chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
January 21, 2022 Chair's Message

From the Chair

Michelle A. Behnke
Michelle A. Behnke, Chair, ABA Commission on Racial and Ethic Diversity in the Profession

Michelle A. Behnke, Chair, ABA Commission on Racial and Ethic Diversity in the Profession

When I thought about this year's ABA Midyear meeting, of course I thought we might be on the "other side" of the pandemic and returning to a world that looked more like things did in 2019. Instead, we are all bracing for the effects of the latest variant and trying to stay safe. 

The Commission started the year with a bang. In September, the Commission presented a panel discussion during the inaugural ABA Equity Summit. The panel discussion focused on how corporate signatories to the Model Diversity Survey could use the survey to encourage law firms to focus on DEI and how law firms can use the data from their respective surveys to develop strategies to support DEI within their own law firms. The Commission's panel discussion was one of the programs with the highest attendance during the multi-day virtual summit. 

The Commission is undertaking strategic planning work this year. While strategic planning never seems exciting, we look at the planning as a first step to take stock of the work being done by the Commission and other ABA entities. Developing a strategic plan will allow us to look for measurable ways that we can highlight, support, and amplify work that increases diversity in the legal profession. We also want to look at what other professions are doing to see if there are strategies that we could employ to increase the diversity within the legal profession.  

As we plan, we continue the current work. At the writing of this message, we are preparing the second report based on data from the Model Diversity Survey. This Report will focus on changes from our initial report. This report will focus on the data collected in 2020 (2019 information). Each report is a snapshot, but we are already looking for trends. We want to be out front and let corporations and law firms know what we are seeing and keep them focused on supporting DEI within the profession.  

On January 15, the Model Diversity Survey will open for 2022. We're working hard to increase both the number of law firms responding to the survey and the number of signatory partners using the survey with their outside counsel. We now have more than 175 corporations using the Model Diversity Survey as a tool to help them evaluate their outside counsel firms.  

I am looking forward to the upcoming Spirit of Excellence Award and the presentation of our third Diversity and Inclusion Champion awards. We need to celebrate our partners in the DEI work now more than ever.  

Finally, I would like to thank all of the Commissioners and Liaisons this year. We have strategic planning and ongoing projects underway. Each Commissioner and Liaison is taking on extra work to keep all of the Commission's work on track. It has been a pleasure to work with this year's Commissioners and Liaisons and to learn from them and their work both within the ABA and within their own entitles and employers. I also offer my thanks to our dedicated staff: ABA Staff Director: Keevin Woods, and Program Associate, RaQuel Norwood.   

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 A. Behnke, Chair (Madison, WI), ABA Commission on Racial and Ethic Diversity in the Profession 

The material in all ABA publications is copyrighted and may be reprinted by permission only. Request reprint permission here.