In light of the events of this past week, we’re sharing this important conversation with Tiffany Graves, Pro Bono Counsel at a large southern law firm and the former Executive Director of the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission, from Clio’s Daily Matters podcast. Listen to the conversation here, or read the conversation below.

Tiffany Graves (00:02):

But it can’t just be a few isolated instances of, “We recognize that we’ve done these things and now we’re going to do better,” or those types of pronouncements. This will be for nothing if we don’t have sweeping reform to eliminate systemic racism.

Jack Newton (00:20):

At Clio, our mission is to transform the practice of law for good, and increasing access to justice is a major component of that. Clio fundamentally believes in equity and justice as critical pillars of the legal and judicial system. And we are committed to using our platform to advocate for change.

In light of recent events, we’re conducting a series of interviews to address the systemic racism that is pervasive in our society. We need to be talking about these topics in the legal industry so that we may create a more equitable and accessible justice system. We hope these conversations can play some part in moving things forward.

Today we were speaking with Tiffany Graves, who is the pro bono counsel at Bradley and an accomplished attorney, former nonprofit executive and visionary leader with over 20 years of experience advocating for marginalized children, individuals, and families. Tiffany, we’re thankful to have you here with us today.

Tiffany Graves (01:11):

Thank you for having me.

Jack Newton (01:13):

So Tiffany, to start off, would you be able to share some background on your career and what you do in your current role?

Tiffany Graves (01:20):

Sure. I graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2006. And from there actually had a one year fellowship that I was able to get through the law school that I used to work at the Mississippi Center for Justice. And I was the Lewis F. Powell fellow, a staff attorney at the Mississippi Center for Justice, where I advocated in the areas of juvenile justice and also educational advocacy.

So, really I worked to improve the lives of children who were in the juvenile justice system in Mississippi as well as advocated for children who were trying to get special education services and who had also been subjected to disciplinary hearings at the school level. So, that’s what I did straight out of law school. And had intended to stay in public interest work after my fellowship ended, but felt the call of private practice, something I did not anticipate in my years at law school and spent about four and a half years in private practice, doing everything from insurance defense, to products liability, to labor and employment work.

And frankly, I learned a lot and learned how to be a lawyer and to practice law. And what I learned in that experience in private practice has deeply informed the work that I do as a public interest lawyer today. After I left private practice, I went in to become the general counsel of the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project. And that is Mississippi’s only statewide pro bono program.

And as you may know, there are very few statewide pro bono programs. They are typically divided into regions. So, Mississippi is one of about three states that actually has a statewide pro bono program. So, I was brought in as the second general counsel of the Volunteer Lawyers Project. And within about six months of working there, I also obtained the title of executive director. So, I became the executive director/general counsel early in my time there and was doing everything from the administrative functions to the legal functions of the organization, recruiting attorneys to help our clients who had a host of civil legal matters who just needed pro bono support in order to take those matters to court.

So, when I finished my time at MVLP, I became the executive director of the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission. And Mississippi, I believe, was the 26th state to create a commission. And like all other state commissions, worked very closely with the state Supreme Court and other stakeholders to really try to move the needle in access to justice.

Really enjoyed that role because I was able to take the experiences that I had at MVLP, where we were working with clients, one at a time, doing the best that we could to get them paired up with pro bono attorneys to handle their legal matters. But to take the things that we were seeing at MVLP and try to deal with those things on a more systemic level, what were the recurring issues that I was seeing in my pro bono work at MVLP that we could try to address on a much larger scale through the access to justice commission? What could we do to really reform the civil justice system in Mississippi?

So, that was the work that I was able to do at the commission, which was really informed by the work that I was doing at the Volunteer Lawyers Project. And then an opening happened at my current law firm, at Bradley, where they were looking to bring in their first pro bono counsel. I had worked a lot with the attorneys who work in our Jackson office in Jackson, Mississippi. They were aware of my work at the Volunteer Lawyers Project and the access to justice commission and said, “The firm is thinking of creating this position of having someone to come in and really direct our pro bono programs and expand the scope and our reach of what we’re doing as a firm to help those in our community in need. And we think you’d be a great person for that position.”

