The American Bar Association has observed that the legal profession has a diversity problem. As Deborah Rhode noted in her May 2015 article for The Washington Post, the legal profession is the least diverse in the nation, and many believe that we are not doing enough to fix this problem.
Bar associations are critical vehicles for advancing diversity. We help shape the norms of our profession. When bar associations prioritize diversity, it institutionalizes critical values. When we do not prioritize diversity, it creates an environment that tends to exclude underrepresented groups.
One way that the Colorado and Denver Bar Associations hope to become more diverse and inclusive is by collaborating and strengthening our relationships with the diversity bar associations. The diversity bar associations are full of leadership talent and engaged members who are making a difference in our community, in the courtroom, in the legislature and on the bench.
ACTNow Initiative: Appointing Critical Talent Now!
I launched the ACTNow Initiative last spring to build a pipeline to leadership from the diversity bar associations to the CBA. The CBA president and president-elect make appointments to influential committees, boards and commissions in the CBA and within the broader Colorado legal community. The ACTNow Initiative bridges the information gap about such appointments.
Through the ACTNow Initiative, I appointed candidates to key leadership positions in the following:
- the Executive Council,
- the Joint Management Committee,
- the Legislative Policy Committee,
- the Nominating Committee,
- the Budget Committee,
- the ABA House of Delegates, and
- The Colorado Lawyer Editorial Advisory Board.
The CBA President’s Diversity Council
CBA Past President Loren Brown launched the President’s Diversity Council in 2015. The Diversity Council encompasses the CBA’s leadership, senior staff, and diversity bar presidents and president-elects.
The CBA President’s Diversity Council convenes on a monthly basis. We’ve set up a Diversity Council Leadership Listserv to facilitate communication and a diversity bar calendar that helps us coordinate events and encourage attendance from other bar associations.
Diversity and Inclusivity in Action
Here is a synopsis of the many great things that we have done:
- The CBA and CWBA joined forces in 2016 and 2017 to sponsor three trips to Cuba.
- The diversity bar associations published a special series in The Colorado Lawyer that runs from October 2016 through February 2017.
- The CBA encouraged diversity bar members to apply for the 2016 and 2017 leadership training program — COBALT. The past two years have yielded the most diverse classes to-date.
- The CBA YLD held a sold-out social event with the diversity bar associations in August.
- The CBA sponsored the Sam Cary Bar Association’s SEE ME™ community rally in July.
- Forty diversity bar leaders, presidents and allies attended a fun food truck event at my home last summer to meet and talk one-on-one with the CBA’s leadership.
- We invited the diversity bar associations’ presidents and presidents-elect to attend the CBA Legislative Policy Committee fall reception.
- CBA sections and committees are working to implement diversity and inclusivity goals.
- We are encouraging the diversity bar presidents-elect to join the Colorado contingent at the annual ABA Bar Leadership Institute in Chicago.
- We are seeing more diverse faculty at CLE programs.
- The CBA YLD is planning an open house event with all 28 CBA sections and the diversity bars.
- We are now tracking demographics by asking members to voluntarily self-report when joining or renewing.
- The CBA attends and supports the annual dinners held by each of the diversity bar associations.
The bar associations are acting now to ensure that the diverse talent of our entire community is engaged in shaping how we move forward. D
CBA President Patricia M. Jarzobski can be reached at email@example.com.