FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
A Guest Editorial from the American Bar Association
Charisse R. Lillie, Chair
American Bar Association Commission
on Opportunities for Minorities in the Profession
DR. KING'S LIFE PRESENTS A CHALLENGE FOR LAWYERS
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
Editors Note: For verification, please contact Lori
Boguslawski in ABA Media Relations and Communication Services at 312/988-6147 or