It was a real honor for me, and a real opportunity to step in and expand not only the work I was doing in Mississippi, but into nine other geographic areas throughout the country. So, I’ve stepped into that role. I’ve been in this role for just over two and a half years and I’m really enjoying it. And it’s really a job where I just manage the firm’s pro bono program, create, evaluate, assess our pro bono program regularly. What are our processes? How are we strategically thinking about how we’re engaging in pro bono work?

Are we doing everything we can to engage as many of our attorneys as we can in service to those in need? Those are the things that I’m constantly thinking about. Making sure that we have enough variety in our programs so that people want to be involved. And making sure that their experiences are successful so that they want to continue taking on pro bono work far beyond what may be their first case.

Jack Newton (06:21):

Oh, there’s so much to explore in there and such an interesting career. There’s obviously a common thread of access to justice and pro bono work weaved throughout your career. What has drawn you to that aspect of law so strongly?

Tiffany Graves (06:36):

Yeah. I really am one of those people who went to law school to help people. And I know a lot of lawyers say that, but I really did. That’s why I went. I truly believe that lawyers have an obligation to give back to those in their community who need it. We are blessed with talents and an education that really should make us want to find ways to help those who need it. And I’m really driven by the energy and passion of the attorneys that I’ve been able to work with.

When I was at MVLP, the individuals who worked with me to really create change in Mississippi at the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission, and the attorneys, the over 500 attorney that I now work with at Bradley who are just passionate about finding ways to help people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to the quality of lawyers that we’re able to match them with you through the pro bono work that we do

So, it’s something that I’ve just always felt compelled to do. And I’ve been really fortunate, particularly here in Mississippi where there is so much need to find so many places and spaces to find myself in to do this type of work.

Jack Newton (07:52):

So, there’s a few topics I’d love to come back to on pro bono access and some of your learnings through the Access to Justice Commission, but first I’d like to get your perspective on what’s happening in America right now. Obviously we’re going through a very difficult time right now. What are some of the things that have been front of mind for you over the past few weeks?

Tiffany Graves (08:14):

Sure. Well, needless to say, the COVID-19 pandemic has just raised so many issues for me working in pro bono and access to justice. Those of us who work to try to get people legal services at a time when there’s just need on every level are really challenged in some ways to figure out where to start. So, it’s just raised so many issues, not only about the work that we do, but where there are shortcomings in the delivery of legal services to people who really need it.

I think many have predicted that as a result of this pandemic, we’re going to see this surge and the need of people who are going to be reaching out to legal aid organizations, reaching out to firms like mine to say, “Help. I’m losing my home. I’m losing my kids,” these sorts of things. “Can you step in and potentially help me in some way? And by the way, I can’t afford to pay you to do any of that.”

So, I think it’s really highlighted how we deliver services and what more we can do. Obviously, technology has been highlighted through this. Courts are faced with how they operate and what this is going to look like for our court system beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Which is hard to even think about beyond, because I don’t even know at what point we can say we’re beyond the pandemic.

Jack Newton (09:39):


Tiffany Graves (09:40):

So, just for the access to justice pro bono work that I do, those are issues that are definitely top of mind. What is this truly going to mean for my work and for the people that I work to try to mobilize to help people who find themselves in unfortunate legal situations without the ability to pay someone to help them get out of those situations?

Jack Newton (10:02):

Tiffany, give us a bit of a view on what kinds of legal issues you’re seeing. Can you go a little bit deeper into that aspect of things?

Tiffany Graves (10:10):

Yes. Domestic violence issues. We have three of our offices where we have ongoing, what we call orders of protection projects, where we are the partner with a corporate client or nonprofit partner to try to help domestic violence and sexual assault survivors get orders of protection in place.

And those cases have always been very steady for us, but boy have we seen an increase in the number of referrals that we’ve gotten from our partner organizations to handle those cases and represent those clients. So, that’s been a big area. Bankruptcies, another big area. And we’re fortunate at my firm to have a very robust bankruptcy practice and a number of bankruptcy lawyers who are willing to represent people pro bono in those cases.

