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January 27, 2023 Chair's Message

From the Chair

Michelle A. Behnke, Author | Tamara Nash, Editor
Michelle A. Behnke

Michelle A. Behnke

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

Over the last year the Commission has been engaged in strategic planning. Elsewhere in this issue the updated mission, organizational values and priorities will be presented. I won't go into details of the new strategic plan here, but I want to acknowledge the hard work of the Commission and the importance of the process for the Commission. I believe that strategic planning is a process by which those doing the work determine collectively where they are headed. Once the common decisions are made, it is much easier to be energized and engaged in the work since you've helped determine the destination. I am very grateful for the engagement of commissioners and liaisons! I am also grateful that this work has been guided by terrific partners in the Division for Bar Services. My thanks to Jennifer Lewin for her skill and expertise in this area and helping us take this journey to find ways to reach the goal of increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the legal profession.

As another calendar year comes to a close, we are preparing for our next report on the data from the Model Diversity Survey. This report will cover the first year of the pandemic, so we are anxious to see what the data tells us about changes within private practice firms during the pandemic. We are also preparing the actual survey for the next calendar year of data collection. Minor changes to the survey are being made to update the racial and ethnic categories and to abandon the use of the term "minorities."

We are also preparing to move our Client Specific Supplement online. Elsewhere in this issue you will hear about the collaboration with the Association of Law Firm Diversity Professionals.This collaboration will allow the Commission to get a better understanding of what data clients want to gather about the legal team working on the client's matter. This will allow us to update the Client Specific Supplement and then build out an electronic portal for that data collection.

As always, I am grateful to be working on the issue of diversity in the legal profession with all of the wonderful commissioners. Our commissioners are engaged in important work, both inside and outside of the ABA. Likewise, our liaisons serve within their own sections, divisions, or forums and take on regular committee assignments within the Commission. I am grateful for the wealth of experience, energy, and commitment given to our work.  

Thanks too to our Staff Director, Keevin Woods, who leads the logistics on our Spirit of Excellence event and our Program Associate, RaQuel Clark, who is the direct link between our signatories and law firms as they use our data collection tool to measure the diversity within their law firms.

There is much work to do and the Commission is considering next steps as we work towards creating a sense of belonging for diverse attorneys. Please follow the work of the Commission and share your thoughts and ideas. We need your support, participation, engagement and energy as we work to increase diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. I hope you enjoy this issue of The Innovator.

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