ABA Annual Meeting

Create more opportunities for demographically diverse attorneys, House of Delegates urges

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Hands meeting in the center

A resolution urging legal services providers—large law firms, in-house legal departments and others—to expand opportunities for attorneys of all backgrounds met with strong approval in the ABA’s House of Delegates Monday afternoon.

On a day when several measures on diversity and inclusion in the legal profession met with support in the ABA’s House of Delegates, Resolution 113, sponsored by the Diversity & Inclusion Commission 360, encountered no strong opposition.

Former ABA President Dennis Archer, who received the American Bar Medal at the ABA General Assembly on Friday, moved it on behalf of the commission. He gave a long list of ABA entities and national bar groups supporting the resolution. Chair Patricia Lee Refo called numerous delegates forward to speak in favor of the resolution.

Many argued that there’s a business case for diversity. Alan Bryan, senior associate general counsel of Wal-Mart, speaking with privileges of the floor, noted that this is one way to serve Wal-Mart’s diverse customers. Wendy Shiba (PDF), who retired as general counsel of KB Home and was a delegate from the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, said she’s witnessed firsthand the difference between being the only woman of color on a team and working with a more diverse team.

Mark Alcott, a delegate from New York and of counsel to Paul Weiss, spoke in support of the resolution, but he called on the association to expand the groups under its umbrella beyond those covered by ABA’s Goal III. In particular, he called for the inclusion of age and religion.

“Religion is particularly important at this time when Islamophobia is rampant throughout the world, when Christian minorities are persecuted [overseas], when anti-Semitism is on the rise on college campuses,” he said.

Resolution 113 passed with no audible opposition.

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