Client Spotlight: The Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession

Sandra Yamate


Sandra Yamate ’84
Audrey Lee ’05

The Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession

The Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession (IILP) is a not-for-profit organization that, through educational programs, research and publications, addresses the lack of diversity and inclusion that continues to challenge the legal profession and undermine its credibility within the justice system. It seeks to change walls into doors in the areas of race, ethnicity, color, culture, gender, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, religion, geography and age.
Audrey Lee

HNMCP: This is our second project with IILP. How did you initially hear about the Clinic?

Sandra Yamate: We learned about you through Audrey Lee, a consultant who has particular expertise in communications issues and with whom we enjoy working. She received her initial negotiation training as a student at HLS and spoke highly of the training that the Clinic offered.

HNMCP: What made you decide that our clinic might be helpful in supporting your work challenging “walls of uniformity” in the legal profession? Were there other options you considered?

SY: We’re a relatively young organization and still growing. As a result, we have to choose the projects on which we work carefully. We look for areas in which we can have meaningful impact and offer significant opportunities for effective, positive and practical strategic improvement. The Clinic’s design and structure met those requirements. It seemed an ideal partner with which to address particular needs within the legal profession in a way that would not be threatening but would, instead, offer reliable, concrete, and pragmatic ways to handle common situations facing law firms that rarely get addressed, much less in such a thorough way.

HNMCP: What were the most important issues to make sure were addressed in this project?

Audrey Lee: There were quite a few, including:

  • Establishing common terminology and definitions for all the participants;
  • Helping the students to appreciate and learn to work within the large law firm culture and communicate to large law firm leaders in ways that prove useful to all;
  • Keeping the project focused so as to help the students differentiate between their work and its cutting edge nature and the more traditional and common diversity consulting that is available.

HNMCP: What were the attractions of working with students at HLS? What were your concerns about working with students?

SY: The HLS students took the project very seriously. If we had any concerns, it was that being students, it might be difficult to help them move beyond the traditional diversity consultant type of work that can be more obvious and common but also with which they had less authority and experience. We were impressed by how they were able to grasp the nuances that made this project much more fulsome and cutting edge and thus more useful and meaningful.

HNMCP: What were some of the challenges for IILP as the project progressed?

AL: Our greatest challenge was that the students were so enthused and had such energy, it wasn’t always easy to keep up with them in terms of how quickly things were getting updated and turned around for our review and comment.

HNMCP: What was fun and interesting for you in this process? What was your favorite part of the project?

SY: It’s always working with the students and seeing how excited they get when they begin to realize—not just intellectually, but emotionally—that the work they are doing is going to have significant impact in some of the world’s largest law firms and that, if they choose to spend any or part of their careers in a large law firm, this research could impact them, too.

My favorite part is when the students make their oral presentations to the law firms. They get nervous. We get nervous. But when they start seeing how their work is being received, the kinds of in-depth analysis it is sparking for these law firm leaders, and the response it generates, it produces the most amazing rush of adrenalin.

HNMCP: What was the biggest surprise for you as the students began to inform you about the data they collected through interviews, etc?

AL: It was hearing how interesting the students found their findings. Much of their data and findings wasn’t particularly surprising to us, but seeing it dawn on them about what large law firm practice could really be like was fascinating.

HNMCP: What tangible results are you hoping will unfold for IILP and for the law firms the students have worked with?

AL: I hope that we’re going to see more law firms beginning to address the role that communications is playing in their recruitment, retention, and promotion to partnership of lawyers who are women, minorities, openly LGBT, or who have disabilities.

HNMCP: What else would you like to share about the experience of working with HNMCP ?

SY: HNMCP may be a student clinic but its work is easily on par or surpasses the work of professional management consultants. Indeed, I think the end products—what the consultants call “take aways”—may actually be superior as a result of the passion that the students bring to their work. We cannot say enough good things about HNMCP.

Sandra S. Yamate ’84 is the Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession. She has served as the Director of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession and was the first Executive Director of the Chicago Committee on Minorities in Large Law Firms. Prior to that, Sandra was a litigator in Chicago for ten years. She helped found the Asian American Institute, the National Women’s Political Caucus of Metropolitan Chicago, the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Chicago Area (of which she is a past president), the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, and Asian Americans for Inclusive Education. She serves as the newsletter editor for the ABA Section of International Law’s Diversity Committee. Sandra earned her JD from Harvard Law School as well as an AB in Political Science (cum laude) and History (magna cum laude) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa
Audrey J. Lee ’05 is the Principal of Perspectiva LLC. As a negotiation and conflict management consultant, Audrey works with clients to strengthen their capacity to manage conflict and key relationships more effectively. Her clients include The Cambridge Group, Jenner & Block LLP, the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism, Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, Exponent Failure Analysis Associates, Winston & Strawn LLP, and the Office of the Illinois Attorney General. She has also worked with clients to equip course presenters with the skills necessary to facilitate interactive courses and has taught several Facilitation Workshops using the Train-the-Trainer approach. Audrey is an instructor for the Harvard Negotiation Institute and a Lecturer in the Department of Conflict Resolution at UMass. She has also taught at Northwestern University School of Law and DePaul University College of Law. Prior to her consulting work, Audrey practiced law as an intellectual property and litigation attorney at Winston & Strawn in Chicago and Davis Polk & Wardwell in New York. Audrey is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School.
Scroll to Top