Neal Katyal discusses cultural dissent and diversity at FT Innovative Lawyers Summit

Washington D.C., 23 October 2020 – Hogan Lovells partner Neal Katyal yesterday spoke at the Financial Times (FT) Innovative Lawyers Summit, giving a TED-Style talk and interview, entitled “Cultivating Dissent, Leading for Diversity.”

The litigator and multiple winner of FT innovation awards spoke on how the cultivation of dissent and disagreement is an essential attribute of leadership. Based on how red and blue teams work in the CIA and other corporate examples, Neal explored how this relates to lawyers in leadership positions and how successfully leading dissent can produce genuine diversity.

Highlights from Neal’s interview with Yasmin Lambert, senior partner at RSG Consulting, included:

“Diversity matters in many ways; I have found that political diversity is one of the best ways of developing a serious legal team that creatively solves problems making sure my team numerous people who think differently than me is very important. It’s also true on gender and race.”

“We sometimes encourage clients to set up dissent channels within their own structures, operations and legal strategies. Perhaps the most delicate thing you can do as a private lawyer is to question a path company has taken. I think our obligation as lawyers – and doing it respectfully and in a way that is sensitive – is to give unvarnished, true opinions to a client and let the chips fall where they may. Sometimes that can be a profoundly important experience for the company and can make a big difference.”

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“Attitudes matter a lot – you can have all the right structures in place but you need leadership at the top, whether it’s a company or a law firm. When I joined Hogan Lovells, I worried that there would be a cookie-cutter approach on how to think about things because of the size, when it gets large and bureaucratic. The firm was really conscious of that and wanted to create micro structures within a larger organisation and gave me free reign to develop a diverse team. You can therefore make smaller units for decision making that check and balance each other.”

“In our practice, we have people learn the idea that every associate needs to stand up and argue in court every year. Cognitive diversity can sometimes also create mini challenges if people think entirely differently – there needs to be a common glue and shared understanding that the enterprise is larger than anyone of us.”

Neal’s discussion follows the firm’s recent recognition by the FT’s Innovative Lawyers Europe report for accelerating diversity in law firms. Diversity and inclusion is one of the firm’s five strategic priorities and the diversity team now report directly to global chief executive Miguel Zaldivar.

It also follows the firm’s recent announcement of two new global diversity goals for minority partners and LGBT+ partners, while the firm’s existing goal of 30% women partners globally for 2022 remains unchanged.

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A full recording of the FT talk with Neal can be found here and his full Hogan Lovells profile is here.

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