While the National Bar Association and the American Bar Association now have a collegial relationship with many attorneys bearing overlapping membership, history lends that the National Bar Association was established in 1925 as the "Negro Bar Association" after Gertrude Rush, George H. Woodson, S. Joe Brown, James B. Morris, and Charles P. Howard, Sr., were denied membership in the American Bar Association. As the world’s largest organization of lawyers, judges, and law students of color, from its inception, increasing the diversity of the legal profession and providing opportunities for lawyers of color has been the cornerstone of the organization.
One of the NBAs recent diversity successes includes establishing, with the support of Arnold and Porter, the Associate Advancement Academy for Excellence to address the racial disparities in America specific to corporate America and the legal profession. The partnership aims to address pipeline diversity issues in BigLaw (e.g., the AmLaw 200 law firms). To that end, the NBA and A&P have agreed to a three-year partnership to develop and implement an attorney advancement program specifically intended to facilitate the advancement and retention of Black attorneys in BigLaw firms. The academy will have educational, networking, mentoring, and pro bono/community service components.
The trainings include the topics below but are not limited to:
- Anatomy of a Big Law Firm: How It Makes Money
- Law Firm Etiquette and Navigating a Law Firm (Capitalizing on Firm Support Staff)
- The Art of Business Development/ Learning a Client’s Business
- Building your Brand-Externally/Building your Brand-Internally
- Wellness (physical and mental).
Additionally, in an effort to diversify the judiciary, this bar year, the NBA worked tirelessly to field applications for and supported the appointment of a number of black federal judges and U.S. Attorneys.
Additionally, the NBA established a Police Brutality Task Force charged with examining and lobbying for legislation to address systemic racism in the criminal justice system. Our esteemed President Hoffler even visited White House to urge the passing of the George Floyd Policing Act and has done numerous national and international television and radio interviews to ensure that the NBA remains as the table for ongoing discussions in this realm.
This year, the NBA hired its first ever Election Protection Fellow. This lawyer was tasked with assisting in designing programs for the recruitment and training of African American lawyers as leaders, volunteers, and supporters of the Election Protection Program; working with the NBA affiliates to develop Election Protection advocacy campaigns integrating litigation, organizing, public education, public advocacy, and strategic communications; developing and maintaining relationships with community partners, organizers, coalition members, and legal allies as a central aspect of this work
Additionally, the NBA hosted nationwide election protection training to aid our lawyers in assisting as boots on the ground during the election season to ensure a clear pathway to the voting booth for all and countless of our members served as volunteers, poll watchers, and hotline captains for the Election Protection Hotline.
The NBA also consistently signs on to or issues its own independent statements on pressing issues affecting diversity. For instance, President Hoffler filed a note with the local court and issued a public statement regarding the Florida Supreme Court’s decision not to implement a rule that would have increased the diversity of CLE presenters within the Florida Bar.