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Interrupting Implicit Bias by Design

Updated: Jan 8, 2021

On July 15, the CWBA along with CBA and it's partners, including the ACC, the CBA's YLD and all six of the diversity bars, welcome Kathleen Nalty, who will be presenting Interrupting Implicit Bias by Design: How Legal Organizations are Using Inclusion Nudges and Embedding Bias Interrupters, a free, virtual, live event (two complimentary general CLE credits available).

Kathleen Nalty is a nationally recognized expert in strategies for creating cultures of inclusion to retain and advance diverse talent. She specializes in helping organizations identify systemic issues that cause higher attrition rates for people in already underrepresented groups. In 2015, she wrote Going All-In on Diversity & Inclusion: The Law Firm Leaders’ Playbook, which includes new tools to advance diversity and inclusion. Previously, Ms. Nalty founded the Center for Legal Inclusiveness in Denver and led the nonprofit as its executive director from October 2007 to January 2013. She started her legal career as a federal civil rights prosecutor at the U.S. Department of Justice.

According to Nalty, “[t]he legal industry will remain one of the least diverse professions unless lawyers and legal staff become knowledgeable about unconscious bias and then put interrupters into place to help limit the effect of implicit biases.”[1] She considers unconscious bias to be the biggest challenge to advancing diversity in the legal profession. And while training on unconscious bias is an essential first step, it is not enough to interrupt or eliminate the hidden barriers diverse lawyers experience that cause higher attrition rates. Rather, cutting-edge efforts by legal organizations that involve embedding bias-interrupters into processes and procedures are necessary to achieve real results.

It’s no secret that despite laudable efforts to advance diversity and inclusion in the legal industry, outcomes have been poor. Indeed, while most law firms have programs and activities geared toward improving diversity and inclusion, not much has changed. Research studies illuminate the disparate impact hidden barriers have on female and racially or ethnically diverse lawyers. These barriers serve as the predominate cause of higher attrition rates among such groups. As Nalty has recognized, the research indicates that female, LGBTQ, disabled, and racially or ethnically diverse attorneys are disproportionately excluded from important, career-advancing opportunities, including networking, insider information, access to decision makers, mentors and sponsors, meaningful work assignments, candid and frequent feedback, social integration, training and development, client contact, and promotions.

Nalty notes a “new movement” is institutionalizing diversity and inclusion efforts. This movement employs “inclusion nudges” or “bias interrupters” to combat unconscious bias. These nudges or interrupters can be designed for any system or process “to help people interrupt their unconscious biases and to foster an inclusive workplace in which diversity can thrive.” An “inclusion nudge” has been defined as “a mental push that will mitigate unconscious association to help the brain make more objective decisions, and promote more inclusive behaviors that will stick.” And because inclusion nudges help people recognize and mitigate unconscious biases, they can also be referred to as “bias interrupters.”

As the term unconscious implies, such biases are obviously difficult to identify because, well, they are unconscious, or in other words, hidden from us. Therefore, training on its own is simply not enough. And that’s exactly why Nalty advocates for “intentional and repeated individual efforts to implement research-based tactics to interrupt bias as it occurs.”

To learn how to nudge any process in your organization to make it more bias proof, register for this free, virtual, live event (two complimentary general CLE credits available), hosted by the CWBA, CBA, CBA YLD, ACC and our diversity bar partners, and presented by Kathleen Nalty. You will also learn how legal organizations are implementing inclusion nudges to make diversity sustainable and how to overcome potential hurdles you could face in implementing inclusion nudges in your organization.

Register now through the CBA’s website:


[1] Kathleen Nalty, Interrupt Unconscious Bias Through Inclusion Nudges, For the Defense (May 2017).

Nicole Jones is currently an Appellate Law Clerk for the Honorable Justice Carlos Samour at the Colorado Supreme Court.  She is the Editor of The 1891’s “Tales from the Trenches” column and a member of the Colorado Women’s Bar Association Publications Committee.  Nicole also serves as the Assistant Program Chair for the Thompson G. Marsh American Inn of Court, co-chair of the Denver Bar Association’s Access to Justice Committee’s Pro Bono Week, and as a member of the Colorado Court of Appeals’s Brown Bag and Training Committees.  Any views or opinions reflected in this publication do not reflect the position of the Colorado Supreme Court or the Colorado Judicial Department.

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