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Michael Coston Featured in The American Lawyer article on Tokenism in the Legal Industry


“Diversity without inclusion is tokenism.” – Michael Coston

Coston Consulting CEO, Michael Coston, is featured in The American Lawyer’s recent report titled, “Rushing to Meet Client Demands, Law Firms Risk Alienating Diverse Lawyers,” which focuses on tokenism in the legal industry.


In defining tokensim, Coston notes “diversity without inclusion is tokenism,” and explains how tokenism can impact both individuals and organizations. “When we think about tokenism, we are focused on the organization and not so much the danger to the individual attorney,” said Coston. “The emotional stress of being the only one, due to lack of community, is real… The token knows they are the token, and they often suffer from imposter syndrome because of this. There is also a target on their back for performance, or not, which is worse.” He adds “The token doesn’t win, the tokened group doesn’t win, and the firm doesn’t win and suffers from a false sense of diversity.


When discussing how law firms can avoid tokenism when developing client pitch teams, Coston suggested firms should consider “What is [the diverse attorney or attorneys'] role, how are they influencing the pitch process and is this person positioned to do the work in connection with the new potential matter or client?” He also said firms should ask themselves if “we are creating space and opportunity to share in power.”


You can read the full report by The American Lawyer here.


Coston Consulting is a certified Black-owned business advisory firm devoted to helping clients expand their business, raise their profile, and advance their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts. The firm represents clients across industries and specializes in advising professional services firms, with an expertise in the legal industry. Focus areas include strategy, business development, marketing, and DEI consulting.

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