I look forward to working with you during my year as Chair of the Illinois State Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Racial and Ethnic Minorities and the Law. We have had a great start to the year. Our Standing Committee’s meeting at the ISBA’s Annual Meeting in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin was a success. Our committee also co-sponsored the 18th Annual Networking Breakfast, along with the Standing Committee on Women and the Law and Southern Illinois University School of Law, bringing together dozens of female attorneys for some time to get to know each other, laugh, and possibly create new friendships.
ISBA President, Paula H. Holderman, graciously stopped by our committee meeting. I applaud her selection of women and diversity in the legal profession as a focus area of her presidency. I note the ISBA currently has a program that introduces high school students to the legal profession, a running start for Paula to build on. Such programs are vital for minorities to enter the legal profession and were missing in my life. Growing up I did not know any attorneys. My limited exposure to the legal profession came from television. I watched NBC’s “The Cosby Show,” and admired Clair Huxtable who was a lawyer, a mother, and a wife. Clair made partner in a law firm during the show. I wanted to be Clair Huxtable and was fortunate in achieving that goal.
How often do you think about diversity? According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary (Online), diversity has multiple definitions, one of which is: “an instance of being composed of differing elements or qualities.” Diversity allows people to bring differing elements or qualities to organizations and workplaces. Diversity means diverse views, opinions, and culture. Exposure to a different opinion can change the way people think.
Our Standing Committee is currently working on a continuing legal education program about diversity in law firms. Maya Angelou once stated, “We allow our ignorance to prevail upon us and make us think that we can survive alone, alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, and even alone in genders.” We cannot survive alone; we need diversity in the legal profession.
Jameika Mangum ■