Proposal for mandatory implicit bias training is rejected by Texas bar committee

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A State Bar of Texas committee has unanimously voted against a proposal to make implicit bias training mandatory for the state’s lawyers.

The bar’s minimum continuing legal education committee favored voluntary over mandatory training, Law.com reports here and here. The group considered the issue as it discussed making the training a voluntary way to earn credit for ethics continuing legal education.

John Boyce, the committee chairman, told the bar’s board of directors Friday that the next step is for the committee to draft regulations for the CLE, “so we don’t open the door to a whole kitchen sink of programs.” The board of directors has not yet voted on the proposal.

Rejection of the mandatory proposal has disappointed many members of the bar’s African American Lawyers Section, according to Rudy Metayer, chair of the section.

“People are livid about it. It is very disappointing to see where the bar is on this. This is not an issue that is going to go away,” Metayer told Law.com.

The bar proposal follows a controversy last year over online comments about Black Lives Matter made by State Bar of Texas President Larry McDougal. His comments, made in 2015, reportedly referred to Black Lives Matter as a terrorist group. McDougal apologized last year and said his views have changed since he wrote the post.

Sylvia Borunda Firth, the state bar’s president-elect, is leading a new Texas bar task force on diversity and inclusion. She sees problems with making implicit bias training mandatory.

“The people who are resisting it are probably the people who would benefit the most, but forcing them to attend a course they are resisting is not going to get the message across,” she told Law.com.

But counting the training toward ethics hours is “a step in the right direction,” she said.

Firth also suggested offering a certification for diversity and inclusion that could be displayed on a lawyer’s website or letterhead. It’s better to create incentives than requirements, she said.

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