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July 29, 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

I am completing my second year as Chair of the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession.  The last two years have been exciting and challenging.  As a result of the pandemic, we missed the Commission's 25th anniversary of  the Spirit of Excellence Award in 2021, but over the last two years we have added almost 70 new corporations to the Model Diversity Survey Program.

The Commission released its second Model Diversity Survey Report.  The report focused on changes from the first report.  While still too early to really identify real trends, some interesting findings were noted (please see the Model Diversity Survey article later in this Issue).  We continue to improve our Model Diversity Survey platform.  We've added additional reports that allow corporations to compare firms on key metrics and we have added a trend report for each firm so that corporations can see where things are heading with hiring, promotions and attrition.  We are continuing to work with signatories to ensure that the platform reports are user friendly and helpful to the corporations as they engage with outside counsel on these important DEI efforts.   

We are already looking forward to the 2023 Spirit of Excellence Award event and we hope to have some special surprises as we come back together for the first time in three years.  Please plan now to join us in New Orleans!  We will also present our 4th Diversity Champion Award to an ABA Section, Division or Form that has implemented metrics-driven and successful diversity and inclusion activities and programs.  This year's nominations are due by December 15, 2022 and the Diversity Champion Award will be given during the Spirit of Excellence Event in February, 2023. The nominations for these awards can be found on the Commission webpage.  

The Commission is looking for entities that have implemented programs that can serve as best practices and can be adopted by other ABA entities seeking to increase diversity and inclusion outcomes within their entity.

As always, I must thank all of the Commissioners and Liasons for their engagement, suggestions, energy and outreach.  Commissioners have conducted almost two dozen stakeholder discussions to help the Commission set its next course.  It is a pleasure and a privilege to work on this Commission with this incredible group of members.  I also offer my thanks to our 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

Madison, WI

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

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