ABA YLD Continues to Promote Diversity Through Annual Meeting Programming
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.
Throughout its existence, the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division (ABA YLD) has shown a proven commitment to promoting diversity by establishing various commissions and committees, as well as developing educational programming on diversity issues. This devotion was especially apparent at the ABA Annual Meeting held in San Francisco on August 9–12, 2007. While the ABA YLD traditionally concentrated its diversity mission on race and gender, it has recently expanded its focus to include issues relating to sexual orientation, age, religion, and disability.
The ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession led the diversity programming in San Francisco by providing six continuing legal education (CLE) programs and other presentations and events. The CLEs included the following presentations:
• Minority Lawyers: Breaking the Glass Ceiling of Bar Association Leadership—How, Where and Why: In an effort to diversify the legal profession, mainstream bar associations, specialty law sections, and committees have increased their attention on recruiting and retaining minority lawyers. This program explored how minority lawyers can become leaders in mainstream bar associations where they can have the most influence, and the advantages to becoming leaders in such organizations.
• Micro-Inequities: The Perspective from In-House and Law Firms: This program addressed “micro-inequities,” including what they are, how they manifest in the daily work-life of a practicing minority lawyer, and what individual and organizational strategies can be employed to minimize or deal with them.
• Talking About Race: Attendees of this program discussed how the legal profession talks about race in law firms, corporate legal departments, and law school admissions committees. The session also included a roundtable about current diversity trends such as the creation of chief diversity officers.
• Families, Culture, and the Law: Exploring the intersection of families, culture, and the law, this session examined questions including: What kinds of cultural conflict issues do lawyers need to be aware of and ready to recognize? What are the most effective strategies for addressing cultural conflicts when they
arise in family law matters? What kinds of community resources are available to assist lawyers representing parties in matters with cultural overtones?
• Women Attorneys of Color: A View from the Public Sector: Women attorneys of color compared and contrasted their legal experiences in the government sector and evaluated various strategies and practices that have impeded or improved state, local, and federal government entities’ ability to retain women attorneys of color.
• Being the Best Lawyers (Who Also Happen to Be Minority Women) We Can Be: Trading Strategies and Sharing Secrets Among the Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y: This session included an intergenerational discussion of issues confronting minority women lawyers.
In addition to the above CLE programming, many other ABA groups sponsored diversity and diversity-related programs, including
• Fulfilling the Diversity Initiative: Meeting the Expectations of the Law Firm, the Diverse Workforce, and the Client, sponsored by the Law Practice Management Section;
• Addressing the Needs of Children and Adults with Disabilities Who Become Victims of Abuse and Other Crimes, sponsored by the Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law;
• Sex, Drugs, and the Law: The ABA’s Response to HIV/AIDS, sponsored by the Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities;
• Respect for Same-Sex Couples and Their Relationships: Navigating the Hurdles Posed by Lack of Federal and State Recognition, sponsored by the Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities; and
• The Supreme Court and Desegregation: In the Wake of Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education, sponsored by the Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities.
YLD members who attended any of the diversity programming in San Francisco took away a common message—affiliates can begin to implement their own diversity initiatives by following these simple steps.
1. Survey your membership’s diversity interests and inform all members about what is valued by your association.
2. Increase awareness of diversity issues in your organization by encouraging members to seek information from online resources, attending diversity informational and educational sessions, and reviewing diversity plans.
3. Develop a diversity mission to identify your association’s diversity goals.
4. Sponsor educational and social diversity events.
5. Have your association participate in professional and student association diversity events.
6. Highlight the activities of your young lawyers association’s minority attorneys in your association publications.
Depending on the amount of resources available to your young lawyers association, you might consider having your association sponsor other diversity projects, including providing fellowships and clerkships for minority law students. Remember, however, that whatever diversity and inclusion strategies you choose to implement in your affiliate, you must have strong commitments from your leadership and your members to be successful.