Shades Of Mass Launches to Drive Diversity into MDL Leadership Ranks

September 06, 2022

The fight to grow the ranks of diverse leaders in Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) has recently organized into an association, called Shades of Mass, with a powerhouse board and a focused mission. Communities of color are disproportionately impacted by corporate wrongdoing, yet people of color have historically had virtually no role in leading the MDLs that seek to right those wrongs. Shades of Mass was formed to change that and stands to be a formidable force. 

To help disseminate their message, Western Alliance Bank and Postlethwaite & Netterville (P&N) hosted an on-demand webinar featuring Shades of Mass board members discussing their mission to put voices who haven’t traditionally been heard not just at the table, but at the head of the table. The effort is meant to inspire and empower the “next generation of social justice engineers”, as board member Benjamin Crump, Esq. put it. 

In August 2022, Shades of Mass held its inaugural conference in Atlanta. The excitement at the event was palpable as the movement’s leaders put into action the initiatives they discussed in this webinar. It was clear to everyone involved that the impact Shades of Mass is going to have will be nothing short of revolutionary.

The panelists included:
•    Navan Ward Jr., Principal Attorney at Beasley Allen Law Firm
•    Diandra “Fu” Debrosse Zimmermann, Partner at DiCello Levitt Gutzler
•    Benjamin Crump, Founder and Trial Attorney at Ben Crump Law, PLLC 
•    LaRuby Z. May, Partner at May Lightfoot
•    Gregory Cade, Principal Attorney at ELG Law
•    Larry Taylor, Managing Partner at The Cochran Firm
•    Brooke Hodge, Director of Business Development at Postlethwaite & Netterville (Moderator)

To hear the full presentation, start the recording below and then register:




Key takeaways:

The Need to Build Networks: Shades of Mass is dedicated to helping younger lawyers of color build their networks and encouraging those who have already found success to lift up the people coming behind them. The panelists pointed out that they are consistently asked to help firms find ways to identify and develop a pipeline of qualified diverse candidates. So, it is critically important for those in positions of influence to actively seek out and foster the next generation of capable leaders.

The Influence of the Judiciary: There is a growing trend of judges naming MDL leaders that better reflect the communities they purport to represent. This may be driven by a sense that diversity is needed in the legal profession in general. Also, it may indicate a growing recognition that MDL leaders who are actually from harmed communities bring a greater level of understanding and perspective, ultimately leading to the enhanced representation of the class members.

A Drive to Expand Opportunities: Shades of Mass is partially designed to help lawyers of color visualize themselves in roles outside of government or civil rights law by seeing a group of lawyers who have succeeded in representing client interests in all areas of MDLs. Advocating for justice for their communities goes beyond handling civil rights or criminal cases. Lawyers of color must look to fight for communities that have been harmed by environmental, medical or financial wrongdoing as well. 

The Important Role for Allies: Like any movement, Shades of Mass needs support and amplification to move the needle. Lawyers from any background and organizations of any type related to mass torts and class actions can help by understanding the mission and helping to change mindsets about the importance of diversity in MDL leadership. It is not just about ticking a diversity metric box. It is about bringing a closer perspective and more empathy to the representation of communities that are disproportionately harmed by corporate malfeasance.