On October 30, 2007, the Task Force on Diversity held its first organizational meeting in Chicago. ISBA President Joe Bisceglia created this special task force in response to recommendations made by the ISBA Diversity Pipeline Project in its report issued in March 2007. The task force’s mission is to implement the ISBA Diversity Pipeline Project recommendations and to promote greater diversity in the Illinois legal community statewide and within the ISBA.
To accomplish its mission, the task force has been organized into three subcommittees: 1) Diversity Pipeline Project; 2) Illinois Legal Community; and 3) ISBA. Co-chairs have been named to lead the work of each subcommittee as follows:
1. Diversity Pipeline Project: Alice Noble-Allgire, Andy Fox, Tracy Prosser and Venu Gupta;
2. Illinois Legal Community: Sonni Williams and Gwen Rowan;
3. ISBA: Patrice Ball-Reed and Deborah Cole.
In large part, the work of the task force will be conducted by these subcommittees. Each subcommittee has a mission and has identified possible actions it may consider moving forward.
Diversity Pipeline Project
In its report dated March 9, 2007, the Diversity Pipeline Project, initiated by the Standing Committee on Minority and Women Participation, made several recommendations:
1. Appoint a special diversity task force following the lead of the State Bar of California;
2. Serve as a clearinghouse and coordinator of information;
3. Establish partnerships to implement pipeline programs;
4. Advocate for funding/programs to be carried out by others;
5. Evaluate a means to assess the effectiveness of current and future pipeline programs; and,
6. Identify funding resources needed to support pipeline initiatives.
With these recommendations in mind, the mission of the Diversity Pipeline Project subcommittee is to “support improved educational opportunities for diversity students and encourage all efforts for diversity students to enter the legal profession.” Other possible actions the subcommittee will consider this year include: creating a matrix of meaningful pipeline projects; establishing a clearinghouse for pipeline information; coordinating educational outreach with the ISBA Committee on Law Related Education for the Public; and, developing potential pipeline initiatives for K-12.
Illinois Legal Profession
This subcommittee’s mission is to “promote greater diversity within the Illinois legal community including support of the Commission on Professionalism of the Illinois Supreme Court (“Commission”) and overall raise awareness of the critical importance of diversity to the legal profession.” The key task this subcommittee will accomplish is the completion of a statewide survey on diversity within the Illinois legal profession. The survey will address qualitative as well as quantitative information. Other outreach efforts will include working with the Commission on a clearinghouse that will make diversity-related information available to interested parties. The subcommittee also will work to support diversity initiatives advanced by law firms, corporate law departments, government and bar associations.
This subcommittee’s work will be focused on the ISBA as an organization with its overall mission to “increase the participation, leadership and membership ranks of diversity attorneys within the ISBA.” The key task of this subcommittee will be to develop a report card on the status of diversity attorneys within the ISBA membership, leadership and programs. Other outreach efforts will focus on examining opportunities to expand diversity attorney membership in the ISBA, promoting advancement of diversity attorneys in the bar association’s leadership, considering pilot diversity training and evaluating differing membership opportunities, particularly for government attorneys.
Another critical component of the task force will be to support the work of the Commission on Professionalism of the Illinois Supreme Court. Working closely with the Commission’s Executive Director, Cheryl Niro, the task force will be partnering with the Commission, as appropriate, to raise awareness of diversity concerns within the Illinois legal community and to make resources available to promote the advancement and success of diversity attorneys in Illinois. The task force is honored to support the Commission’s conclave on professionalism and diversity to be held December 6, 2007, in conjunction with the ISBA mid-year meeting in Chicago.
The subcommittees are hard at work advancing pipeline projects, developing the format of a statewide diversity survey and creating a report card of diversity within the ISBA. Any ISBA member with recommendations or suggestions for the task force should contact its Chair, Lynn Grayson, at 312-923-2756 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With the collaborative effort now underway, the task force hopes its work will contribute to positive change in the Illinois legal community and to sustainable progress on diversity required for the continued success of the legal profession overall.
*E. Lynn Grayson is a Partner in the Chicago office of Jenner & Block LLP. In 2007, ISBA President Bisceglia appointed Ms. Grayson to serve as the Chair of the Task Force on Diversity.