President's Message

Expanding Our Reach: New initiatives will promote and advance the four ABA goals

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Paulette Brown

Photo of ABA President Paulette Brown by Marc Hauser.

The American Bar Association's four goals are to serve our members, improve our profession, eliminate bias and enhance diversity, and advance the rule of law. As your new president, I am excited to move our goals forward with new initiatives that build on our commitment to defend liberty and deliver justice as the national representative of the legal profession.

Many of us have spent significant portions of our careers advocating for firms to hire, retain and promote more women and people from diverse backgrounds. This year, our new Commission on Diversity and Inclusion 360 will comprehensively examine diversity and inclusion in the legal profession and judicial system. We will develop sustainable action plans to best advance diversity and inclusion over the next 10 years.

Diversity and Inclusion 360 also will examine equal justice and rule-of-law issues. Statistical data demonstrate that too often, people of different races and backgrounds who commit the same offense and go before the same judge get disparate sentences. And none of us are exempt from implicit bias—the subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle messages we may unconsciously hold. Because implicit bias plays a role everywhere, including in the delivery of justice, we will develop implicit bias training materials to assist judges, prosecutors and public defenders.

The community for which we took an oath to serve should know that lawyers provide more pro bono service than any other profession. We will organize a national event called "And Justice for All: An ABA Day of Service," which will mobilize tens of thousands of lawyers on October 30 to volunteer their legal services. While improving our profession and advancing the rule of law, we will show the nation that lawyers matter, that we are committed to the service of others.

It is you, our members, who make the ABA's voice of the legal profession so strong. Our "ABA Everyday" initiative will provide a free membership benefit each day of my presidency to help our members expand their legal skills, deepen their connection to the legal community and make the most of their personal time.

We will include a practical, interactive toolkit that focuses on the professional needs of young lawyers. You can find a calendar of benefits in this issue of the ABA Journal.

Another initiative, "Main Street ABA," will reach out to communities across the country. Because it is never too early to consider the pipeline to our profession, I invite young lawyers and law students to join me for visits to Boys & Girls Clubs. It is important for young people to see a person of a similar background in a leadership position and to meet members of the legal profession, showing them what is possible, because it can be difficult to aspire to be something you don't see.

At the ABA's recent midyear and annual meetings, several young women from local Boys & Girls Clubs shadowed me for a day, meeting judges, lawyers, legal profession leaders and law students. It was a life-changing experience for them, allowing them to participate in new activities, gain new knowledge and insights, and consider law as a career.

Lawyers defend the rule of law and advocate for fairness and access to justice in our society. This is particularly meaningful in the coming year. In May, Law Day will highlight the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Miranda decision. In December, we will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the 13th Amendment, which formally abolished slavery in America.

As president, I will help broaden the ABA's reach so that all lawyers can feel welcome in our efforts, so that all young people in our communities can have lawyers to look up to, and so that justice is a reality—for all.

• Follow President Brown on Twitter @Brown4Lawyers.
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