We’ve not seen a lot of evictions yet, but we expect to, especially as moratoria are lifted and more people are finding themselves having to face landlords who are ready for them to start paying back rent and those sorts of things. So I expect that to be something. But definitely in the domestic violence area, definitely with bankruptcy, and then also small businesses that have reached out to us to just help advise them through this process. So, those are the ways that we have really tried to channel our time and resources with pro bono throughout the pandemic.

Jack Newton (11:44):

And against the backdrop of the pandemic, we obviously have George Floyd’s death and the ensuing protests, and riots, and the largest movement we’ve seen in recent memory, maybe in history protesting systemic racism and injustice. You’re based in Mississippi, which is the real South. I’m curious what your perspective is on what’s happening in the South in particular, as it relates to George Floyd’s death.

Tiffany Graves (12:22):

Outside of COVID-19, I have, of course, been grieving with so many. With the families of George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, and Ahmad Aubrey, and just so many others that we know and don’t know, unfortunately, who’ve been wrongfully and, frankly, inexplicably taken from us. And this has been just a really incredible hard few weeks for so many of us. And I have personally been challenged with all of it.

It’s been tough. It’s been tough to concentrate, and focus, and frankly do the work that I feel so compelled and fulfilled by. But it’s especially been a hard time for the black community without question. We are frankly tired of asking when enough is going to be enough. We’re tired of hearing our black men scream, “I can’t breathe.” Certainly George Floyd is not the first time that we’ve heard that.

And we’re tired of feeling like our lives don’t matter in a country where we have just as much right to be here and our lives should matter just as much as everyone else. I’ve been in Mississippi for 14 years now. I literally drove to Mississippi from Virginia the day after I graduated from law school. So, I’ve spent the entirety of my legal career in this state. I’m from Virginia, so I’ve lived in the south most of my life.

But as you said, the Mississippi is the real South, is the Deep South. When racial issues bubble to the surface, they feel different here. They just do. Everyone knows Mississippi’s history. So the tone and tenor of the protest here are certainly rooted in that history and in very different ways and rooted in Mississippi’s very racist past.

And that’s something that many would argue is just as present now in a lot of ways as it was in the past. And that’s an ongoing conversation for many in the state. We’ve had a series of large protests, both in cities like Jackson, which are larger cities and in small towns. And people are making their voices heard. And many of those protests have been led by the young people in our state.

It’s been great to see the leadership that they have really injected into this moment, into this movement. And I firmly believe that it’s going to take them to change a lot of the systemic racism and social injustice that we’ve been seeing for decades, for centuries. And in a lot of ways they’re already making that change.

Jack Newton (15:13):

One comment we’ve heard repeated several times over the last couple of weeks is that, it feels different this time. Do you have that feeling on the ground in Mississippi?

Tiffany Graves (15:25):

I do. Saturday we had about 3000 people marching in Jackson, and it was a peaceful protest. I can’t tell you, I did not personally participate in the protest. But just to be able to see the images from the protest was just encouraging, reassuring, reaffirming. It left me with a sense of hope and optimism about where we’re headed.

Folks, like I said, are tired and frustrated. And they’re calling out behavior, and they’re saying, “We’re not going to take it anymore. We’re not going to sit idly back and let comments be made, let situations happen and not raise our voices, and raise our concerns about these things any longer.”

And I think that’s what makes it feel different. Just in the number, the impact some of the things that have already happened, some of the changes that have already been implemented, the response of Corporate America to what’s happening, to joining the Black Lives Matter movement and saying, “Listen, we’re going to clean our own houses and we’re going to do what we can to really let you know and let the country know that we’re not going to stand for racism. And that we’re going to do better ourselves to make this country a better place.”

We just haven’t seen stuff like that before. And frankly, an immediate response to some of this from so many facets and sectors of society. I think that’s what makes it feel different.

Jack Newton (16:57):

I think the worldwide nature of what we’re seeing is so interesting as well.

Tiffany Graves (17:03):


Jack Newton (17:03):

We’re based here in Vancouver, Canada, more or less on the opposite corner of the country, as you Tiffany. And over the weekend, there was protests as well, peaceful protests, by thousands of people in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, all the major cities in Canada. And we’ve seen the pictures from around the world, so it does feel like a really unbelievable moment in history right now. I want to spend a moment-

Tiffany Graves (17:31):

That’s such a good point. That the global response-

Jack Newton (17:31):

I’m sorry go ahead.

