Understanding and Overcoming Our Implicit Biases To Become Better Lawyers And Humans

Mike Young
February 08, 2018
Elimination of Bias, Legal Ethics


Implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. Because the implicit associations we hold arise outside of conscious awareness, implicit biases do not necessarily align with our explicit beliefs and stated intentions. This program explores the unconscious feelings and attitudes we may have about other people based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity, age, gender and appearance that may not necessarily align with our explicit beliefs.

This program explores how implicit bias works and how it affects day-to-day decisions and the exercise of discretion, including its impact on the legal profession. This presentation includes a discussion of scenarios based on typical interactions, including the fact that initial impressions matter and concludes with some advice on how to overcome implicit biases.


Michael D. Young, Judicate West; Los Angeles, CA

Mike, a former employment, intellectual property and business litigator and mediator with the national firm Alston & Bird, has been mediating cases since 1989. Building off of his extensive litigation experience, and his training through the nationally acclaimed Straus Institute of Dispute Resolution at the Pepperdine Law School, Mr. Young assists parties resolve contentious and complex civil disputes, often in creative and innovative ways that the parties themselves had not previously considered. Mr. Young has extensive experience both litigating and mediating all varieties of employment, intellectual property, and business disputes, including class actions and single-plaintiff matters. On the employment side, these have included wrongful termination, harassment, discrimination, disability, public policy, wage and hour, and misclassification disputes, among others. On the IP side, Mr. Young had handled disputes over trade secrets, trademarks, copyrights, patents, and restrictive covenants. In addition, in his 25-plus year legal career, Mr. Young has mediated, litigated, and tried hundreds of disputes involving unfair competition, antitrust, and environmental issues (including CERCLA and RCRA cases), among other complex business disputes. Attorneys have praised Mr. Young's creativity and doggedness. Said one attorney following a difficult employment mediation: "Your ideas were very creative, and your no-nonsense approach was exactly right for this case. I've been in over 200 mediations from all perspectives, but the job you did this week really stands out." Commented another: "Mike was very effective in building credibility with both plaintiffs and the defense in an emotionally charged case involving several plaintiffs. He was able to get to the heart of the issues and put the parties on a path to resolution while giving everyone an opportunity to be heard. His tireless follow-up and accessibility was crucial to the resolution of the case." Said a third: "I have used mediators for over three decades, and Mike came up with approaches, ideas, and solutions that were new to me. That mediation was a success because Mike Young refused to let it fail." Mike is similarly a long time Distinguished Fellow with the International Academy of Mediators and former President, and was an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law for nearly a decade, and at the Straus Institute of Dispute Resolution at the Pepperdine Law School, teaching mediation and ADR.

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