Our Clarion Call: Thoughts on Our 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge

Dominique L. Casimir and Justin A. Chiarodo ●

A few weeks ago we wrote about our Government Contracts practice group’s decision to opt in to the 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge (the “Challenge”) launched by the American Bar Association (“ABA”) Section of Public Contract Law. The 21-Day Challenge was a syllabus of 21 daily assignments—curated for the ABA by Dominique Casimir—focusing on the Black American experience, including Black history, identity and culture, the experience of anti-Black racism in America, and the intersection between systemic racism and the legal profession.

What We Did: We invited our clients to participate with us in a series of weekly discussion groups to share perspectives on the racial equity movement currently underway in this country, to reflect on how we got here, and to challenge ourselves to consider what we are doing—in our respective workplaces, and as individual lawyers—to work towards racial equality. This experience was unlike anything we have done with our clients before, and admittedly we were not sure how clients would respond when we invited them to engage with us in an ongoing series of small-group, candid discussions about a topic as sensitive as race. We were incredibly humbled that so many of our clients enthusiastically welcomed this opportunity.

What We Learned: First and foremost, through this meaningful engagement with one another, we reaffirmed our common humanity and empathy, which many participants found particularly welcome after working remotely for so many months. We learned that, in fact, we are capable of discussing race in the workplace in a manner that is both professional and constructive, even if perspectives differ. We exchanged ideas about how to improve racial diversity in our workplaces, and how clients can help drive such changes in their outside legal providers. In some groups, participants welcomed the chance to speak to fellow parents about how to discuss race with their children.

What’s Next: Many who joined us during this Challenge expressed the desire to continue these conversations, and bring the ideas generated within their groups back to their respective workplaces. Most importantly, we felt a collective sense of duty as lawyers to meet this moment head on, and to take steps to achieve lasting change.

At Blank Rome, participating in the 21-Day Challenge is part of a growing collective of actions that attorneys are taking to work toward racial equality. Not only has Blank Rome joined the Law Firm Anti-Racism Alliance, but many of our attorneys are developing plans for further outreach and programming.

We are identifying pro bono opportunities directed at racial justice issues; strengthening our own recruiting, mentoring, and retention efforts; and working with clients on their own diversity and inclusion, pro bono, and Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (“ESG”) initiatives. In short, we learned that working toward racial justice is not a one-time exercise but rather a practice to which we will continue to dedicate ourselves over the long haul.

Thank you to all who joined us in this effort, and please feel free to reach out to Dominique Casimir, Justin Chiarodo, or Blank Rome’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Sophia Lee, if you have any questions or ideas about how we can continue to advance this critical mission.