Goal IX Newsletter

Winter 2000, Volume 6, Number 1

Leadership - Passing the Mantle by: Charisse R. Lillie, Commission Chair

CharisseThe American Bar Association’s Commission on Opportunities for Minorities in the Profession is poised to enter the new millennium with steadfast resolve and renewed energy. The Commission’s position as the beacon and focal point within the ABA for promoting the enhanced inclusion and advancement of minorities is as vitally important today as it was when the Commission was created in 1986. With that fact in mind, this issue of Goal IX is dedicated to the memory of 1999 Spirit of Excellence honorees A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., and F. Browning Pipestem.

In the preface to his book Shades of Freedom, the late Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., stated:

Progress toward racial equality has been halting, at best. Instead, the nation often seems to be retreating from the values of a time in which there existed substantial consensus on the need for racial pluralism in positions of power and for the opportunity of upward mobility. We have lost one of the nation’s most effective civil rights lawyers and wisest judges—Thurgood Marshall—and he has been replaced by a person of considerably less compassion for minorities, the weak, the poor, and the powerless.

As we mourn the passing of Justice Marshall, Judge Higginbotham, and Browning Pipestem, the question that all of us must ponder is: To whom will the mantle of leadership in our community pass?

As Justice Marshall and Judge Higginbotham continued the work that was begun by Charles Hamilton Houston and Judge William Henry Hastie, among others, so too must we rededicate ourselves to mentoring, supporting, and serving as role models for the next generation of leaders in the fight for justice and equality for all. While we are mentoring the next generation of leaders, those of us with 15 or more years at the bar must look in the mirror and identify ourselves as the vanguard of leadership in the legal profession for the year 2000 and beyond.

mantlequote.jpg (20772 bytes)What will be required of us? Judge Higginbotham’s weighty scholarship on the role of race and the American legal process must be studied and further explored. Legal scholarship that focuses on furthering the development of legal strategies that will promote the continued inclusion and advancement of persons of color in the legal profession and in society in general must be encouraged and nurtured. Equal opportunity for all in education, housing, healthcare, and in the political arena must remain a priority.

Where shall we begin? The American Bar Association’s Commission on Opportunities for Minorities in the Profession remains the focal point within the ABA for promoting the inclusion and advancement of persons of color in the legal profession. The Commission seeks to be an umbrella of cooperation and agitation among diverse people of color who are members of the Association. As leaders in the ABA, we are uniquely positioned to provide leadership nationally and in our local communities, as we promote greater advancement for people of color in the legal profession and society in general.

Warren Bennis, author of On Becoming a Leader, defines the qualities of a leader as including the necessary and efficacy of ". . . self-confidence, vision, virtue, plain guts, and reliance on the blessed impulse." Each of us, in our own way, has the right stuff to become and remain leaders in the Higginbotham-Pipestem mold.

Each of us should do our part to participate in Commission programs and take steps to leverage support in our firms and corporations for Commission programs. The Commission continues to advance its goal of increasing the exposure of highly qualified and capable lawyers who happen to be minorities to corporations and law firms through the Minority Counsel Program, the Minority In-House Program, the Conference on Minority Partners, and the Multicultural Women Attorneys Network. These programs are flourishing, but will benefit from greater participation and infusion of new energy and leadership.

My goals for the year include increasing membership and increasing the level of activity in all of the Commission’s constituent organizations. The Minority Partners Conference leadership—co-chairs Patrick C. Cooper and Cerise H. Lim-Epstein, and vice-chair Reggie Jackson—are working hard to generate new programming and increase networking opportunities for partners in firms of all sizes and levels. The Minority Counsel Program is flourishing under the leadership of Teresa Lai and Gregory Saunders, who are working hard to reach out to minority in-house lawyers and create programs that will provide training, mentoring, and support for lawyers who are in-house at corporations. The Multicultural Women Attorneys Network, under the leadership of Karen Clanton, is developing a signature publication of information, advice, and wisdom, Dear Daughters, Dear Sisters, which will be unveiled at the ABA Annual Meeting in New York.

This is but a sampling of the energetic dedication that the members of our constituent groups are bringing to the table at the beginning of the new millennium. We are all engaged in a serious campaign of fundraising so that we can continue to fund the substantial initiatives that will be required of us. I look forward to working with the diversity initiatives that have been developed by President Paul. The Retention Summit, which is scheduled for Boston, April 27 & 28, 2000, is another example of the Commission’s resolve to discuss the challenging issues of the day as they affect the success of minority lawyers in the legal profession. (For more information on the Commission’s programs, visit its Website at www.abanet.org/minorities/.

My vision for the future of the Commission’s work is that we will be a sounding board, an informational resource, and a booming voice in the chorus for equality and justice in our profession. I am grateful for the hard work and dedication of our ABA staff, who work tirelessly on our behalf and never seem to be at a loss for ideas and innovations for assisting the Commission in its quest to meet the commands of Goal IX.

Please share your vision with us of the Commission and its current and future programs. American Bar Association President William Paul has placed the issue of diversity in the profession at the top of his leadership agenda for his term. This focus on diversity will create unlimited opportunities for the Commission to shine a bright light on the values of equality and justice for all. Please join us as we continue our quest to realize the full potential of Goal IX—to promote the full and equal participation in the legal profession by minorities.

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