ABA moves the needle on diversity and inclusion in legal system

The American Bar Association will unveil the accomplishments of the ABA Diversity and Inclusion Commission during its Annual Convention in San Francisco on Saturday, Aug. 6.
Ellen Letts and David Wolfe, co-chairs of the ABA President’s Diversity and Inclusion 360 Commission, will present highlights from the report during the commission’s program, “Fortune 500 General Counsels Sharing of the 3Cs of Diversity and Inclusion: Commitment, Candor and Collaboration.”

The commission, formed by ABA President Paulette Brown, spent months reviewing and analyzing the state of diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, the judicial system and the American Bar Association with the aim of formulating methods, policies, standards and practices to “move the needle” and advance diversity and inclusion. The full report is available here.

“The legal profession is the best, but we can do better. It can no longer be acceptable for us to be the least diverse of all comparable professions,” Brown said.  She said that the commission produced a “stunning body of work,” much of which is available to the general public on a new Diversity and Inclusion Portal on the ABA website.

The materials include policies, online tools, videos, surveys and templates that can be used to immediately promote diversity and inclusion in the profession and justice system.

The commission’s materials were created for the legal and judicial communities, but many can also be used by schools, communities, the military and the public to learn about and increase diversity and inclusion. 

For example:

• The National Pipeline Diversity Initiative Directory can be used to combat the school-to-prison pipeline that affects a disproportionate number of the nation’s
children of color and results in high suspensions rates and early interaction with the juvenile justice system. The ABA’s pipeline directory provides a searchable, online database of programs that can direct young people and their families to opportunities.

• The Implicit Bias Videos and Toolkit includes three training videos and a toolkit to raise awareness among judges, prosecutors and public defenders of the impact of implicit bias –unconscious prejudices – and provide suggestions for combating them.

• The ABA is collaborating with the Judge Advocate General’s Corps to raise awareness about legal career opportunities in the military and increase recruitment of diverse students.

The commission also recommended several proposals that the association will take under consideration during its convention, including a proposal to require implicit bias training for jurors and a recommendation that individuals should not be excluded from jury service on the basis of marital status, gender identity and gender expression.  The commission also proposed that diversity and inclusion be included in the Continuing Legal Education courses and that CLE-ABA programs include diverse speakers. In addition, the commission created a model survey for corporations and law firm clients to use to gather uniform and consistent diversity data from law firms.