Promoting Diversity within Your Bar Organization and the Profession
Georgene Louis is an assistant editor of The Affiliate and the state gaming representative for the New Mexico Gaming Control Board in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The Affiliate editors acknowledge ABA YLD Programs and Committees Manager Tracy Kaempf for her contributions to this article.
The term diversity continues to expand to include women and people of color, persons with disabilities, individuals of differing sexual orientation, and those of various gender identities. But how can we help? What can we, as bar leaders, do to promote diversity within our young lawyer organizations and the profession? Although there will never be a one-size fits all answer, the tips and resources listed below will aid you in the process:
Create a Diversity Plan, Share It, Live It
• Implement a Model Diversity Plan to encourage and increase participation in your organization by attorneys from diverse backgrounds. For more information on implementing a diversity plan for your affiliate, see Georgene Louis, Implementing a Model Diversity Plan
, 33 The Affiliate No. 3, at 6 Jan/Feb. 2008, available at www.abanet.org/yld/affiliate/janfeb08/louis.html
Ensure That Your Program Panels, Topics, and Authors Are Diverse
• Contact the ABA Women and Minority Speakers Bureau at www.abanet.org/cle/mcle/clearinghouse/landing_page.html
• Recruit diverse speakers and authors from your office, alumni association, or local law school.
Encourage Attorneys of Diverse Backgrounds to Attend Programs and to Get Involved
• Establish a scholarship program for diverse attorneys to defray costs of participation. For information about the ABA YLD Scholarship Program to encourage participation by minority, solo/small firm, government, private sector, and military service attorneys, visit www.abanet.org/yld/scholarships/home.html
• Promote involvement in practice specific and special interest committees. If your organization does not already have these types of committees, consider creating them. The ABA YLD committee structure covers twenty-five practice areas and includes Minorities in the Profession and Women in the Profession Committees. Membership provides opportunities for exchanging ideas, expanding one’s network, publishing, and sharpening legal skills.
• Reach out to specialty bars. Consider contacting the ABA YLD national affiliate representatives for the Hispanic National Bar Association, The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association ,
National Bar Association, and National Lesbian and Gay Law Association to obtain information about the leaders of local specialty bars in your area. For information about the ABA YLD national affiliate representatives, visit www.abanet.org/yld/leadership.html
Step Out of Your “Comfort” Zone
• Talk with attorneys with varying backgrounds and get to know them.
• Attend a specialty bar event and introduce yourself to the specialty bar’s leaders.
Help Increase the Number of Diverse Individuals Going into Law
• Create or participate in a mentoring program. The Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law (Commission) established a national Mentor Program for individuals with disabilities including prospective law students, current law students, and recent law school graduates. The Mentor Program gives participants the opportunity to learn from an experienced attorney through advice, guidance, and support. A mentor need not have a disability to participate. For more information, visit the ABA Commission on Mental and Physical Disability website at www.abanet.org/disability/subcommittee/mentor_form.shtml
• Implement a law program at a local school. Choose Law,
a program created by the ABA YLD, encourages high school students of color to become attorneys. The program is perfect for career day seminars, guidance counselors, for social studies classes, or programs designed to educate students about the practice of law and to encourage them to consider becoming attorneys. Consider this program for your area. For more information, visit the Choose Law
web site at www.abanet.org/yld/chooselaw/home.shtml.
The YLD promotes diversity within the profession and ensures equal opportunity and inclusion for all lawyers regardless of race, sex, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity in the membership, leadership, programming, and other activities of the ABA YLD. For a copy of the YLD Diversity Plan, visit www.abanet.org/yld/diversityplan.pdf
In 2007, the ABA amended Goal IX of the ABA Goals ( www.abanet.org/about/goals.html
), to promote the involvement of diverse attorneys, to include minorities, women, persons with disabilities, and persons of differing sexual orientations and gender identities.
ABA Partnership Awards Program
Each year the ABA’s Division for Bar Services salutes bar association projects that seek to increase the participation and advancement of lawyers of color in the organized bar and to attract students of color to the legal profession. For details, including information on winning projects, visit www.abanet.org/barserv/partnership