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February 03, 2022 Chair's Message

From the Chair

Michelle Behnke
Michelle Behnke, 
ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession

Michelle Behnke, Chair, ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession

It is my honor and pleasure to be writing this message as Chair of the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession. This Newsletter is normally published twice a year, but given the challenges of this past last year, we elected not to publish our winter addition. While we were sorry not to be able to produce a Newsletter, we had to respect the challenges that everyone faced during the pandemic. Sometimes “something just has to go.” Last fall was one of those times. 

Now that things are returning to a more “normal” state, we are excited to publish this edition of the Innovator. We will recap our first ever virtual SPIRIT OF EXCELLENCE ceremony. You’ll get an update on two Collaborative Bar Leadership Academy (CBLA) virtual events and a listing of important upcoming dates.

Over the past year we have continued our work on the Model Diversity Survey, issuing our first summary report on the first three years’ worth of data. The Report has also generated new interest by corporations and we’ve added 34 new signatories increasing the total number of signatories to 158.

The nominations for Spirit of Excellence are open and we are looking forward to reviewing the submissions. If you know someone that should be recognized for extraordinary work around diversity, equity and inclusion, take a moment and submit the nomination. Recognizing those that have gone before us to open doors, straightened paths, and lend a helping hand is important. We need to acknowledge and celebrate this work now more than ever.

I also encourage you to think about the ABA entities that are demonstrating through actions their commitment to diversity and inclusion. The Commission will again look to recognize one or more ABA entities with the Diversity and Inclusion Champion awards. Please consider nominating a section, division or forum for this honor. Let’s highlight the work that our entities are doing within the ABA to make our profession more inclusive.

Finally, I would like to thank all of the Commissioners this year for being flexible and engaged despite all of the issues surrounding the pandemic. We’ve continued our monthly conference calls to move the work forward. Likewise, our incredible ABA staff: Keevin Woods and RaQuel Norwood, have provided guidance, leadership and support to keep the Commissions work moving forward. Thank you! 

I hope you enjoy this issue of the Innovator. We need your support and participation in the work of the Commission and our partners throughout the ABA to accomplish our mission of increasing diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.

Michelle Behnke

Chair, ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession

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