ABA Annual Meeting

Brown touts successes with pro bono and diversity initiatives in final remarks as ABA president

Paulette Brown addresses the ABA House of Delegates

Paulette Brown addresses the ABA House of Delegates in her final speech as ABA president. Photo by Tony Avelar.

ABA President Paulette Brown offered her final remarks this morning to the ABA House of Delegates, capping off her historic year as the first female African-American president of the association—and perhaps the most-traveled.

When accepting the gavel as president last year, Brown promised significant efforts for diversity and inclusion, hewing to Goal III of the American Bar Association Mission: Eliminate bias and enhance diversity. She proudly ticked off a list of efforts by the association, its entities and lawyers around the country during the past year.

“We achieved all of that and more,” she said.

One of the highlights is the work by the Diversity & Inclusion 360 Commission. Brown created the commission to take a hard look the current levels of diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, the judicial system and the ABA, with an eye to developing ways to address discrepancies. The commission has come with a number of policies, online tools and videos for practical ways to address problems.

“We are so excited that Microsoft agreed to create a diversity and inclusion app,” Brown said. “When asked what we can do about diversity, you can say ‘Well there’s an app for that.’”

Brown also noted that, “We all understand that inclusion of one group does not mean to the exclusion of another.”

As part of Brown’s Main Street USA initiative to reach out to ABA members around the country, she visited all 50 states, the District of Columbia and two territories. Brown, a partner with Locke Lord in Morristown, New Jersey, met with many local bar associations and other lawyers. She also met with various community groups, where people were excited to meet the president of the ABA.

“And even at the annual meeting, I have been approached several times with members telling me ‘We had our highest attendance ever at our state bar meeting,’ or ‘People don’t believe when I tell them the president of the ABA came to our town.’”

Brown also visited more than 40 Boys & Girls clubs around the country, speaking with the children about hopes and dreams and the possibility of them becoming lawyers.

“I hoola-hooped; danced the Nae Nae; took selfies; I read and answered great questions I could never imagine,” Brown said, “including how many types of lawyers there are and whether, because of my age, I knew any abolitionists.”

Brown also noted the ABA’s efforts in promoting pro bono work, with the ABA Day of Service initiative. Brown said tens of thousands of lawyers representing 540 organizations participated in nearly 900 registered events in 44 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and six other countries, adding, “I volunteered at a senior law clinic helping the elderly with important legal tasks.”

Brown turns the gavel over to her successor, Linda A. Klein, on Monday afternoon at the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

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