Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Law
Alt Legal Team | January 14, 2023
This article was originally published on January 17, 2022 and was published with updates on January 14, 2023.
At Alt Legal, we celebrate the memory and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As a company founded by two people of color, we have a particular appreciation for the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We are always looking for ways to support diversity in law and to provide a platform to discuss these issues. We’re extremely proud of our work to promote social justice and want to take the opportunity on this momentous day to re-share what we consider to be some of the most meaningful, thought-provoking, and change-inspiring content that we’ve produced.
In addition to producing content that we hope will inspire social change, we want to contribute financially to organizations working to promote social justice.
Our Financial Contributions to Support Diversity
Alt Legal Connect 2023 – Cultural Appropriation + MLK Discount and Donation
Join us next month at Alt Legal Connect 2023 for the session, “When Imitation Is Not Flattering: Cultural appropriation in trademarks.” During this session, the presenters will discuss how to avoid cultural appropriation in trademarks and the resulting PR nightmares that follow from a culturally-insensitive trademark application.
This month, we’ll be donating a portion of Alt Legal Connect ticket sales to Start Lighthouse, an organization that promotes literacy in low-income communities and provides multicultural books to reflect their own lives and experiences with their communities. Buy a ticket to Alt Legal Connect between now and January 31, 2023, you’ll get 10% off your individual or group ticket and we’ll donate $30 per ticket to Start Lighthouse. Be sure to use code MLK2023 on the checkout page.
Although Trademarket, Alt Legal’s online shop for punny trademark gear, is lighthearted in concept, we bring more meaning to the endeavor by donating all net proceeds to The Playing Field Project Foundation. The Playing Field Project tackles the number one hurdle facing low-income Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC): the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). By providing free LSAT prep assistance, the Project breaks down the socioeconomic barriers hindering applicants’ chances of acceptance, creating a more diverse body of law students and future lawyers.
Alt Legal Diverse Business Grant
Alt Legal has committed $10,000 to help attorneys who are transforming their communities and showing that Black lives matter there and everywhere. As part of this, we are offering trademark docketing software and Alt Legal Trademark Protection tools to organizations that stand against violence, racism, and excessive punishment. Additionally, we are working with our customers to offer Black- or minority-owned businesses free or reduced-cost trademark docketing. Whether you’re an existing Alt Legal customer or have yet to automate your trademark docketing, if you need a leg up while you support your community, apply for an Alt Legal Diverse Business Grant here. If you’re interested in contributing so that we can expand this program, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alt Legal Content and Initiatives Promoting Diversity
Black Lives Matter Lawyer Resource Page
Under the best of circumstances, starting or running a law firm is difficult. For people of color, societal disadvantages and institutional racism complicate issues even further. We created the Black Lives Matter Lawyer Resource Page, containing a number of resources for starting or running a practice in general as well as additional organizations that work to support and promote businesses (including law firms) founded by people of color.
Alt Legal Connect Session on Practical Ways IP Attorneys Can Advance Social Justice
At Alt Legal Connect 2021, Christian Williams, Founder of Bevel Law, Tyra Hughley Smith, Founder of Hughley Smith Law, and Kimra Major-Morris, Founder of Major-Morris Law presented the session, IP Matters: Practical ways that IP lawyers can advance social justice. The presenters provided a practical perspective on how IP lawyers can contribute to social justice in their everyday lives. The session was rebroadcast as a live webinar which you can view here (registration required).
Key takeaways from the session include:
- Social justice is the idea that all people should have equal access to wealth, health, well-being, justice, privileges and opportunities regardless of their legal, political, economic, or other circumstances.
- Pre-Civil War, enslaved Africans were not considered authors or inventors because they were not US citizens. Their inventions were not patentable, nor could slave owners take credit for their inventions.
- Renowned Black musical artists including Scott Joplin, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, and Little Richard were routinely denied the benefits of copyright and rights to royalties,
- Several brands have perpetuated and entrenched racial stereotypes in their branding, subjecting Blacks and other communities to racial discrimination.
- Law is the least diverse profession in America. The ABA found that only 5% of attorneys are Black, 5% are Latinx, 2% are Asian. This is compared to the Black population in the US as a whole – 13.4%.
- According to the Harvard Business Review, 17% of Black women are in the process of starting or running a new business, which demonstrates higher and faster growth than any other subset. But these women need representation that looks like them.
- IP practitioners working with brand owners must do their part to avoid cultural appropriation– the adoption of expression, traditions, artifacts of a certain group without their consent, compensation, without giving credit, and without giving input. Attorneys can help by promoting input and collaborations and making socially responsible recommendations.
Alt Legal Connect Session on DEI
At Alt Legal Connect 2020, David Lat, Managing Director at Lateral Link and founder of Above the Law, presented the session, Defining Diversity. During this session, David discussed how to expand our definition and understanding of diversity in order to create truly diverse and inclusive workplaces. The recording of this session is available to view for free.
Key takeaways from the session include:
- Diversity is the what and equity and inclusion are the how, the culture that helps diversity to thrive.
- When corporate culture doesn’t retain different perspectives, diversity cannot exist
- Beyond racial and ethnic diversity, gender diversity, and sexual orientation diversity, it is important to consider as characteristics of diversity: disability, first generation status and socioeconomic diversity, veteran status, intellectual diversity, and diversity of ideas.
- Law firms are realizing that they must care about DEI as clients increasingly want to see diversity in handling their legal work.
Alt Legal Connect Session on Culturally Relevant Representation
At Alt Legal Connect 2020, Ticora Davis of The Creator’s Law Firm presented the session, Culturally Relevant Representation. During this session, Ticora offered strategies and practical tips for marketing to, communicating with, and representing demographics different from your own, including those outside of the US. The recording of this session is available to view for free.
Key takeaways from the session include:
- The term “culturally relevant representation” has its roots in education, where teachers display cultural competence in the classroom and make an effort to tie in what a child is learning in school with the cultural cues and contexts outside of school.
- In terms of legal representation, “culturally relevant representation” becomes a formula for diligent advocacy that adheres to the cultural experience of your clients.
- In trademark prosecution before the USPTO, it is important to explain the cultural context of a mark, if applicable, so that the examiner can properly analyze the mark.
- Culturally relevant representation is just one more element of every lawyer’s responsibility for competency. Part of the requisite legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation mandated by Model Rule of Conduct 1.1 is the ability to understand and translate the cultural experience of every client to successfully protect their IP.
- When working with trademark clients from cultures other than your own, it is necessary to learn the cultural context of the mark, identifying the community or traditions in question, and exploring how the mark can affect the attorney’s legal argument.
- Demonstrate the cultural use of a word by citing non-traditional sources including Urban Dictionary, pop music and movies, news articles and interviews.
- Enslaved African Americans were forced to transfer their IP rights to slaveowners to obtain freedom from slavery. This broke the entrepreneurial spirit in the African American community. Now, efforts must be made to support and encourage that spirit in the African American community and one of the first steps in business is to secure IP rights.
- Now that the USPTO requires that foreign domiciles be represented by US counsel, this is an excellent opportunity for US attorneys to get to know clients from other cultures.