Member Groups

The Challenge
The newsletter of the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Racial and Ethnic Minorities and the Law

March 2008, vol. 18, no. 3

Letter from the Chair: A call to action

Tapping away in a laptop into the wee hours of the night, clicking through sites trying to find that one bit of information that will make you shine at work, that will wrap up the perfect research assignment, that will get the naysayers and critics to stop redlining your work and forwarding your e-mails is a like a frenzied rush to the finish line at the Chicago or Boston Marathon. There is so much more to the profession, although the little victories in life and the law are sweet justice. Everybody needs a win every now and again. The Standing Committee on Minority and Women Participation and President Joe Bisceglia’s Task Force on Diversity are calling you to action. 

For example, I have been fortunate enough to help out with the Mock Trial Program sponsored by the Chicago Bar Association, Chief Judge Timothy Evans and a premier law firm. The joy of teaching our future lawyers, whose eyes light up when you demonstrate how to mark an exhibit for identification, approach an invisible opposing counsel table and ask permission of the pretend judge to approach a high school student in a mock trial class cannot be expressed in words. They all suddenly wake up and giggle nervously when you shout out, “Objection, foundation!” and then throw in a bellowed baritone drone, “Sustained.” You have to live it. And so do the future lawyers. 

My letter this month is a call to action. From the hallowed oak-lined halls or your small cubicle in a ho hum office building, you must extricate yourself and do something for the next generation of lawyers. Think of one simple thing, maybe two, you can do to promote a more diverse legal profession. Have you shared your career path with anyone lately? Have you offered to be on a discussion panel? Have you gone online and reached out to a local law school in search of some way you can give back to the profession that you love (or loath) so much? For me those are great ideas, but it means so much more. We do a lot of planning and talking as lawyers, but why reflect and plan from a high level when you can get out there in your community and make a difference? I have been around some of the most amazingly driven and exciting people (who just happen to be lawyers, too) in the last year and I can’t imagine what we can’t do together. But what can you do? 

There are grade schools and high schools all over this incredible state starved for role models. Have you ever thought of just calling up your alma mater, whether it be a grade school, high school or university and offered to volunteer for something, anything? I did and they asked me to help out with the mock trial team. They brought me in to talk about the Dream Act and the prospects of seeing real immigration reform. They asked me to come out and be “Principal for a Day,” and the next thing you know I am walking along chatting with Maggie Daley about the incredible murals in the school. Lift your head from the books, from the courthouses, from the long commutes, from the doldrums and hunger pangs of working long hours, and breathe, even if just for one day. Have you thought about attending one of the many seminars or CLEs that our committee has put on? We are always looking for new and dynamic speakers. 

Maybe none of that meets the needs of your busy schedule. There are some other equally exciting opportunities for those who need a nexus between their efforts and the bottom line. Maybe that means that this year you offer to do judicial evaluations, or sit on a committee in your law firm, or take a leadership role at work or in the legal community that brings more clients to the door. Maybe you crave some other legal challenge and are waiting at the precipice for a nudge: well, here it is. Go for it and we will be there to celebrate your success with you.