Twin Cities Diversity in Practice is excited to welcome our new Co-Chair, Caryn Boisen! Caryn will join our continuing Co-Chair, Kathy Noecker, in leading TCDIP’s efforts in 2019. We sat down with Kathy and Caryn to get some insight on their thoughts regarding TCDIP’s work and the diversity and inclusion efforts within the Twin Cities legal community.
TCDIP: Do you have a leadership style that you bring to your role as Co-Chair?
Kathy Noecker: I would describe my leadership style as a very collaborative and open style. I like to empower others and give space for many people to contribute. I think you get greater creativity and innovation — and more done!
TCDIP does model this in our committee work. I’m excited about the ways that TCDIP’s committees are shaping their charters and agendas for the year ahead. The structure and clarity will allow us to leverage everybody’s passion for diversity and inclusion. We are eager for new ideas and action now that we have completed a year of transition. I’m particularly excited about the continued evolution of the Emerging Leaders Group and want to make sure they have a strong network of opportunities and ability to contribute to the community in a multitude of ways. The other priority we are ready to dive into is increasing engagement across our member organizations and sharing best practices for diversity and inclusion that will benefit all.
Caryn Boisen: My leadership style is very collaborative as well. In my mind, it helps so much to hear other people’s perspectives. Collaboration goes hand in hand with what TCDIP stands for – there needs to be diversity and collaboration within thought leadership. To get the best results, whether it’s on a client matter or otherwise, it’s critical to have everyone collaborate using their different perspectives to come up with the best solution.
TCDIP: In what ways is TCDIP a thought leader?
Kathy Noecker: From its very inception TCDIP has been a thought leader – understanding early that together we can accomplish more than we could as individual organizations. By bringing the corporate legal departments and law firms together we’re able to share ideas, listen to and challenge each other to make progress through concrete and specific actions. There is not a single initiative that will increase diversity; TCDIP has always understood that our efforts must be spread across all our mission areas. Our 1L program has been an outstanding success, giving students opportunities and introducing them to the Twin Cities. Its success is nationally recognized and similar programs have since been adopted by other organizations. Another area where TCDIP has been a leader is with the development of a sponsorship program and introduction of it into member firms.
Caryn Boisen: One example of TCDIP’s thought leadership is our dedication to thinking about the pipeline, which is really important. It’s something that the legal field has given lip service to sometimes, but I think TCDIP is really walking the walk in addition to talking the talk. If we want lawyers to feel connected to the greater legal community, that connection has to start early. The TCDIP 1L Rotation Clerkship program is such a great way to introduce law students of color to the Twin Cities legal community and also immediately starts raising their profile and network from a very junior level. Programs like the 1L clerkship are key to having lawyers of color feel connected to our legal community.
TCDIP: How has the conversation about diversity and inclusion changed in the last 10 years?
Kathy Noecker: We’ve done the “easy work” in terms of learning how to be more intentional at the hiring stage to seek out diverse talent. What is more challenging, and where more focus is today, is retention of our diverse talent. This can be done only by increasing understanding and participation within our organizations, so that everyone understands it is part of their job to welcome, develop and provide opportunities and feedback to individuals who may not look, act or think the same way they do.
Caryn Boisen: I would say the conversation has become much more focused on inclusion than diversity. Ten years ago, we were all concerned about diversity, but now we’re realizing that the key is the inclusion piece. If people don’t feel connected, included, and valued in their community, they’re not going to want to be part of that community. And that’s why we see women and lawyers of color leave the legal profession in such high percentages.
TCDIP: What value does your organization get from TCDIP?
Kathy Noecker: We have so many people at FaegreBD who get involved with TCDIP, and that’s really outstanding. TCDIP provides opportunities for networking, professional development and leadership roles. We have great client partnerships through the 1L Rotation Clerkship Program. And our diverse lawyers take advantage of the unique networking space TCDIP makes available. I have particularly enjoyed watching some of our more junior lawyers get involved in the Emerging Leaders Group and really blossom with client connections, networking opportunities, intentional career development and supportive community. Our people have thrived with that expanded community of support.
Caryn Boisen: In part it’s creating an atmosphere where it’s okay to talk about diversity and inclusion issues. I think sometimes people feel uncomfortable talking about race, ethnicity, gender, or other characteristics that might make us different from one another or they think it’s not ok to talk about issues of inclusion, or the lack thereof. Larson King’s involvement with TCDIP helps force the conversation and gives our attorneys the opportunity to confront diversity and inclusion issues. These conversations start with a realization and understanding that you can’t have an inclusive environment overnight. You can’t snap your fingers and have everything be perfect. But it’s so important to be able to have the conversations and even more important for us to understand that diversity and inclusion issues shouldn’t be the responsibility of diverse lawyers alone. Diversity and inclusion are everybody’s issues.
TCDIP: Spring is right around the corner, but this year’s winter has been a long one! What’s your strategy for coping with this year’s winter?
Kathy Noecker: I try to keep a positive attitude! I always enjoy those days where the sun shines – even if that means it’s really cold. And if it’s going to be cold, I prefer to have snow and the beautiful landscape it creates. This is home for me.
Caryn Boisen: I’m trying to get out and enjoy being with colleagues, friends, and family as much as possible. And I LOVE seeing my dog Pip’s reaction to the snow. He’s a 10-year-old yellow lab and he just loves it. He still loves to play fetch, and even if the ball is 2 feet deep in snow he can still find it. It’s hilarious to watch because he sticks his whole head down into the snow to find the ball!
TCDIP: What’s one thing you’re looking forward to in 2019?
Kathy Noecker: I’m excited to have Caryn join as my co-chair! And I’m glad that Roshan will stay on the board and that we will continue to have his input for another year. We also have a number of new board members joining this spring and I look forward to the new energy and perspectives they will bring.
Caryn Boisen: I am really looking forward to learning from Kathy and being even more involved in TCDIP in my new role as co-chair. I have very big shoes to fill with Roshan exiting the co-chair position, and I too am very glad he will continue helping us lead this great organization.