For many persons of color, the American educational system presents a barrier, rather than a conduit, to the legal profession. The Illinois State Bar Association proudly stood as a co-sponsor of the ABA resolution supporting the creation of a Diversity Pipeline to help guide young minority students to the law. With over 70 official sponsors of the resolution, Illinois stands with 20 state bar associations and numerous county, city and specialty bars, as well as ABA sections, in support of opening doors to offer opportunities to any student who aspires to a career in the law.
Under the leadership of ISBA President Irene Bahr and President Elect Joe Bisceglia, the ISBA has pledged its support for the development of programs which encourage more minorities to traverse the educational pipeline into the legal profession.
“For those afraid to dream, we recognize that we have a duty to instill in every student the knowledge that they can consider a career in the law, ” said Irene Bahr. “Currently lawyers of color make up just over 10 percent of the legal profession and there has been little movement in that statistic over the past decade. When we talk about a diversity pipeline, we must begin with children of color in every grade level. When a parent or relative asks a child what they want to be when they grow up, children should say “a lawyer” or “a judge” and believe that this is entirely within their grasp,” Bahr continued.
“Abraham Lincoln believed in the inalienable right of any American citizen to rise to their greatest potential. The ABA, the Illinois State Bar Association, and numerous others have taken this belief to heart and are now working to improve access to the profession,” said Joseph Bisceglia. “We need to inspire our children to stay in school, graduate and know that college is a very real option. And, once those students, with their dreams intact, are admitted to law school, we need to help keep them there.”
The Report and Recommendations of the Standing Committee on Minority and Women Participation, March 9, 2007, establishes goals and recommendations for the Illinois State Bar Association.
The Standing Committee recommended establishing a Task Force on Diversity in the Profession, with the following goals:
• Establish partnerships and work cooperatively with all Illinois law-related associations to form a consensus and action plan for leveling the playing field and opening doors to the legal profession.
• Serve as a clearinghouse for quality law-related education information via the ISBA Web site and publications and notify schools, educators, and educational professionals that these resources are available free of charge.
• Advocate for appropriate funding and quality programs. Support teacher training initiatives to improve understanding of the legal profession and law-related issues.
• Devise means to evaluate the effectiveness of any actions taken under these initiatives.
• Reach out to Illinois schools, grades K-12, and appropriate Illinois communities by utilizing the State Board of Education and educational associations.
• Ensure that students with a dream to enter the legal profession have the tools to find grants, scholarships, internships, work study programs, mentors, etc. Work to provide role models and encouragement in schools through speaker programs.
Having recognized that there is a problem, we are currently working on finding the most creative, efficient and cost-effective means to improve access to the legal profession for any and all students wishing to enter the profession.
The Report and Recommendations of the Standing Committee on Minority and Women Participation is available for review by contacting the Office of the Executive Director, 424 South Second Street, Springfield, Illinois 62701.
The American Bar Association’s Conference Report, is available for review at <http://www.abanet.org/op/pipelineconf/PipelinePostReport.pdf>.