Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Typically, the first full week of October marks National Diversity Week, founded in 1998 to raise awareness about the diversity which has shaped, and continues to shape, the United States. Numerous cities, companies, and schools, including mine, will participate in this weeklong, nationwide event.
Roughly ten years after the founding of National Diversity Week, the American Bar Association also decided to make diversity and inclusion a top priority. That year the House of Delegates adopted just four goals for the Association:
- Serve Our Members,
- Improve Our Profession,
- Eliminate Bias and Enhance Diversity, and
- Advance the Rule of Law.
The Association then charged the Office of Diversity and Inclusion with advancing “Goal III,” namely to “promote full and equal participation in the Association, our profession, and the justice system by all persons” and to “eliminate bias in the legal profession and the Justice System.” The office now serves as a hub, coordinating the activities of seven other ABA entities:
- Commission on Women in the Profession
- Commission on Disability Rights
- Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession
- Coalition on Racial and Ethnic Justice
- Council for Diversity and Inclusion in the Educational Pipeline
- Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights & Responsibilities
- Commission on Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity
The ABA has also created an online portal to centralize information concerning the Association’s various diversity and inclusion initiatives. The portal contains videos and toolkits to enable law firms and law schools to easily offer diversity and inclusion focused presentations throughout the year, such as an implicit bias training or a discussion on the concept of “grit” in women lawyers. (If you haven’t planned a Diversity Week event yet or want to beef up your existing plans, you can quickly download a lesson-in-the-box from the portal.)
In addition to the ABA resources, the National Diversity Council and the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity have both made lasting impacts on the legal profession in the past decade.
The National Diversity Council is a non-partisan organization dedicated to being both a resource for and an advocate for the value of diversity and inclusion. “The National Diversity Council is the first non-profit organization to bring together the private, public and non-profit sectors to discuss the many dimensions and benefits of a multicultural environment. The success of the Texas Diversity Council (established in 2004) served as a catalyst for the National Diversity Council, launched in the fall of 2008."
The Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, founded in 2009, “is an organization of more than 265 corporate chief legal officers and law firm managing partners—the leadership of the profession—who have dedicated themselves to creating a truly diverse U.S. legal profession.” The organization hopes “to attract, inspire, and nurture the talent in society and within [legal] organizations, thereby helping a new and more diverse generation of attorneys ascend to positions of leadership.”
Lastly, for even more concrete ideas about how you—as an academic support professor—can best contribute to the legal profession’s goals of eliminating bias and promoting diversity, join us at the Inaugural AASE Diversity Conference, Fulfilling Promises: Providing Effective Academic and Bar Exam Support to Diverse Students on October 12-13, 2017, hosted by the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law in Baltimore, Maryland.