Member Groups

Diversity Matters
The newsletter of the ISBA’s Diversity Leadership Council

June 2008, vol. 2, no. 1

Why diversity matters. . .

The members of the Standing Committee on Women and the Law and the Standing Committee on Minority and Women Participation share their views on why diversity matters to them.

“Diversity matters because being a diverse profession allows attorneys to reflect the cultures, values, and diversity of our clients, and to bring different cultural, racial, ethnic, religious and gender perspectives to bear in order to more effectively solve problems for our clients and the community.”

“There is strength in diversity, and I want to be as strong as I can be. . . .”

“We, as lawyers, have been given great power and responsibility in preserving the health of our democracy. Our various colors, national origins, genders, religions and sexual preferences are irrelevant to our worthiness to shoulder those burdens, yet allow us as a profession to understand and ably represent every combination of those constituencies. Hearing every voice makes us stronger as a nation.”

“Lawyers strive to ensure that our clients receive equal justice under the law. In the absence of meaningful diversity in all aspects of the legal system, namely diversity that reflects the communities where we live and work, it is more difficult, and sometimes impossible, to achieve equal justice for everyone. A truly diversified bar is critical in making sure that all the citizens of Illinois receive the rights and protections to which they are entitled. The ISBA can and should be a leader in promoting and advancing diversity within the Illinois legal community as a whole and within the ISBA as an organization.”

“The interpretation of the law is influenced by a person’s background and life experiences. Because we are a diverse nation, we need lawyers with diverse backgrounds to interpret and draft the law within our Constitutional frame-work. The legal profession, therefore, should be inclusive of all peoples and many ideas.

When a client has a legal issue to solve, the client must feel confident that his or her voice will be heard, no matter his background, gender, color or faith. If the client can see diversity in the legal profession, the client will feel more confident that he has received a fair resolution of his legal issue.”

“Diversity matters because diversity in the legal profession promotes the public’s perception of an equal and fair judicial system.”

“Diversity is critical to the legitimacy of our judicial system and the rule of law. If our justice system does not reflect the diversity of our community, it will lose credibility and respect among those who feel their views and circumstances are not being fairly represented within the system. Accordingly, we must have diversity not only on the bench, where we have placed great authority for decision-making, but also among lawyers, who have been granted a special privilege to represent the interests of those with business before the courts and a corresponding responsibility to understand the clients’ unique needs and circumstances.

For those who are less altruistic, diversity is important to a law firm’s bottom line. The American popula- tion is becoming increasingly diverse and our legal business is transcending our national borders. Law firms that appreciate and embrace diversity—in their personnel and within the law firm environment as a whole—will be best positioned to attract this diverse clientele and thrive.”

“Diversity matters because in order to embrace everyone we must recognize each person’s uniqueness.”

“Daily, I am dazzled by the different cultures, characters, and skin colors that I encounter. I am enriched and often surprised by what I learn about other individuals, and ever-hopeful that they feel the same about me because of how I value myself. Understanding and accepting differences among individuals and cultures helps me feel less insular, more alive, and more awed by the wonder of life. If only...if only...if only..., then perhaps we wouldn’t find it necessary to judge, hurt and kill one another.”

“Actions speak louder than words. I didn’t realize the true power of our efforts to diversify the legal profession until I found myself at the Daley Center on the fourth floor with two teams of high school students as they competed in the Citywide Mock Trial Program sponsored by Sidley and Austin LLP and Chief Judge Timothy Evans. Our team from Benito Juarez High School made up of predominately Hispanic high school students was split into two separate courtrooms. We faced two teams, one for the plaintiff and one for the defense. To see these timid, unsure teenagers blossom into witnesses and attorneys in the program gave me real tangible hope that some day the face(s) of the legal profession will change. And to watch the competition among the various teams, made up of a truly diverse group of students from all over the city gave me hope that if we focus our efforts throughout the educational continuum, we will see real tangible benefits in the legal profession and society as a whole. All the students who participated were absolutely fantastic. The direct, the cross, the objections, the rebuttal and of course, the mesmerizing closing arguments had all the students chattering in the halls when it was done as if they just presented in front of the United States Supreme Court. Hope is on the horizon so if you get a chance, sign up to volunteer somewhere, somehow.”

“Diversity allows individuals from different backgrounds to learn from one another, grow and work together.”

“Diversity matters because it leads to the creation of better problem solving models. Without diversity creativity can be stunted. Without diversity it becomes a struggle to brainstorm new and innova- tive ideas and problem solve because everyone has the same mind set, the same worldview. With the same or similar mindsets people are less capable of bringing divergent perspectives, experiences, knowledge or histories to the table. For me diversity matters most especially for those of us involved in conflict resolution as it allow us to tap into the vast creativity which only diverse experi- ences and perspectives can bring.”

“Diversity in the legal profession not only benefits clients who have diverse backgrounds and needs but also law- yers and Judges. Connecting with other lawyers and Judges with diverse backgrounds like ethnicity, gender, religion, etc. educates other lawyers and Judges as to differences in perspective on the law and life in general. A broadened understanding of the role of diversity and its impact on life and the profession enables us to better serve our clients and also have a more well-rounded experience as lawyers and as individuals.”