Tiffany Graves (17:34):

The global response has been tremendous. That has been something to see. And I have been left with chills just, frankly, looking to see how other people are watching what’s happening in our country and saying, “We support you and what’s happening is not right and things have to change.” That’s been a momentous thing to witness.

It truly has. I think it is unprecedented. I don’t think there’s ever been a moment in history that’s seen this level of worldwide protest and alignment on a single cause. When you look at your career and you’ve obviously spent your entire career looking at issues around access to justice and pro bono work, how do pro bono services and access to justice considerations tie into the discussions around systemic racism and injustice in America?

Well, as you said, my work has really been centered on finding ways to facilitate access, primarily through trying to connect people who lack the resources to afford attorneys with pro bono attorneys who are willing to help them resolve their legal matters from start to finish in most cases. And I mentioned my time at the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission. I think that was really almost four year period where I was really able to work strategically and intentionally to really drastically improve the Mississippi Civil Justice System.

Mississippi, the poorest state in the country, also a large population of minorities, mostly black people in this state. Many of those who lack access to justice in Mississippi are members of the black community. That’s just a fact. And I was able to work with commission members in really doing a thorough examination and analysis of our access to justice system and where we were failing to provide access, particularly for members of our black community.

And also what we need to do to try to find ways to eliminate those systems that were inhibiting access. So, a lot of the work was around really trying to make systemic change to examine ways where our civil justice system was, frankly, being discriminatory in a lot of ways. So, that was a lot of the work.

And while my focus has largely been on the civil justice system, make no mistake, there are lots of challenges with the criminal justice system here and in many places as we’re seeing highlighted in everything that’s happening now. There’s no doubt in my mind that the entrenched racism that embeds so much of our country finds its way into how we measure and meet our justice.

So, it’s really on us people who are in this work and people who aren’t to really evaluate and assess what is happening and what we can do better to make sure that we really are dispensing equal justice for all. It’s been encouraging to see a number of courts make statements of late in support of the Black Lives movement and what’s happening in our country.

They are the arbiters of justice. If we don’t have our court systems being supportive of what’s happening and supportive of making systemic change, we won’t get any closer to ridding ourselves of racial injustice. So, that’s something that’s been nice to see as well. But both our civil and criminal justice systems, we have a lot of work to do. But we also have a lot of very vibrant and wonderful organizations like the Equal Justice Initiative.

And I know Clio has been very supportive of EJI, had Bryan Stevenson as one of your speakers at a Clio Conference. People who are doing systemic work, who are looking at things like impact litigation, policy advocacy, policy reform to really truly make transformative change in these systems that continue to weigh us down in many ways as a country.

So, I think there’s a lot of work to do. I’m proud of what I’ve been able to do, but I’m really more proud that I’ve been able to join forces through my pro bono work, through the Access to Justice work with organizations and advocates who are really in the trenches, on the ground, trying to make things better on a much more global and broader scale.

Jack Newton (22:10):

I’d love to spend a moment talking about pro bono work. And you mentioned at your current firm, one of the mandates you have is making sure that the attorneys that are volunteering see success with the pro bono work that they’re doing, that they are engaged in it and seeing number one fulfillment from it, but also having positive impacts on the cases they’re working on.

In your work at the state level, you were facilitating, connecting volunteer lawyers with the cases that they could help out on. And I’m curious what your perspective on what we need to do to enable more lawyers to engage in pro bono work looks like. And I’m curious to hear your number one comment on a few things. The state level initiative in Mississippi, you mentioned, was only one among three states that have a state level entity operating in this way.

I’m curious what the thesis was behind approaching this at a statewide level and what some of the benefits of that might have been. And in aggregate, what were some of your learnings over your time there in terms of what successfully connecting pro bono work and attorneys looks like and how that’s translated into your current role and some of the ways you approach pro bono work in your current role.

Tiffany Graves (23:31):

Right. I think there are so many ways for people to help and to do pro bono, but it certainly helps to have someone in a position like mine who can help facilitate that.

Jack Newton (23:42):


Tiffany Graves (23:43):

But not every firm has the luxury of hiring a full-time pro bono counsel. So, I think it’s important to have organizations like the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project, the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission, certainly our legal aid programs who are constantly, one, reminding lawyers of the need and the scope of that need for their services, but then also presenting opportunities.

