Moving Diversity Forward

Vol. 43 No. 1


Lelia Mooney is the SIL Diversity Officer, co-chair of the SIL UN and International Organizations Committee, and vice chair of the Corporate Social Responsibility Committee. She is the editor of Promoting the Rule of Law: A Practitioner’s Guide to Key Issues and Developments and a director at Partners for Democratic Change in Washington, D.C.

In this introductory column, I want to give a brief overview of the activities and initiatives we are working on within the Section and the Diversity Committee and to describe how it all works in practice and how division and committee leaders can get involved. Lastly, I will briefly provide an update on a recent policy development at the international level on the advancement of the rights of peoples with disabilities.

As SIL’s diversity officer, I work very closely with the Section leadership, divisions, and committees to advance the conversation about, and practice of, diversity and inclusion throughout our Section and to develop strategic partnerships with other Goal III ABA entities and outside groups and diverse bar associations. This role also involves being the chair of the SIL’s Diversity Committee and liaising with other entities.

The SIL Diversity Committee: In Practice

When I was appointed to the position of diversity officer this year, I appointed as vice chairs the co-chairs of the Constituent Division Committees: Women’s Interest Network (WIN), Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Issues Network, Young Lawyers Interest Network, Seasoned Lawyers Interest Network, Law Students-LL.M. & New Lawyer Outreach Committee, and NGO and Not-For-Profit Organizations Committee. These vice chairs act as liaisons to their own committees, and they are the engine that is mobilizing the conversation about and practice of diversity and inclusion through development of seasonal and stand-alone programs, publications and newsletters, and policies. I am truly excited about the commitment, energy, and level of interest of the Diversity Committee members, as well as the number of initiatives in the making. You should check our first joint Diversity-WIN Newsletter on our website,!

How Can Your Division and Committee Be Part of the Diversity Committee and Its Initiatives?

I do strongly encourage those committees that have not yet appointed a vice chair or liaison for diversity to do so as soon as possible. You don’t want to miss the opportunity to participate in these discussions, collaborate across committees, learn how others are incorporating these discussions and generating opportunities for lawyers of diverse backgrounds, and encourage young lawyers to become active in this enterprise. We at the Diversity Committee are ready to support you in this process and to provide more mentoring and coaching opportunities through technology and social networking.

Stay Tuned! The Marrakesh Treaty

On June 27, 2013, at a World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) conference hosted by the Kingdom of Morocco, negotiators adopted the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled. The Treaty’s goal is to facilitate direct, easy, and more uniform cross-border access to materials accessible in formats such as Braille, large print, and accessible digital files. In sum, it specifically addresses the barriers to access that make it difficult in many countries of the world for blind and visually impaired people to achieve literacy, basic education, higher education, and their own professional advancement as full members of society. After entering into force, the Treaty is now eligible for ratification or accession. While many countries are committed to it, issues of active implementation and effectiveness remain as challenges on the ground to make these rights a reality. As SIL’s diversity officer and chair of the Diversity Committee, I am working with the ABA Commission on Disability Rights to look into how a policy initiative could advance the ratification of this treaty with a clear emphasis on implementation and its true effectiveness.

Some Afterthoughts

Diversity is not an intangible, and it touches each lawyer’s practice, whether that practice is focused on transactional work, cross-border transactions, international commercial arbitration, international human rights, or economic development. There is also diversity of jurisdictional and legal backgrounds of lawyers working in the United States and foreign lawyers working in different regions of the world. The Section leadership takes diversity seriously and has taken steps to further the discussion and practice among our membership. I do look forward to continuing working with all of our members to move this conversation and practice forward and to include all the different faces and voices of diversity our Section represents.


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