FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT:
Robert L. Haig
BAR ASSOCIATIONS, LAW FIRMS, CORPORATIONS EMBRACE GROUNDBREAKING NYCLA DIVERSITY STATEMENTS
NEW YORK, November 25, 2003 – The New York County Lawyers’ Association (NYCLA) announced today significant achievements in its groundbreaking work on diversity in the legal profession.
NYCLA has recruited more than 70 bar associations, law firms and corporations to join NYCLA in two exciting new initiatives to increase diversity in the legal profession. Fifty- four bar associations have signed a NYCLA diversity statement (statement and signatories attached), marking the first time bar associations throughout New York State have joined in a statement committing them to efforts to increase diversity in the legal profession. In addition, 20 major law firms and corporations have also signed a diversity statement (statement and signatories attached), reflecting a new approach to increasing diversity that NYCLA believes will be more productive than prior initiatives. As the statement continues to circulate, more signatories are anticipated.
This approach is considerably different from past attempts to promote diversity, which laudably furthered national debate about diversity but were aspirational in nature and had no clearly measurable objectives. The signatories to prior statements were only asked to express support for the concept of diversity without making any commitments to specific actions. NYCLA has shifted the burden, recommending that law firms quantify the results of their diversity activities in terms of concrete hours and dollars, allowing corporate clients to determine how much of their work was provided by minority lawyers.
Accordingly, NYCLA’s diversity statement for law firms and corporations states that “[w]e believe that law firms should not object to requests by their corporate clients that the firms report the number of hours devoted to the clients’ matters by minority lawyers.” In addition, NYCLA’s statement provides that “[i] four clients decide that they wish to publicly report the amounts of legal fees which they pay for services rendered by minority lawyers…we would work with them to provide such numbers or estimates.”
In announcing the statements, NYCLA President Michael Miller stated, “Building on our original Report on Diversity in the Legal Profession, we have developed unprecedented alliances among bar associations and major providers of legal services to produce real breakthroughs in changing the face of the legal profession.”
NYCLA urges additional bar associations, law firms and corporations to sign these diversity statements in order to: (1) reflect and confirm their support for efforts to increase diversity in the legal profession; (2) engage the attention of their lawyers on the subject of diversity; and (3) focus attention on practical strategies for achieving meaningful diversity in bar associations, law firms and corporations.
NYCLA’s recent work on diversity began with the Report of its Task Force to Increase Diversity in the Legal Profession, published in 2002. The Task Force was created to study and evaluate the current status of minorities in the legal profession and to develop concrete recommendations that would increase diversity at all levels. Hon. Juanita Bing Newton, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives, chairs the Task Force. The Report, which is available at www.nycla.org, sets forth recommendations in nine principal areas: recruitment, retention, promotion, mentoring, training, support groups, quality of professional life, best practices and specific proposals for future actions.
Commenting on the Report, Chief Judge of the State of New York Judith S. Kaye stated:
I congratulate Judge Newton and the County Lawyers’ Task Force on reaching beyond the recognition of the need to increase diversity, and actually identifying ways to accomplish that important goal. The specific proposals certainly bear careful consideration by all of us, and additionally are seeds for new ideas that can be widely replicated.
In addition, Charles R. Morgan, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of BellSouth Corporation, and Chair of the Committee of Corporate General Counsel of the American Bar Association’s Section of Business Law, observed:
NYCLA’s Report provides important leadership toward increasing diversity in the legal profession. The Report’s recommendations of concrete, practical steps which law organizations should take deserve serious consideration by law firm leaders and corporate general counsel throughout the United States.
NYCLA sent copies of its Report to bar associations and to leading law firms and corporations for their consideration and asked them to work with NYCLA to implement the Report’s recommendations. NYCLA also asked representatives of those organizations to attend a meeting at NYCLA to discuss an action plan for implementation of these recommendations. The diversity statements, announced today, signed by the bar and major providers of legal services, were a direct result of these meetings.
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