I know that you recently had on Kristen Sonday talking about Paladin’s program that works to really connect pro bono attorneys with pro bono opportunities. We need platforms like that, particularly for lawyers who don’t have, again, the advantage of someone like me, who can look for opportunities and then try to get them connected. I have a lot of lawyers who will reach out to me and say, “I don’t know exactly what I want to do, but here’s what I’m thinking.”

And then my job is to find that, find that fit and then try to make that connection and then hopefully everything will work out for my attorney and for the client that they’ve signed up to serve. But it’s important to have other resources available for people, like I said, who don’t have that person dedicated to finding those opportunities.

Mississippi, like I said, is one of few statewide approaches to pro bono through the Volunteer Lawyers Project. And I think there were many reasons for doing that. Our pro bono program, the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project came about through the Mississippi Bar and our legal services corporation programs.

So, it was established in the eighties. And those three entities, because we have two LSC programs in Mississippi, decided we need a statewide pro bono program. We need an organization that’s dedicated to helping all Mississippians who lack the support they need to be able to go to court with their civil legal issues. So, that was a decision made several decades ago and their approach was, we want to approach it from a state-centered approach. We want this to be something that’s available to everyone that we are funding and supporting for all Mississippians, rather than breaking it up into central Mississippi, South Mississippi, Northern Mississippi.

So, that’s the approach that those entities took several decades ago and it has worked here. I think it has resulted in a lot of cohesion at the stakeholder level, both with the Mississippi Bar, our LSC programs, but also things like the Mississippi Young Lawyers Division, our Chancery Courts where a lot of those matters are held that reach their way to the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project. But also our Mississippi Supreme Court which is extremely supportive of the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project and has constantly advocated for legislative funding to reach that organization.

So, the statewide approach has worked well for our state. I could see where it wouldn’t work for everybody, but it has worked very well for Mississippi. And I was glad to be a part of it in my work as the executive director and general counsel of MVLP at the time.

Jack Newton (27:01):

Tiffany, coming back to some of your earlier comments about the systemic injustice that exists in our systems, I’m curious what you’ve seen over the course of your career and maybe your life as a whole, where racism has extended beyond maybe just a few ignorant people, but you’ve seen really the structural racism happening. And you’ve seen an unjust system working against those that it’s supposed to represent and supposed to protect.

Tiffany Graves (27:36):

Yeah. I mean, truly if racism was just a few ignorant people, there’s no way I think we’d be seeing what we’re seeing happening in the United States right now.

Jack Newton (27:45):


Tiffany Graves (27:47):

I think we have to acknowledge and recognize racism for what it is. It is a systemic, pervasive, longstanding stain on our society that really seeks to elevate one group while denigrating another. And that’s just what it is. And we have to own that, that that’s what it is and that it is a system that is entrenched in our country, and frankly, in our world. I mean, this is not something that’s unique at all to the United States.

Jack Newton (28:23):


Tiffany Graves (28:23):

We’re having this moment where it’s being highlighted in very painful ways that will hopefully lead to some transformative change, but it is not something that is unique to America by any stretch of the imagination. But it has, and it will continue to divide us until we truly, and I think, honestly do the internal and external work within ourselves, with our families, with our communities, within our workplaces to truly acknowledge and do everything we can to destroy those systems structurally, institutionally and otherwise that continue to keep racism entrenched in our country.

And like I said before, it’s been really encouraging to see individuals and corporations coming to the fore, admitting prior failings, where that’s been the case and saying that, “I’m going to do everything I can. We’re going to do everything we can to make it better.” But we have to see those words and those pronouncements put into action or else we lose the momentum of this important movement that’s happening in the country. And I don’t want to see that happen.

I think we’re already seeing change in what’s happening right now. And I think that’s what drives people to continue to go out and protest, and to continue to make their voices heard, because we’re already seeing things like cities and towns examining their policing policies. And saying, “We will not do it this way anymore. We need help figuring out how to do it, but we recognize we cannot do it this way anymore.” And that there are true, systemic and structural issues with how we approach our policing policies. And that’s encouraging.

