As chairs of the Standing Committees on Women and the Law and Minority and Women Participation, we are pleased to share with you the diversity outreach and educational efforts that our committees have undertaken during the past year.
With ISBA President Irene Bahr’s support, the MWP Committee took the first steps toward the development of a statewide initiative to help more minority students traverse the educational pipeline into the legal profession. After researching the pipeline problem and proposals for addressing it, the MWP Committee convened a Diversity Roundtable at the ISBA’s Midyear Meeting in December to gather comments from more than 70 participants representing a wide range of constituencies throughout the state.
The MWP Committee ultimately recommended that a task force be appointed to put the Roundtable recommendations into action. President-Elect Joe Bisceglia is already taking steps to do just that.
In the meantime, both Standing Committees combined forces on a series of events during the past year to encourage women and minority attorneys to get more involved in the ISBA. The WIL Committee took the lead in coordinating two networking receptions—one following the Diversity Roundtable at the Midyear Meeting and another at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb in the spring—as well as a “Celebrating Women in the Legal Profession” luncheon in Chicago in March. Each event offered an opportunity for the ISBA leadership to invite women and minority lawyers to become more active in the ISBA, such as through membership on committees or seeking election to the Assembly, Board of Governors, or executive offices.
The MWP Committee also sponsored a continuing legal education program on diversity issues during the Midyear Meeting. The program, “Strategies for Achieving Diversity in Your Organization,” featured a distinguished panel of speakers with a number of innovative ideas on recruitment and retention. The Committee is hoping to build a repertoire of diversity education programs and invites your comments about programs you would like to see as well as topics upon which you would like to speak.
And that leads us to some unfinished business. The MWP Committee is exploring ways to create a Speaker’s Bureau that would help other ISBA section councils and committees find women and minority speakers for their own continuing legal education program. If you are interested in participating in the Speaker’s Bureau (or want to provide feedback on CLE programs you’d like to see offered by the ISBA), please let us know by completing and returning the survey contained in this newsletter.
Chair of the Standing Committee on Women and the Law
Chair of the Standing Committee on Minority and Women Participation