You may not have heard any hammers or saws, but the ISBA recently completed a major renovation of its diversity-related committees and sections councils—a renovation that is already seeing substantial dividends in terms of greater efficiency and collaborative creativity.
As a result of a reorganization plan approved by the Board of Governors in May, the ISBA now has five standing committees and two section councils to address the legal issues affecting specific constituencies, including: Women and the Law; Racial and Ethnic Minorities; Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity; Disability Law; Diversity Pipeline; Human Rights; and International and Immigration Law.
What is most exciting about the reorganization plan, however, is that the leaders of these committees and section councils will simultaneously serve on a new Diversity Leadership Council that is responsible for ISBA diversity initiatives that cut across all of these constituency groups. Thus, while each individual committee and section council focuses on issues unique to its constituency, the groups will bring their collective creativity and energy to the ISBA’s broader diversity goals as part of the Council.
The groundwork for this reorganization was laid in 2007 when then-President Joseph Bisceglia appointed a Task Force on Diversity, chaired by Lynn Grayson, to evaluate how to best advance diversity goals within the ISBA and the legal profession statewide. Included in those goals was the development of a Diversity Pipeline initiative to carry out recommendations developed during a December 2006 Diversity Pipeline Roundtable sponsored by then-President Irene Bahr and enthusiastically supported by Bisceglia and the next two presidential successors, John O’Brien and Jack Carey.
In studying the ISBA’s diversity agenda over the next two years, the Task Force noted that the structure of the ISBA’s diversity-related committees was both under-inclusive and over-inclusive. On the one hand, the existing structure did not provide adequate representation for some diversity-related constituencies, such as persons with disabilities. On the other hand, there was overlap and inefficiency with respect to some of the constituencies that were represented. The mission and activities of the Standing Committee on Minority and Women Participation, for example, substantially overlapped those of the Standing Committee on Women and the Law.
To remedy these deficiencies, the Task Force proposed that a new committee be created on Disability Law and that the mission of the Standing Committee on Minority and Women Participation be realigned slightly to focus solely on issues affecting racial and ethnic minorities. The Task Force also recommended that a committee be created to implement a number of proposals that the Task Force was developing to improve the Diversity Pipeline. (For more information on the Pipeline initiative, see <).
While the foregoing recommendations were designed to give greater attention to the unique issues of specific constituencies, however, the Task Force also saw the need for better communication and coordination among the various committees. Serendipitously, current ISBA President John O’Brien created a model for promoting this type of coordination when he began planning for his presidential year in 2008. Having identified diversity as one of the major themes of his term, President O’Brien invited the leaders of the diversity-related committees to help him develop a high-profile program for the 2009 Midyear Meeting. That working group began meeting in 2008.
The results of this collaboration were amazing—and indicative of the strength that comes from the participation of a diverse group of individuals. It was clear that there were shared values and goals as the group discussed issues and concepts that cut across all of the constituencies. But at the same time, the project was enriched by ideas emanating from committee members with a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives. It was impressive to watch as a good idea from one member of the group was embraced and developed into an even better idea by other members of the group.
Building on the success of President O’Brien’s working group, the Task Force ultimately developed a proposal to restructure the ISBA’s diversity-related committees under the umbrella of a Diversity Leadership Council. Under the proposal, the Council consists of the chair, vice chair and past chair of each of the following diversity-related standing committees and section councils. The Council will meet several times each year in pursuit of three main goals: (1) avoiding duplication of effort among the committees; (2) presenting the opportunity for synergies to emerge from the collective sharing of ideas; and (3) overseeing diversity outreach efforts that cut across all constituencies, such as a proposed Diversity Leadership Program, an annual Diversity Leadership Award, regional Diversity receptions, Diversity CLE programming, the ISBA’s Diversity Web site, and the Diversity Matters newsletter.
The ISBA is already realizing substantial benefits from the collaborative efforts of the Diversity Leadership Council. As the first chair of the Council, I have had the privilege of observing many exciting exchanges of ideas. We are also seeing some economic efficiency by combining efforts on networking and outreach events that will target a wider range of constituencies than the ISBA has reached in the past.
One of the Diversity Leadership Council’s first projects was to finish planning the 2009 Midyear Meeting program. The program – “Lincoln’s Legacy: Lawyers Protecting Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness – was designed to showcase a variety of ways in which lawyers are “making a difference” in promoting social justice. The Council invited Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to set the stage with a keynote address, followed by a panel discussion led by WTTW-TV newscaster Phil Ponce and featuring four prominent Illinois attorneys who are carrying out Lincoln’s Legacy.
Some of the other projects that the Diversity Leadership Council has been working on include: selection of the first recipient of the ISBA’s new Diversity Leadership Award; development of a proposal for a new Diversity Leadership Institute; planning for a networking and law student outreach program at Northern Illinois University next spring; generating ideas for webinar and CLE programming on diversity issues; and updating the ISBA’s Diversity Web site.
The ISBA’s diversity agenda is still a work in progress. But I am pleased by the real progress that is being made and optimistic about the results we are already seeing from the recent reorganization. Most importantly, I am grateful for the vision and support from the ISBA’s leadership in taking its diversity initiatives to the next level.
To find out more about the reorganization plan, I invite you to visit the ISBA’s Diversity Web page at <, where you will find the Final Report of the Task Force on Diversity, as well as links to the Diversity Leadership Council and the standing committees and section councils that constitute the Council. ■
Diversity Leadership Council Roster for 2009-2010
Alice M Noble-Allgire, Carbondale, Chair
Annemarie E Kill, Chicago, Vice-Chair
William T. Eveland, Chicago, Secretary
Cindy G Buys, Carbondale, Member
Sandra Crawford, Chicago, Member
Kenneth P. Dobbs, Chicago, Member
Michael K Goldberg, Chicago, Member
E. Lynn Grayson, Chicago, Member
William Mock, Chicago, Member
Sean B O’Brien, Notre Dame, Member
Anthony E Rothert, Alton, Member
Amina A. Saeed, North Aurora, Member
Pradip K Sahu, Chicago, Member
Jennifer A Shaw, Edwardsville, Member
Sonni C Williams, Peoria, Member
Paula H. Holderman, Chicago, Board Liaison
Janet M. Sosin, Chicago, Staff Liaison