization to provide structure and support for success.
Our framework around our culture of inclusion and diversity is four-pronged. It focuses on leadership, advancement, recruiting, and retention. If we’re able to increase leadership, visibility, and accountability with communication and metrics, and if we’re able to support strong sponsorship and develop diverse talent, we’ll be able to recruit and retain more diverse talent, engage them in meaningful opportunities, and continue to embed a culture of inclusion within the company.
What advice would you give law firms looking to boost their D&I efforts and build a similar culture?
LexisNexis is here to help. Our law firm representatives are well-equipped to share our story and our D&I resources. For example, for firms that are building D&I programs, we have toolkits to help with that.
Beyond that, from a holistic standpoint, it’s really important for firms to ask questions of their current diverse talent and listen carefully to the answers. Many law firms are facing a challenge in retaining their diverse talent, and in order to do that effectively, they need to engage the entire team. The entire firm needs to be on the same page with regard to why D&I is important to the firm, and then they need to provide effective mentorship, nurturing, and strategic sponsorship to improve the firm’s efforts. Additionally, give associates and newly hired lawyers from under-represented groups meaningful work to build their expertise, and offer opportunities for greater exposure. There needs to be some accountability around the support the firm is providing. Data-centered approaches to D&I tend to make the biggest impact by informing a meaningful dialogue, particularly with a focus on the type of work being done by diverse talent. Coupling that with training will lead to that culture shift that will be sustainable.
Keeping a focus on D&I as part of the conversation, particularly amongst leadership, and providing the necessary departments with the resources they need will help you reach your goals. D&I should be treated with the same level of priority as any other part of the business. Once you do that, it will sustain itself.
What trends do you expect to see in the D&I space in the next few years?
Accountability is a big trend. The Great Resignation, the pandemic, and all the challenges of the past couple years have changed how the profession will be practiced in the future. Law firms have to be authentic, because potential employees are looking for proof that they’re making real efforts in the area of D&I. Clients need to be able to demonstrate to their shareholders that they’re contracting diverse legal teams and getting diverse suppliers. That means law firms have to be accountable for what they’ve pledged and transparent with their measures of diversity. We actually have a tool, CounselLink, that many firms and corporate legal offices have deployed to track this very thing and maintain accountability.
As for incoming law firm talent, they’re increasingly looking for flexibility. I think hybrid work is here to stay, so that’s something law firms really need to deliberately plan for in the present and future. Hybrid work gives some leaders pause when it comes to firm culture, but it shouldn’t. If you’re creating a culture where people feel psychologically safe and like they belong with their teams, you’re going to have that winning culture whether you’re on Zoom or in person. When you focus on D&I and create that kind of culture, you’ll be able to sustain it through hybrid work and keep employee engagement high in the process.
Why are diversity and inclusion good for business and why do we need to keep pushing for more progress in this area?
When people feel like they belong, they do their best work. Additionally, diverse perspectives have been proven to increase success in a business. It opens up diverse markets in a whole new and often profitable way.
Lawyers have such a significant place in how our society functions – in a way, the law dictates the world. I believe there’s an obligation in the legal industry to create a better society if we can, and, for many, that means making it a more just, inclusive society. There will always be opportunities to increase justice, and as we become more equitable and we dive deeper into D&I issues, we’ll understand those opportunities even more. I think if you stop evolving in these areas, there’s the risk of sliding backwards and losing progress. Thus, we must keep pushing forward.

Source:https://abovethelaw.com/2022/06/how-lexisnexis-is-making-its-mark-in-the-dei-sphere-an-interview-with-director-adonica-black/

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