Introduction

The Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession (“Institute”) is a not-for-profit organization that, through educational programs, research and publications, will address the lack of diversity and inclusion that continues to challenge the legal profession and undermine its credibility within the justice system.


Mission and Vision

The mission and vision of the institute is to provide integrated, multifaceted, common sense programming and practical strategies aimed at facilitating a more diverse and inclusive legal profession that is reflective of the society which it serves, represents and counsels. This will be accomplished by:

1.       Providing practical, real world programming and strategies to successfully achieve diversity and inclusion goals; and,

2.       Educating lawyers as to the value and importance of diversity and inclusion within the legal profession and society in general.

The Institute develops, presents and implements programs, research and strategies to address the fundamental and historic challenges to diversity and inclusion with which the legal profession continues to grapple in its quest to achieve greater diversity and inclusion.

The Institute offers an innovative perspective and approach to legal diversity and inclusion efforts, focusing on collaborative and practical strategies.  Working cooperatively with all relevant stakeholders, including bar associations, law schools, corporate law departments, law firms of all sizes, and government agencies, the Institute addresses diversity in all its manifestations – race/ethnicity, gender, nationality, disabilities, LGBT, religion, geography, generation, etc. – appreciating different needs and recognizing the different strategies and resources that are integral to facilitating the level of collaboration and partnership needed to achieve success in its mission. Through the active participation of lawyers, judges and law students from a broad range of perspectives and its comprehensive and multifaceted approach, the Institute intends to lower, and eventually remove the barriers that have hindered diversity and inclusion efforts in the past.


The Need for the Institute

The lack of diversity and inclusion within the legal profession continues to challenge the very profession entrusted with the operation of the justice system and the representation of the diverse population that comprises current American society. The absence of diversity and inclusion has the potential to undermine the legitimacy of a system of justice for a diverse society.

Historically, diversity within the legal profession has been approached in a fragmented way by certain bar associations, proactive corporations recognizing business imperatives, and large law firms responding to the diversity mandates of corporate clients, among other things. While some progress has been made, meaningful diversity in the legal profession remains a largely unfulfilled aspiration. The reasons are many, but largely subsumed under the following:

·         Complexity of the challenges;

·         Limited perspective on the part of leaders;

·         Failure to engage all the facets of the profession;

·         Segmented or compartmentalized approaches; and,

·         Inability to marshal adequate resources.

Recognizing that previous and ongoing efforts to address the lack of diversity within the legal profession have not achieved desired levels of success, the Institute aims to pursue a different and more innovative approach to addressing these issues.


How the Institute Differs From Pre-Existing Organizations and Efforts

The Institute’s model is the next logical progression in decades of efforts to diversify the legal profession. The Institute, however, differs significantly from pre-existing organizations by:

1.       Advancing and achieving diversity and inclusion within the legal profession is the primary mission of the Institute – the Institute will not be forced to choose among a variety of important and compelling objectives. Many worthy organizations direct some effort to addressing the lack of diversity in the legal profession. For the Institute, this will be the focus of the organization.

2.       Promoting a comprehensive, integrated and multifaceted approach to its mission rather than making it specific to a particular practice area or practice setting within the profession – while some practice areas or practice settings may lend themselves to diversity and inclusion efforts more readily, isolated instances of success, while inspiring, are more likely to remain status quo or even lose ground in the face of an overwhelmingly non-diverse profession rather than permeate other parts of the profession.

3.       Implementing initiatives and activities directed toward the goal of diversifying the entire legal profession – for many organizations within the legal profession, diversity and inclusion efforts focus less upon the profession and more on the organization itself. The Institute’s focus is not upon its own diversity or that of its leadership or membership but rather to help lead the profession toward a long-desired goal.

4.       Drawing a broad-based constituency, as opposed to a particular racial or ethnic group, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion or other defining attribute or characteristic. The Institute recognizes and appreciates that the wide variety of different historical experiences, cultures, religious beliefs, social perspectives, etc. contribute to the challenge of diversifying the legal profession. It is keenly aware that there is no one-size-fits-all program or strategy that can satisfactorily address all of these challenges. Yet it also recognizes that while there is tremendous diversity within diversity, there is much that can and should be learned by all members of the legal profession if we are to have any hope of achieving meaningful and impactful goals where diversity and inclusion are concerned. The Institute believes that an integral part of its future success lies in its ability to appreciate the different resources and strategies that may be brought to bear to advance diversity and inclusion within different facets of the broader profession. The Institute will respect those differences while seeking opportunities to pool resources and create synergistic opportunities that will facilitate progress.

5.       Bringing together a broad coalition of stakeholders from all facets of the legal profession who will have a defined role in the Institute’s operations – the Institute will be unique in its determination to address diversity beyond the traditional venues of corporate law departments, large law firms, minority- and women-owned firms, and bar associations by actively seeking to engage all these facets of the profession as well as government agencies, law schools, and the judiciary in coordinated efforts.

6.       Offering programming designed to engage individuals or groups who historically have been excluded from diversity and inclusion efforts, except in the most limited ways, from the quest to diversify the legal profession. The Institute plans to actively engage and direct its programming to include all who value diversity and inclusion and want to work to promote the same at all levels of the profession.

Indeed, for anyone who has been following the legal profession’s efforts to diversify itself, the Institute is the next logical progression beyond what heretofore has been available.


Conclusion

The legal profession has been tackling the lack of diversity and inclusion within itself for more than two decades. There is diversity burnout and frustration that progress has been slower than might be expected in a profession that is characterized by achievement. The Institute represents the modern and logical progression of diversity and inclusion initiatives spanning several decades. It hopes to be a model and principle resource guiding those efforts in the 21st Century inasmuch as it will house the knowledge, experience and resources required to build upon the lessons of the past, better prepare for the future, and achieve meaningful diversity and inclusion within the legal profession.


   
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