Goal IX Newsletter

Summer 2001, Volume 7, Number 3

Reaching out to our International Colleagues by: Charisse R. Lillie, Commission Chair

On June 7 and 8, 2001, Sandra Yamate and I represented the American Bar Association at the 2001 British Ethnic Minority Lawyers Conference in London, England. We renewed our acquaintance with lawyers with whom we had met in roundtable discussions at the ABA Annual Meeting in London in 2000. We discussed issues of diversity in the legal profession, leadership opportunities for minority lawyers, and careers outside of law firms, among other things. We also did extensive networking on behalf of the ABA. Our British colleagues were appreciative of our willingness to join them at the conference. Several of the minority lawyers from both the Law Society and the Bar Council will participate in the Commission's panel discussions at the 2001 ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Charisse R. Lillie

Minority lawyers in England are experiencing problems, such as lack of opportunities for lawyers to get requisite training to become barristers or solicitors and a failure to retain minority lawyers in law firms. These issues sound very familiar to us.

 History, culture, and the context of racial differences dictate solutions that are not totally analogous to most of the programs the ABA has created to foster racial and ethnic diversity in the legal profession in the United States. Nonetheless, our British colleagues are very interested in adopting initiatives similar to some of the Commission's programs, such as research on the statistical data about minority lawyers. Our colleagues are eager to share ideas and strategies so that equality and diversity are ensured for minority lawyers in the British bar.

In May, the Commission held its Spring Meeting in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. We conducted a full schedule of business meetings. A number of the Commission's liaisons from other Sections and Divisions attended. Attendees participated in a roundtable discussion with local lawyers about the challenges of practicing law in an environment where the majority of the bar is white and the majority of the population is nonwhite. Lawyers from the attorney general's office discussed the challenges of governmental practice, and criminal defense lawyers spoke about the effects of poverty and racism on their clients.

We had a wonderful and enlightening Dear Sisters, Dear Daughters panel, moderated by Paula Frederick and including Clarissa Cerda, Connye Harper, and myself. This program was well received and ended quite some time after the published time! Tom Bolt, president-elect of the Virgin Islands Bar Association and an active ABA leader, and his wife Jenifer, hosted a fabulous reception for us at their palatial home. The lawyers we met want us to come back for future meetings in the Virgin Islands and specifically have requested that we present CLE programming at the next conference.

These budding international relationships have given me a great perspective on the ABA's Goal IX-to promote the full and equal participation in the legal profession by minorities. Although we may at times grow weary in the struggle, it is heartening to know that the work of the ABA on the issue of increasing diversity in the legal profession is acknowledged and respected by our colleagues abroad.

Please join us for the Commission's programs at the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago-they promise to be informative, engaging, and energizing. Also, please mark your calendar for the Minority Counsel Program (MCP) meeting, October 25-27, 2001, in Chicago. The MCP meeting will be held in conjunction with the Commission's fall meeting. Thank you for your continued support and commitment to the cause of increasing diversity in our profession.

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