Local Diversity Committees, Programs, and Conferences
By Michele Hyndman
Michele Hyndman is an assistant editor of The Affiliate and practices in the New York, New York, office of Ernst & Young.
Diversity is a mix of people from all walks of life—including different races, genders, national cultures, subcultures within countries, disabilities, generations, and so on. Because solutions to complex problems often require broad and innovative approaches, a diverse team of lawyers and professionals is most likely to be the best and most effective one to resolve them.
Many local bar associations have implemented diversity committees and programs to ensure that people with varying backgrounds, strengths, and experiences engage with one another to create working relationships and business associations that make the most of each individual. The objective of these diversity committees and programs is to provide ongoing career development and advancement opportunities to minorities and female professionals. Three local bar associations are actively promoting this objective—the State Bar of Georgia, the Alabama State Bar, and the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association.
State Bar of Georgia Diversity Program
The State Bar of Georgia Diversity Program is committed to increasing opportunities for minority young lawyers by assigning corporate and governmental legal work to its members. The program allows participating corporations and government entities to forge lasting working partnerships with minority lawyers throughout Georgia. This program is open to all minority- and majority-owned law firms, corporations, and governmental agencies in Georgia.
The State Bar of Georgia Diversity Program was established in 1993 by Charles Lester, Jr., and the Honorable Marvin Arrington with the mission of creating a program of inclusion throughout the State of Georgia that encourages minority and majority lawyers to work together as counsel on legal matters. This program also increases opportunities for young lawyers in the assignment of corporate legal work that requires diverse legal teams by implementing cooperative working relationships among corporate counsel, governmental entities, and majority-owned and minority-owned law firms.
Throughout the year, the State Bar of Georgia Diversity Program hosts annual CLE conferences, receptions, workshops, and seminars to provide a forum for addressing diversity and related issues in law firms, corporations, and government. This program also provides networking events, business development programs, leadership, and training programs for young lawyers, as well as scholarship information and networking events for law students.
Young Lawyers Section of the Alabama State Bar—The Minority Pre-Law Conference
The Alabama State Bar Young Lawyers’ Section, the Capital City Bar Association, and the Alabama Lawyers Association organize the Annual Minority Pre-Law Conference held in April in Birmingham and Montgomery. The Conference was implemented over fifteen years ago by members of the Executive Committee of the Alabama State Bar Young Lawyers’ Section to provide young lawyers in Alabama an opportunity to make a difference in their communities by inviting high school juniors and seniors from schools around Central Alabama to participate in a case study with actual fact scenarios and a mock a trial.
The Conference is designed to introduce high school juniors and seniors to the American civil and criminal justice system. During the Conference, students have an opportunity to view a simulated trial, performed by practicing lawyers. This experience gives students a better understanding of how the U.S. court system resolves legal conflicts and the roles judges, lawyers, juries, and witnesses play in the system. By participating in the mock trial, students gain an insider’s perspective on courtroom procedure. In addition, minority lawyers practicing in diverse fields of law participate in the panel and discuss their daily activities to give students insight into the many different opportunities available in the legal profession. This part of the Conference provides students a unique opportunity to meet and talk with practicing minority lawyers. The Conference, which high schools in the surrounding local areas are invited to attend, also provides a luncheon with a special keynote speaker.
The Cleveland Bar Association—The Minority Clerkship Program Committee
The Cleveland Bar Association’s Minority Clerkship Program Committee is a group of minority lawyers who oversee and implement the annual Minority Clerkship Program in Cleveland, Ohio. The Minority Clerkship Program was first implemented in 1992 to provide first-year minority law students the opportunity to work as summer associates in local law firms, corporate legal departments, or the public sector. The program is open to local law students and law students who are Cleveland area residents but attend law school out of the area. The program not only provides the students with valuable work experience but also serves as a substantial resume builder. As a result of participating in the Minority Clerkship Program, many students are offered summer associate positions after their second year of law school and full-time positions on graduation.
These organizations are only a sample of the bar associations that understand that diversity embraces a breadth of ideas, experiences, perspectives, and insights that span the lines of age, background, and culture. The law is increasingly evolving into a global practice and programs such as those highlighted provide young lawyers the tools they need to be competitive in the ever-changing practice of law.