And to see some of those changes already being implemented is just really reaffirming in ways. Industries that are acting swiftly to fire people who have made racist comments and racist insinuations, and saying, “We will not stand for that. And you will no longer be a part of this community,” those types of things.

Seeing those statements from Corporate America, again, joining forces with the Black Lives Matter movement by condemning racism, pledging to look within their own houses and to expose racism internally and to do better. Those things matter. All of this is important. But it can’t just be a few isolated instances of, “We recognize that we’ve done these things and now we’re going to do better,” or those types of pronouncements. This will be for nothing if we don’t have sweeping reform to eliminate systemic racism and injustice. I mean, it will be a wasted opportunity, a missed opportunity for us.

And those changes have to happen at every level, federally, at the state level and locally. They have to. Or again, this will be a fruitless effort for us. Too much is at stake in our country, and we cannot afford to lose this momentum. And that’s my biggest concern. The protesters have given us so much, they’ve given their time, their energy, their bodies, themselves, all of themselves to this moment. And we will have failed them if we don’t really make the type of reform and changes that will make this country a much better place than it is right now.

Jack Newton (31:54):

Tiffany, you talked about doing the outward facing and inward facing work to drive that change. When we think about that in the context of the legal industry and the justice system, obviously the spotlight is on the police and there’s massive reform that needs to happen there. But I’m curious, when you look at the rest of the justice system and maybe even the legal industry, the way law firms operate, can you comment on if we’re taking an inward look at this industry where there is systemic racism that needs addressed, or what you’ve experienced firsthand or secondhand in terms of discrimination or structural racism that is almost embedded in the way the system works that you think we need to take a look at?

Tiffany Graves (32:44):

Sure. I’m at my second law firm, so I’m in that culture. I’m in that culture every day. And I saw a recent legal industry study that said 1.9% law firm partners are black. So, that’s less than 2%. 0.75. 0.75% are black women, 0.75. That’s the problem. What confidence would be given to a young black female law students who is aspiring to become partner at a law firm someday by hearing that statistic?

It wouldn’t instill much confidence in me at all. Representation matters and it matters everywhere. And it certainly matters within our law firms. Inclusion matters. It’s not just having a sea of diverse spaces, it’s making sure that those diverse attorneys who come into your firms are having meaningful experiences, are having the opportunity to engage with clients, are having the opportunity to engage with the decision makers within your firm, are having the opportunity to engage with work that will put them on a path, a partnership, if that’s what they aspire to do or leadership within the firm.

So, it’s so much more than just diversity. Sometimes we focus so much on that, that we lose the inclusion piece that is also so critical. It’s not enough to recruit diverse attorneys into our law firms, we’ve got to do everything we can to retain them. I’ve seen far too often, lawyers of color, diverse attorneys who started firms, and start strong, don’t have the support that they started with. They lose it over time because people get busy with other things and think, “Oh, he’s doing okay. She’s doing okay.” And that truly impacts their legal career and their legal trajectory.

Firms have to do more. When you’re giving meaningful work and opportunities to engage internally and externally, it puts you on a better, and stronger, and more positive path towards success at these firms. And that’s the types of things that we’ve got to look at. It also requires clients who insist that diverse attorneys be put on their cases. And I can speak to this personally.

When I worked at a firm almost a decade ago, there was a client who came in, a major car company. I won’t mention their name, but he came in and he said, “I want Tiffany on my cases.” And he said, “Let me be clear about this. I don’t want her just in name only on my cases, I want her writing the motions, attending the hearings, going to trial. And if I don’t see that happening, you will lose this work.” That’s what it takes.

It doesn’t just mean a list of attorneys and you have Tiffany Graves, African-American check the box. How is Tiffany meaningfully engaged in the work? Is she a part of these cases? Is she a part of my being a part of the work of your firm? Those types of things. That’s the stuff that matters. It also requires mentorship and sponsorship internally. It requires and demands that attorneys who are in firms are paying attention to what’s happening.

If they see an associate who’s not getting work, finding out why, calling out their colleagues and saying, “I noticed Jim isn’t getting any more work. What’s going on?” And if the responses that they get for that are insufficient, calling people to task and finding ways to make sure that this person is taken care of. Those types of things. And those conversations are uncomfortable, but they have to happen in order for firms to truly reflect not only the society at large, but the culture that they claim that they all can claim they do.

