Equity in Action: Treating Your Clients and Colleagues the Way They Want to be Treated

Do you ask your clients how they would like to be treated?

Our Equity in Action blog series is moving on to the fifth step in our Six Steps to Make Your Legal Workplace more Equitable – asking your clients and colleagues how they would like to be treated. The best way to assess your client or colleague’s needs is to ask directly, rather than making assumptions based on stereotypes.

Let’s review a scenario that you or your colleagues may find yourselves in:


Julie is a colleague of yours and recently, they started to refer to themselves as they and/or them. You took notice to this pronoun change and before asking for confirmation, you offered your own pronouns. Julie confirmed that they would like to be referred to by the pronouns they and/or them. Later in the day, a fellow colleague, Marcus approached you referring to Julie as she and/or her. You correct Marcus by stating Julie has confirmed their preferred pronouns to you. Marcus brushes off your correction and continues to refer to Julie by the incorrect pronouns.

What would you do if you found yourself in this situation?

Here are some questions to ask if you are unsure how to treat your colleagues or clients:

  • Is there anything else you think I should know about your background so I can better represent or communicate with you?
  • Is there anything that we discussed that I could explain better? How do you feel about the services I have provided you with so far? Is there anything I can do to help you further?

It ‘s important to echo an individual’s language in how they self-identify:

  • For example, if your client refers to their “spouse” rather than “husband,” use their preferred term.

If you are unsure of how a client or colleague would like to be referred, ask! It is always better to ask than to assume

Questions or comments? Contact us at [email protected] or add your comment or response to “what would you do?” in these scenarios by completing the comment box. Please feel free to remain anonymous and note that we review all comments prior to publishing.

This Equity in Action blog post was written by Asha Pelly, NSBS Summer Law Student.