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AMERICA ON THE THRESHOLD OF SETTING A SHAMEFUL RECORD

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
A Guest Editorial from the American Bar Association

By
Charisse R. Lillie, Chair
American Bar Association Commission
on Opportunities for Minorities in the Profession

 

DR. KING'S LIFE PRESENTS A CHALLENGE FOR LAWYERS

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The anniversary of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., offers all Americans, but especially lawyers, a timely opportunity to renew our own commitment to a diverse society.

Lawyers have been and remain in the forefront of the battles to guarantee equality and justice for all Americans, and to enforce the protections of the Bill of Rights and the civil rights laws.

But while we are nearing the time when our populace will genuinely balance the multiplicity of its cultures – when it will no longer be accurate to describe persons of color as minorities, because persons of color will outnumber Caucasians – the legal profession lags far behind.

The American Bar Association, along with many state and local bar associations and the national bar associations that represent African American, Hispanic, Asian, Native American and Pacific Islander lawyers, is working toward the day when a diverse legal profession can truly serve a diverse client base with the best legal talent American legal educators can produce.

We must build on our efforts to recruit and support increased numbers of diverse law school students, and to make sure that newly minted lawyers from all segments of society are put to work serving all segments of society. And we must work to ensure that their talents are fully used rather than hampered by continuing racial discrimination.

In addition to a commitment to recruit a diverse workforce, decision-makers must recognize their responsibility to provide mentoring and opportunities to all lawyers in their organizations, including those lawyers who by virtue of race or ethnicity may constitute a distinct minority. The role of mentoring in ensuring success in a workplace where diversity is a key value can never be underestimated. Many law firms are establishing formal mentoring programs for all of their new associates. As a mentor, you can be an invaluable resource to a young lawyer who is feeling isolated or confused. Explaining the political landscape or just allowing your protégé to ask you that "stupid" question will be invaluable in helping her succeed in your organization. Just knowing that you are there can make all the difference.

Organizations in many cities are initiating programs that encourage citizens to give a "day of service" in honor of Dr. King. The ABA Commission on Opportunity for Minorities in the Profession urges all lawyers to rededicate themselves to the principles of justice and equality he espoused. On his birthday, we urge you to take an affirmative step: Begin mentoring one of the young minority lawyers in your organization. Volunteer to assist your company or agency in its efforts to recruit a more diverse legal workforce. Contact the placement office at your alma mater and volunteer to mentor a second- or third-year minority law student.

Your efforts, large or small, will ensure that Dr. King's dream will continue to thrive and grow in the legal profession. Your commitment to begin to mentor will turn a day of service into a long-term commitment to ensuring increased diversity in the legal profession.

 

 

Editor’s Note: For verification, please contact Lori Boguslawski in ABA Media Relations and Communication Services at 312/988-6147 or [email protected].