The Illinois State Bar Association is committed to the twin values of diversity and inclusion, both within the organization and in the legal profession as a whole. The Diversity Leadership Council (“DLC”) was created as a result of the work of the ISBA’s Task Force on Diversity. The DLC’s mission includes coordinating efforts of ISBA’s diversity-related committees and section councils. The DLC is comprised of the leadership of diversity-related committees and section councils who meet several times a year in order to accomplish these goals.
Of course, the members of the DLC also serve as the leaders of their respective section councils and committees. As with most ISBA section councils and committees, their work involves coming together at meetings throughout the state, presenting CLEs on topics relevant to its membership, publishing newsletters, and reviewing legislation relevant to the group’s particular scope. The following are some highlights of the work of the diversity-related committees and section councils this bar year.
Committee on Disability Law—Patrick Kronenwetter, Chair
Disability Law has a CLE planned for June 20, 2011 entitled “Hot Topics in Disability Law.” Disability Law also urged the ISBA’s Board of Governors to formally support the American Bar Association’s “Pledge for Change.” The Pledge affirms the legal community’s “commitment to diversity, including diversity regarding individuals with mental, physical, and sensory disabilities, in the legal profession.” On March 11, 2011, the Board approved signing the Pledge, making the ISBA a formal signatory. Finally, as a relatively new committee, Disability Law is looking toward the future and received Board approval to revise its scope statement to more accurately reflect the work of the committee.
Human Rights Section Council-- Jennifer Shaw, Chair
The mission of Human Rights includes educating the people of Illinois about their human rights and the rights of others, and promoting the legal recognition and protection of human rights. On March 17, 2011, Human Rights presented a very successful half-day CLE entitled “Litigating, Defending, and Preventing Employment Discrimination Cases: Practice Updates for the Illinois Human Rights Act.” This CLE included a review of the latest information concerning employment discrimination cases under the Illinois Human Rights Act, case law updates, and best practice tips.
International and Immigration Law Section Council—William Mock, Chair
International and Immigration Law’s mission includes raising the awareness of section members about the legal and political issues of international law, both public and private. This year, members of the International and Immigration Law worked to encourage the passage of a Resolution in support of the ratification of the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). They also presented an enlightening CLE entitled “Cross-Cultural Communications: How Respect for Culture Returns Referrals” and the Annual Meeting in St. Louis last June.
Committee on Women and the Law—Sandra Crawford, Chair
On April 7, 2011, WATL joined the Committee on Racial and Ethnic Minorities to tour the Dwight Correctional Center for Women. This was followed by a brainstorming session discussing meaningful contributions attorneys could make to improve the system and to address issues unique to minorities and women in prison in Illinois. In addition WATL is proud that two of its members will receive prestigious awards at the Annual Meeting. WATL also presented a highly successful CLE entitled “Elder Law Issues for Everyone: Your Aging Clients, Their Parents, and You,” the program “Power, Prestige and Your Personal Brand,” and two ISBA cable television shows.
Committee on Racial and Ethnic Minorities and the Law—Amina Saeed, Chair
On October 28, 2010, REM presented a CLE entitled “Raising the Bar by Promoting Greater Diversity.” The program included a panel of respected jurists (from walks of life historically underrepresented in the judiciary) coming together to discuss the various paths they chose to arrive at the judiciary, as well as the factors that led to their success. The panel members encouraged minority attorneys to consider the judiciary. In addition to partnering with WATL for a tour of the Dwight Correctional Center for Women, the two groups also co-sponsored a diversity reception in Peru that was well-attended by attorneys from LaSalle and neighboring counties. The REM Committee also organized a two-part ISBA cable television show entitled “So You Want to Be an Attorney,” which was also made available on YouTube. Copies of the program will also be sent to area schools to assist students of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity—William “Toby” Eveland, Chair
SOGI will present a CLE entitled “A Roadmap to Civil Unions” on June 17, 2011 in conjunction with the ISBA Annual Meeting in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. SOGI also presented three ISBA cable television programs on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (“LGBT”) issues, and they continue to partner in diversity initiatives with the Chicago Bar Association’s Committee on LGBT Rights and the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago, including marching in the Pride Parade, and hosting a booth at the Chicago Market Days street festival. SOGI also hosted a joint meeting where State Representative Gregory Harris (D-Illinois) addressed the group regarding the passage of the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act, which established legal protections for unmarried couples across the state. For more information on civil unions, see the related article in this issue of Diversity Matters.
Committee on Diversity Pipeline- Gilda Hudson Winfield, Chair
The mission of the Diversity Pipeline Committee is to increase the diversity of the legal community by exposing elementary and secondary school students of diverse backgrounds to the law and legal careers, mentoring students as they progress through the educational pipeline to ensure that they are prepared for law school and practice, and identifying financial and other resources to assist students from under-represented populations with their educational needs. One result of their work is the Illinois Law and Leadership Institute which will begin this summer. The Institute will encourage area high school students to consider careers in the law. For more information, see the related article in this issue of Diversity Matters.
Please consider the opportunities available through participating in one of these section councils or committees. Your involvement could include attending an event sponsored by one of the groups, attending its meetings, or earning CLE credit by attending one of the many diversity-related CLEs. Many of the diversity-related CLEs (as well as hundreds of others) are available through ISBA “FastCLE” where you can often choose from DVDs, audio CDs, CD-ROM, podcasts, or online delivery. For more information, go to <>.
You might also consider becoming a member of a diversity-related section or committee. For a nominal fee ISBA members can join additional sections. As a member of a section, you will receive section newsletters, discounts on the section’s CLEs, and often access to online discussion groups. If you are interested in joining any of these sections, you may contact the ISBA at <>.
There is also the opportunity for appointment to a section council (the governing body of the section) or the leadership of a committee. ISBA members are appointed to these positions by the ISBA President-Elect each spring. ISBA members are encouraged to self-nominate and to nominate other lawyers for appointment. Jennifer Shaw explained the process in her article “De-Mystifying the ISBA - Sections and Committees” which appeared in The Challenge, the newsletter of the Committee on Racial and Ethnic Minorities and the Law. “Nomination forms can be found in the late winter editions of the Bar News and the Bar Journal. Generally, they are half-page forms that list each of the sections and standing committees. In addition, nominations can be made online.” The nomination forms “allow people to list their first three preferences for appointment. Certainly, some committees and sections are extremely popular and, accordingly, it becomes more challenging to receive an appointment to those sections and committees. Other groups, however, are always looking for new members.” Diverse members are encouraged to seek appointment and “[t]o that end, the nomination form also includes space for people to identify their minority status. . . Importantly, minority status does not just include gender or race. Lawyers with disabilities or those who identify themselves as members of other minorities are also encouraged to indicate their status as well.” You can read Ms. Shaw’s full article at < . ■