Taking the Next Steps with Your Affiliate

Volume 37, Number 1

By

Jaime Ackerman is Editor of The Affiliate and an attorney with the Mountainside, New Jersey, firm of Zucker, Goldberg & Ackerman, LLC.

In 2009, the American Bar Association began its initiative to evaluate the state of diversity in the legal profession. The ABA conducted numerous surveys, held hearings, diversity summits, diversity roundtables, and analyzed the tremendous amount of information these activities produced. These findings were embodied in a report and recommendations entitled The Next Steps. (The full text of this report is available online at www.americanbar.org/advocacy/diversity_initiatives/presidential_diversity_initiative.html).

The Next Steps
While recognizing that some progress had been made in making the profession more diverse, the report underscores how much work remains to be done. The Next Steps breaks down its recommendations into the various segments of the profession: law schools and the legal academy, law firms and corporate law departments, judiciary and government, and bar associations. Each section of the report makes specific recommendations about what each one of these groups can do and why it is important that each segment advance diversity.

The report states: “As organizations comprised primarily of lawyers (though also encompassing judges, law students, law professors, and other legal workers), bar associations play a central role in advancing the value and reality of diversity—understood broadly as a multidimensional concept—in the legal profession.” The Next Steps, at 35. The ABA YLD has been active and committed to holding diversity programming. Since September 2010, the ABA YLD has produced six programs, including “Movin’ on Up: How to Succeed as a Diverse Associate and Young Lawyer,” “Understanding Micro-Insults and the Effects They Have on Workplace Performance and Satisfaction,” and “Diversity and Inclusion Within the Legal Profession: Whose Job Is It Anyway?”

ABA YLD Outreach Programs

The Division has also conducted three highly successful diversity outreach programs since September 2010. At the Fall Conference in Santa Fe, young lawyers had the opportunity to meet with students to discuss preparing for and pursuing careers in the legal field during the Santa Fe Indian School’s Annual Career Day. During the ABA Midyear Meeting in Atlanta, a similar program was held at Spelman College, where more than 50 students and parents were in attendance. More recently, at the Spring Conference in Las Vegas, a program was conducted at the Nevada Juvenile Detention Center, where young lawyers served as positive role models and offered encouragement and advice to energize the juveniles to keep out of trouble and stay in school, knowing that, with hard work and determination, they can accomplish anything.

The Fall Conference in Seattle will feature additional diversity programming, including a session entitled “Diversity in the Profession: How Do I Make a Difference?” Diversity Director Myra McKenzie says, “This panel will encourage YLD Affiliates to undertake projects and programming focused on increasing diversity within the legal profession. The panelists will speak on developing projects and programs consistent with The Next Steps report to assist our Affiliates with initiating new programs and projects as well as to share best practices regarding existing initiatives.”

One of the panelists at this session will be TyKiah Wright, CEO of WrightChoice. The WrightChoice Pre-Professional Law Program is run by the WrightChoice Internship Program in Columbus, Ohio. This program allows junior and senior college students of color or with disabilities, who also have excellent grades, to participate in a six-week summer internship. Students experience various segments of the legal profession in weekly rotations—small and large firms, corporate legal departments, public/government legal departments or courts, and public interest or legal aid organizations. In each setting, students work with the attorneys to gain a practical understanding of each area of the practice. They also attend a weekly keynote speaker address, meet with local law school representatives, and participate in other activities to give them insight into what being an attorney is like.

Affiliate Diversity Projects Featured

Another panelist at the Seattle conference will be Anthony Sharett, who serves on the Columbus Bar Association Board of Governors and works closely with the bar’s “Managing Partner Initiative” in Ohio. This initiative requires managing partners of the city’s major law firms to pledge their financial and material support to increasing the number of minority lawyers in the Columbus community. This is done through activities such as hosting law student events and participating in the Columbus Bar Association’s Minority Clerkship Program. This initiative is also a past winner of the American Bar Association Partnership Award.
Sharett is a past-president of the John Mercer Langston Bar Association, a National Bar Association affiliate, which holds an annual “Aspiring African American Attorney Conference” at which college and sometimes high school students from around Ohio attend a day-long program to learn about law school. In addition to hearing the keynote speaker, conference attendees participate in speed mentoring, local law school presentations, and question-and-answer sessions. The event is sponsored by the John Mercer Langston Bar Association with local legal and nonlegal partners.

More in Store in Seattle
In addition to hearing these great panelists in Seattle, Affiliates will learn more about the Division’s 2011–2012 Next Steps Challenge open to Affiliates across the country that are interested in creating or expanding existing local diversity pipeline programming. Participating Affiliates will compete for a subgrant, and finalists will participate in the “Affiliate Showcase” during the ABA YLD Spring Conference, which will be sponsored jointly with the ABA Center on Racial and Ethnic Diversity, in Nashville, Tennessee, May 3–5, 2012. The Challenge winner will be announced at the Nashville Conference. For more information on the ABA YLD’s diversity programming, contact Diversity Director Myra McKenzie at Myra.Mckenzie@walmartlegal.com. 

The Next Steps Challenge
Enter Your Programs by November 1
The Next Steps Challenge aims to increase diversity in the pipeline to the legal profession. Through the program, young lawyer organizations are encouraged to share information about existing projects and develop new programs for increasing diversity in the pipeline. Top programs will be showcased May 5 at the 2012 Spring Conference in Nashville. During the showcase program one subgrant will be awarded to the nation’s top program or project.  Visit www.americanbar.org/groups/young_lawyers/initiatives.html for more information.

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