From Outsider to Leader

From Outsider to Leader – Leveraging Volunteerism to Fuel Your Passions and Effect Change

By Diana Lauritson, LMA International Board Member
Published August 30, 2022

Diana Lauritson

When I became a legal marketer over a decade ago, I was excited to learn that there was an association that was targeted to the specific needs of people working in this – what I thought at the time was “niche” – industry. I didn’t even know that this industry existed, so the fact that there was an organization that specifically focused on creating a community where marketing and business development professionals working at and supporting law firms was surprising and exciting. However, when I first joined LMA, I didn’t see a lot of people who looked like me. 

I attended a few meetings and felt out of place. It felt like this was more of “their” association, rather than one I felt like I could be a part of and have my views appreciated and respected. I wasn’t looking for special treatment, but if I am going to invest time and energy into an organization, I want to experience an inclusive community where I can grow and network. 

I remember thinking that if the organization wasn’t very diverse, what did this mean for my professional development within law firms? If LMA was a sample of the broader group, things didn’t look promising in terms of representation or prospects. I was fortunate enough to meet a great LMA mentor who took me under her wing, introduced me to people, and included me in group outings during LMA events. This boosted my confidence and made me want to get more involved. I soon became a member of the Southwest Chapter board, and later became president of the Southwest Chapter. From there, I participated in leadership trainings, met more LMA members and became more actively engaged. After serving as president of a region, I said “yes” when asked to serve on the Regionalization Task Force, and “yes” when asked to serve on the Annual Conference Advisory Committee (both times). I joined the DEI Shared Interest Group (SIG), and then later decided that I wanted to throw my hat into the ring to serve on the International Board of Directors, and here I am. 

I have (since) built a huge network of friends and colleagues that are supportive and always willing to share ideas that have worked at their firms and how to avoid putting time into efforts that consistently prove to be unsuccessful, lend an ear when I need to bounce ideas off of someone, celebrate my wins, commiserate with me during hardships, and give advice about how I can get to the next level of my career. All that is to say that I get it. Being a new member of LMA can be confusing or intimidating, but we want you here. There are so many opportunities to get involved that even longtime members might not be aware of, and I want to change that because the benefits are worth it.

"There are so many opportunities to get involved that even longtime members might not be aware of,
and I want that to  
change because the benefits are worth it."

I am going to share ways to get involved or level up your involvement with LMA, but first let me circle back to DEI. One of the reasons I held back from being a more active member of LMA was the perception that it didn’t have much to offer diverse members. I am very passionate about DEI and I will continue to be a broken record about what we can do to make LMA a more inviting and welcoming environment for diverse members.  

Let’s be real. Everyone talks a good game about DEI. Firms are always touting their efforts, organizations are always saying how important it is to them. But how often do we actually FEEL, like DEI really matters, or BELIEVE that we are actually striving to create more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environments? We have seen more and more over the years that DEI matters to our clients, and law firms have responded (often haphazardly) to show that they are in line with this client request. We’ve all seen the bait and switch approach that some firms take by pitching women and minority lawyers to clients even though those lawyers aren’t the ones doing the actual work. We’ve seen diverse individuals featured on association websites and collateral materials that are usually taken from stock photos and not actually members. The list goes on and none of this is groundbreaking news. Those of us who have worked in this industry are well aware of this and have been trying to guide our firms in the right direction – not only because it makes good business sense, but because it is the right thing to do. So what does this mean for LMA, what can we do about this, and what does this have to do with volunteering?

I always wanted to get more involved with DEI efforts in law firms, and though my marketing and BD roles worked with the DEI department, I wasn’t able to make much of an impact overall. I wanted the opportunity to fulfill one of my professional goals, but this opportunity wasn’t provided or perceived as a priority in my day job. Volunteering with LMA gave me the chance to become more immersed in this space and to learn from others who served in DEI roles at their firms. 

My volunteer journey has led me to a seat on the LMA International Board of Directors where I play a part in shaping how LMA attracts, retains, engages and supports diverse members. A new role was created this year for a member to serve as a liaison between the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee (DEI), and the Talent Development Committee (TDC), and I was tapped to fill that role. This role has allowed me to influence both committees on volunteer recruiting and mentorship, and ensure we create paths to get more diverse members to serve in leadership roles. I am also able share feedback between the committees to ensure that our programs, speakers and trainings are mindful of and incorporate DEI in some way. 
I’m so proud of the work our DEI Committee has been doing to make this organization better. We are creating awareness and training LMA members through programming, having difficult (and often teary-eyed) conversations about what our members are experiencing in their daily lives, and providing resources to help members become agents of change and take what they are learning back to their firms. I hope you get a chance to check out our DEI Resource Center, and/or join the DEI SIG or DEI Committee. 

LMA recently updated its statement on DEI to better reflect what we stand for as an organization, particularly in light of the experiences we are living on a daily basis. However, a statement means nothing without actions. You, the members and the volunteers that serve within LMA, are the drivers by which we effect change. You are the actions behind the words. Is volunteering today going to be the miracle panacea that transforms our industry overnight? No. Are we putting actions behind our mission statement and committing to making proactive changes that will benefit LMA and move the needle in our industry? Absolutely. 

We are always looking for passionate, talented, and diverse individuals to join our committees, international and regional boards, and local steering committees. LMA also has 10 Shared Interest Groups (SIGs) that focus on a wide variety of areas, including marketing technology, PR & communications, plaintiff firms, competitive technologies, service providers, and social & digital media to name a few. One great benefit of the SIGs is that they provide you with a community of like-minded members that share best practices, tips and resources and allow you to get your feet wet in LMA before committing to other volunteer options. Check out the full list of SIGs here. If you need more convincing about the benefits of volunteering and how your volunteer experience can be applied to other areas of business and leadership, check out this recent webinar: Utilizing Our Most Precious Resource: Strategies for Effective Volunteer Engagement.

My volunteer journey has put me on a path where I can work on issues I am passionate about while building my leadership skills and creating a powerful network of friends and professional allies. My journey isn’t and shouldn’t be unique, so here’s my call to action for any of you who have been thinking about getting more involved in LMA: please fill out or share the Pipeline to Volunteer Leadership Form. I look forward to meeting you!

DEI Resource Center          DEI SIG          Pipeline to Volunteer Leadership Form