It’s one thing to bring in diverse and inclusion officers, and I’m proud of the growth that has happened there. It’s nice to see. But if you’re not utilizing those people in ways that can make the firm really examine and look at its culture in ways that it never has before in order to transform the way they hire, the way they promote, the way they see their culture, then those are ineffective positions in my mind.

So, that has to be a constant evaluation for the firms in order for the diversity and inclusion officer concept to be successful. And frankly, in order for the diverse attorneys that you bring in and your firm culture to truly reflect what you say you want it to, and again, to reflect the society at large.

Jack Newton (37:45):

This distinction you made between diversity and inclusion, I think is so important as well. One of the lenses we apply to that concept at Clio that we’ve found to be really effective in terms of people internalizing what that means is diversity is being invited to the party and inclusion is being asked to dance. That idea that you’re actually being engaged.

Can you talk about what that looks like a little bit more, because I think it is a really important concept. And maybe what individual lawyers can do to actually help build that feeling of inclusion.

Tiffany Graves (38:19):

That’s the perfect analogy. And I hope and wish more people will internalize that. I think that the tendency is to see it as favoring groups over others and making steps and measures that put people in better positions than others. And that’s not it at all. I mean, when you’re already starting from a point that’s so far behind everyone else to even conceptualize it in a way that makes you think you’re favoring is quite frankly laughable because that’s just not the way that it is or the way that it works.

So, that’s a good way to really frame the conversation around diversity and inclusion. And I think it goes back to some of the things that I said. It’s finding ways to really meaningfully engage the diverse attorneys that you bring in, in the culture of the firm. Are there opportunities to take a new attorney to a deposition, to go to trial with you, to go to a pitch meeting? Pitch meetings are big.

I mean, not just to be the diverse attorney that’s at the meeting or the person of color, but to have a meaningful role in trying to bring business into the firm. We know business develop and it’s huge, so instilling and equipping diverse attorneys with the tools and skills necessary to develop business for a firm early on in their careers so that they’re constantly looking for opportunities to do that and to carve out a special niche for themselves within a law firm, that’s a great service that a partner can provide to a diverse associate.

Bringing them in on your cases. Mentorship is more than just, “Come in my office when you’re having some issues and we’ll talk it through,” but it’s really looking for ways, “Can I bring this person on our case? I know my colleague just got new work. Maybe there’s a space to bring this person in on this work.” Constantly thinking about ways that you can fully integrate an attorney into the law firm culture. Those are the kinds of things that lawyers can do to really improve, and frankly, level the playing field in our law firms.

Jack Newton (40:38):

Tiffany, you and I touched on this earlier about the fact that it feels different this time. How hopeful are you that we’ll see meaningful and lasting change coming out of the events of the last two weeks and what will follow in the coming weeks?

Tiffany Graves (40:54):

Jack, I’ll say this. I’m cautious. My grandmother was born in 1914 and she’s no longer with us. And she would recount a lot of things that happened to her personally, over the course of her life and also things that happened to our family members and friends and members of the black community. And she would say to us, “I hope you all never have to experience,” to her grandchildren, and she had a lot.

My grandmother had 11 children and a lot of grandchildren came from those 11 children. So, there were a lot of us. And she would say to us, “I hope you all never experience some of the things, some of the hurts, some of the pain, some of the hate I have in my heart. And I also hope that you never have to see people marching in the streets to end racism.”

And here we are, decades later, marching in the street to try to end racism. So, that’s why I’m cautiously optimistic. But as you and I have discussed, this feels different. There’s a different energy to this and I’m hoping that we will really use this moment to bring about the type of change that I know my grandmother wanted, I know many of my family want to see. I really feel like we’re at a point of reckoning in this country. And we have to face up and own up to who we are and who we’ve been and decide it’s no longer okay to be this way. It’s no longer okay to make people feel lesser than what they are. And have those uncomfortable and difficult conversations, make those uncomfortable and difficult changes internally and externally to really make our country better.

