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February 03, 2020

The Goal III Report – A Review and What’s New

Jo Ann Engelhardt

The Goal III Report we know today has evolved significantly from its first iteration in 1995.  Then, the Association’s goal to eliminate bias and enhance diversity was reflected in Goal IX of the Association’s core values. The first Goal IX report was issued a full ten years after the ABA established its first diversity commission, then called the Commission on Opportunities for Minorities in the Profession, renamed the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in 1986. Since then, the number of diversity entities in the Association that participate in preparing the Report has grown to include the Commission on Women in the Profession, followed by the Commission on Disability Rights and the Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.  

The Report seeks diversity and inclusion data from the House of Delegates, Board of Governors, Special and Standing Committees (Presidential Appointments) and the Sections, Divisions, and Forums (“S/D/F”s).  The report serves as a scorecard to measure how many of the Association members serving in these important roles reflect the diversity of our population and of the legal profession.

Data for the report are mostly gathered from individual Association members’ self- reporting in their ABA profile or by other methods of data collection used by the entities. Reporting diversity status is voluntary, and the ABA is scrupulous in safeguarding its members’ privacy.  As a consequence, however, incomplete diversity data will result in a Goal III report that does not reflect accurately the diversity of the individuals involved in the reporting entities. Resolving this issue will require better communication regarding both the value of self-reporting and the care with which the Association treats these personal data.  As President Robert Carlson said in his introduction to the Report issued in 2019:  While no singular report can encompass all of the efforts the ABA’s Center for Diversity & Inclusion in the Profession is undertaking to accomplish Goal III, this report represents an important step in the ABA practicing what it currently encourages members of the legal profession to do: self-report and provide demographic information, in order to understand the state of diversity in the profession.”

Quite a bit has changed since that first Report in 1995!  One major change was the Association’s decision to focus on only four main goals, accomplished in 2008.  In addition, for many years each of the four diversity entities under Goal III published its own Goal III Report.  While the Reports for each entity often covered many of the same questions and sought much the same information, the reports were not uniform.  In addition to making it difficult to compare the data provided by each entity, having to answer four separate Goal III questionnaires made for a great deal of work on the part of the Association groups and entities that were responding to the questionnaires.  That said, the reports yielded useful and important data, especially in the narrative section of the questionnaires where entities were encouraged to provide examples of best practices that had yielded positive results and report on entity resources devoted to diversity and inclusion.

With the cooperation of the diversity entities’ Staff Directors and the leadership of the entities being measured, in 2018 the four Goal III entities produced one streamlined report for all four entities, covering 2016-2017.  The streamlined report, with its consistent format, made it easy to compare reporting entities and was also easier to produce.  The streamlined approach is currently still in operation.

Currently, the four diversity entities are taking a fresh look at the Goal III Report to evaluate how well the streamlined approach has worked.  In particular, they are reviewing whether readers would benefit from a short narrative that highlighted just one best practice.  There are ongoing discussions about more improvements to data collection to make the Report more meaningful.  The Goal III entities are committed to working collaboratively on a process of improvement so that the Association can continue to improve diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.

Jo Ann Engelhardt

Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor, Bessemer Trust

Ms. Engelhardt is Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor at Bessemer Trust in their Palm Beach office. In this role, she leads a team responsible for providing clients with proactive, highly personalized advice across Investment Management, Wealth Planning, and Family Office Services.


Previously, Jo Ann was President and CEO of Merrill Lynch Trust (Florida) and practiced trust and estates law at Carter, Ledyard & Milburn. She served as law clerk to the Hon. Millard Midoneck of the New York County Surrogate’s Court. 


She is a member of the American Bar Association, a delegate to the House of Delegates, and a member of the Council for Diversity in the Educational Pipeline. In the House, she serves on the Resolution and Impact Committee. To demonstrate her support for the ABA, she is a Sustaining Life Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and a member of the President's Club of the ABA Fund for Justice and Education. She serves as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Financial Service Professionals. Jo Ann also serves on the Board of Directors of the USS JFK Project. She is Past President of the Palm Beach Tax Institute and currently serves on its Board of Directors. She has lectured and written extensively. In 2007, she was named by Global Investor magazine as one of “20 Highly Regarded Women in Wealth”; in 2008, she was honored as a Distinguished Accredited Estate Planner.


Jo Ann earned a J.D. and LL.M from New York University School of Law and a B.A. from Barnard College.

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