ISBA President Jack Carey has authorized the continuation of the Task Force on Diversity for another year to continue several projects initiated during its first term.
The Task Force was appointed by Past President Joseph Bisceglia in late 2007 to pursue two major goals: (1) to develop a Diversity Pipeline Program, as recommended by participants at an ISBA Diversity Roundtable at the 2006 Midyear Meeting; and (2) to promote greater diversity in the Illinois legal community statewide and within the ISBA. The Task Force made substantial progress toward both of those goals under the leadership of its first chair, Lynn Grayson. In a July 2008 report to the Board of Governors, Grayson summarized some of the Task Force’s accomplishments, which included:
Pipeline Program. The Task Force’s Diversity Pipeline Subcommittee developed a proposal for a multi-faceted Future Leaders Program designed to expose more students of diverse backgrounds across the state to law as a career and to help them traverse the educational pipeline into the profession. The program would expand upon the work of the ISBA’s Law-Related Education Committee, which already offers a wide range of guest speakers and activities to expose high school, middle school, and grade school students to the law and legal careers. The proposal recommends building on that foundation with the development of summer Law Camps, in which Future Leaders would be exposed to various lawyering activities—such as mock trials, negotiation, interviewing and counseling, and problem-solving activities—as well as information about college preparation and professionalism. The key component of the program, however, is a one-on-one mentoring program that would link each Future Leader with a lawyer/mentor to help guide the student through law school and the bar exam, providing guidance at each point along the educational pipeline. The Pipeline Subcommittee is exploring ways to implement the proposal.
Statewide Diversity Survey. The Task Force’s Statewide Diversity Subcommittee completed a survey of diversity in the Illinois legal community in early 2008. The survey, conducted through the ISBA Web site, sought not only demographic information (age, date of law school graduation, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, and location of practice), but qualitative data regarding respondents’ satisfaction with matters such as: the quality of their legal work and the practice of law; the amount of client contact they have; the collegiality of their workplace; and the diversity of their office and the legal community at large. More than 3,000 lawyers participated in the survey, which is currently being analyzed by research analyst Albert J. Klumpp, PhD.
ISBA Report Card. The Task Force’s ISBA Subcommittee completed an internal survey to determine the level of diversity within our own organization. This survey, conducted informally by ISBA staff liaisons, looked at the gender, ethnicity, disability, and sexual orientation of members who serve in the ISBA leadership, committees, and section councils, as well as the diversity among the ISBA’s professional staff. The survey results are in preliminary form and are expected to be finalized shortly.
Diversity Outreach/Partnering. The Task Force supported and participated in several diversity outreach and awareness programs, including “Hire Big 10/Diversity in the Law 2008”; the Chicago Bar Association’s “Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges”; and the ISBA’s “Changing the Face of the ISBA: Tips on Running for Office of the ISBA” and “Legal Implications of Representing Unmarried Couples.”
Newsletters and Web site. Grayson coordinated the publication of two issues of the “Diversity Matters” newsletter to publicize task force events and other diversity news. She has also worked closely with the ISBA’s technology staff to develop a spot on the ISBA’s Web site devoted to diversity. The site, located at www.isba.org/diversity, contains a description of the Task Force’s mission and current projects, as well as links to the “Diversity Matters” newsletter; the Task Force’s 2008 report to the ISBA Assembly; the 2007 Diversity Pipeline Project Report; and the Web sites of the ISBA’s diversity-related committees, including the Standing Committees on Women and the Law, Minority and Women Participation, and Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.
Notwithstanding these accomplishments, the Task Force recognized last spring that it still had work to do. Grayson, therefore, asked President Carey to reappoint the Task Force to continue its work during his term.
Now chaired by Alice Noble-Allgire, the Task Force will work toward the following goals this year: (1) developing a concrete action plan to launch the Future Leaders Diversity Pipeline program; (2) developing action items to address diversity issues identified by the statewide diversity survey; (3) developing action items to improve diversity within the ISBA; (4) developing recommendations for using the ISBA’s CLE resources in relation to diversity goals; and (5) identifying institutional mechanisms to ensure the long-term support for Task Force projects and recommendations.