For me personally, I think it’s going to take electing a new president in November. And I’m very honest and candid about that. We have seen too many people feel emboldened by a president who refuses to denounce racism at its core. That’s a problem. And we cannot allow that to stand. So, it’s my hope that we’ll vote differently in November. And that, that too will lead to some change.

And I truly believe that a lot of what we’re seeing now will lead to that. That people are having those moments of introspection, who may have voted for our current president in the last election and are saying, “I can’t do that again. I cannot do that again.” Or, “This is only going to get worse and that’s a scary prospect.” So, I do think it’s going to take that. It’s going to take people saying, “We cannot continue to live this way.” And building on some of the change that we’re already seeing. It’s going to take some change at the ballot box in November for America to really start making some substantial tracks strides and for us to really see some of the roots of what is being fueled by the anger and the protest that we’re seeing right now.

Jack Newton (44:04):

Tiffany, there’s obviously so much more we could explore around the issues of equity and inclusion in legal and society, more broadly. Before we conclude our talk today, is there anything we haven’t touched on that you would like to discuss?

Tiffany Graves (44:20):

Well, I’ve enjoyed the conversation, let me say that.

Jack Newton (44:23):

Me too.

Tiffany Graves (44:24):

And it’s given me an opportunity to really think about what my role in it is in all of this. I’m not content to say, “Well, I help people do cases pro bono. That’s enough.” No, it’s not. How can I use the work that I do as pro bono counsel to affect systemic change? How can we look at the types of cases we’re handling and say, “We see an issue recurring in this community? So, let’s think about how we can impact litigation, policy advocacy. How can we do something to make this change a bit more systemic? And not just case by case, but let’s improve this for the greater good, for the greater community, for people far beyond the clients we’re working with now.

It’s forced me to really think about what I’m doing, how I’m doing it, and how I can do it differently to bring about more systemic change. And my hope is that all of us are doing that analysis because this is a moment for all of us to really look at who we are, what we’re doing, where we are, and how we can be contributing to the greater good and the greater cause.

As I said, I think this is a moment of reckoning on many levels for our country and for us as individuals. So many are using this time to educate themselves, to educate their families. And that’s a beautiful thing to witness to recognize, “There’s a lot that I don’t know.” And we need to normalize people saying, “I don’t know and I didn’t understand this before now, but I’m going to spend time educating myself so that I can speak intelligently going forward and truly use myself and whatever skills and talents I bring to bring about change.”

I want that to continue. I want people to be called out when they’re perpetuating racist ideals and positions. I don’t want any of us to sit around and allow these things to happen under our watches and not call them out. And that’s something every one of us can be guilty of, myself included. When you see things happening in the workplace, in your community, and you just don’t address it right there when it happens to prevent it from happening again.

My fear is, when we don’t, what we see are the types of things we’ve seen happening in the world. The things that have led to the deaths of some people who have the potential to participate and contribute so much to our society. True allyship, and that’s a word we’re hearing a lot of, is not just checking in. And as much as that has been helpful to me and very supportive in a lot of ways, it’s calling out and demanding better.

And that’s something that I really and truly want to see more of from my white counterparts in particular, is calling out and demanding better from yourself, from your families, from your communities, from your workplaces, in all facets of your life. That, to me, is what it’s going to take for us to use this really painful and pivotal moment in our country to embolden all of us to really create change within ourselves that will hopefully lead to the types of transformative and systemic change that can make our country a better place.

Jack Newton (47:44):

That’s a wonderful note to end on Tiffany, thank you for joining us for this discussion today. I really enjoyed it.

Tiffany Graves (47:52):

Thank you, Jack. I appreciate the opportunity and I commend you and Clio for everything that you all do to promote diversity and inclusion and to support organizations that are doing racial equity work. That is so critical right now. And it’s something you were one of the first groups to do. And I was really pleased to see that. Thank you for all you do.

Jack Newton (48:14):

Thank you. Thanks for joining us on Daily Matters Today, a podcast from Clio. Rate and review wherever you get your podcasts and subscribe so that you never miss an episode. Daily Matters is produced by Andrew Booth, Sam Rosenthal and Derek Bolen, and hosted by yours truly, Jack Newton. Thanks also to Clio, the world’s leading cloud-based legal technology provider for supporting this podcast. If you’d like to learn more about Clio, please visit