DIVERSITY AND EXCLUSION -  Law firms have dedicated a great deal of focus to increasing diversity, but many are falling short on enacting meaningful changes to improve equity and inclusion, Law.com’s Patrick Smith reports. Not only does that undermine retention efforts, it can also create a dynamic of tokenism, which can alienate people from underrepresented groups. Clients increasingly expect that their matters will be handled by diverse teams of outside counsel. Rushing to meet those expectations, firms too often prioritize diversity on paper over meaningful inclusion, according to a number of industry observers. “We’ve heard from countless in-house counsel that there is often a bait-and-switch that occurs from the initial RFP process to when they see the first bill and the team who is doing the work,” Caren Stacy, CEO of Diversity Lab, told Smith in an email. “Billing data often shows that the outside counsel team is not nearly as diverse as the pitch materials indicated or the diverse individuals are doing low-level work without much visibility to and interaction with the client.”

YOU HAD TO BE THERE? - A battle currently playing out in New Jersey is likely indicative a larger war nationwide, as the country begins to kind-sorta-actually-not-really emerge from the pandemic. As Law.com’s Charles Toutant reports, the debate over whether remote litigation is the wave of the future or best left in the past is heating up among trial lawyers. Plaintiffs lawyer Eric Katz, for example, said he thinks “the pendulum has swung much too far” in the direction of remote proceedings in New Jersey courts, which is making it harder to resolve cases in a timely manner. “Defendants have plenty of beer muscles when they can sit behind the desks of their cushy offices 1,000 miles away as opposed to being hauled into a New Jersey court or New Jersey lawyer’s office for a personal appearance,” Katz said. “It just changes the entire dynamic.” Family lawyer Stephen Haller, on the other hand, said he hopes remote proceedings remain a viable alternative, though he dreads seeing adversaries argue over trial technology. “I don’t want it to be divisive. I hope it’s not, because Zoom and Teams video technology gives us a tremendous opportunity to do good and charge less and be more efficient with our time and the court’s time. I hope it’s resolved in favor of leveraging technology to our advantage,” Haller said.

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