The California Lawyers Association is deeply committed to diversifying the profession and bench so access to justice can be achieved by all, and the profession mirrors the unique and broad diversity in our state. This is long term work, and involves a multi-faceted approach that includes resource development and outreach to support the pipeline, mentoring, stakeholder convening, and advocacy. These are just a few of the projects we are currently working on:
- Developing educational tools for K-12 to support the early pipeline i.e. the Diverse Lawyers Video Project that helps lawyers, judges and teachers talk to students about the profession and how it is an available path for all
- Outreach to college students about law school and the legal profession (i.e. CLA’s Business Law LS Roadshow)
- Creating opportunities to mentoring diverse law students
- Creating and supporting practice area Diversity Fellowship Programs for law students:
- Convening the annual meeting of diversity champions in the state
- Judicial Diversity Summit
- Educating CLA members and other bar association about the diversity gap in California and the critical gap in LatinX representation
- Monitoring policy and legislation and advocating either at the ABA House of Delegates or in the legislature
- Joint projects with California Judicial Council and California Judges Association including educational programming on how to become a judge
Externally Focused Work
Pathway to Law
Our external work is focused around the fact that the diversity of the profession does not reflect that of California’s overall population as noted by the State Bar of California’s First Annual Report Card on the Diversity of California’s Legal Profession and the subsequent 2022 Diversity Report Card. We work on several mentoring and outreach efforts as part of our pathway to law school work.
One way to improve the diversity of the legal profession is to focus on students. Working with a variety of partners like CaliforniaLAW, LEAP, and CLA’s Civics Outreach Committee, we are matching volunteer attorneys (especially diverse attorneys) with middle schools, high schools, community colleges, 4 year colleges and other pipeline support partners. This is a critical part of our outreach work, allowing students to form one on one connections with diverse lawyers to start conversations, discuss concerns or perceived obstacles and to begin the process of identifying that they too could be lawyers and that law school is within reach. If you would like to schedule an outreach/engagement activity for students (virtual classroom, law academy, community college, undergrad, law students, etc.) with diverse legal practitioners, click here.
The Diverse Voices of the Legal Profession video project is an informal series of interviews with diverse speakers to help support these connections with students. The videos cover why the diverse lawyer decided to pursue their profession and how their own diversity either impacted their pathway to the profession or helped them along the way. You can watch this collection of videos on YouTube directly or click the drop down menu below. This project is co-sponsored by the California Lawyers Foundation.
Click here to view the Diverse Voices of the Legal Profession videos
Beyond the programs and efforts noted above, our work in the space also includes a Know Your Rights program tailored to high school seniors and an outline of what some diverse law students wished they knew before they went to law schools, “What I Wish I Knew About 1L/Law School“. Much of this work is done collaboratively with law school outreach programs and affinity bars around the state.
The California Lawyers Association (CLA) has created a collection of scholarship, fellowship, externship, and clerkship opportunities available to diverse undergraduate students, law school students, and recent law school graduates which are awarded by outside agencies. Click here to access the collection.
In addition, CLA’s Business Law Section has developed college and law school “Roadshows” where students meet diverse lawyers and learn about a day in the life of a lawyer and what a business lawyer does. This roadshow program will be expanded in CLA . The students who attend the Roadshows can sign up for a mentor and be paired with a volunteer attorney mentor. As the number of available volunteer attorneys grows, ideal pairings based on substantive or professional interest will be more likely. The students must then take the initiative to contact his/her assigned mentor with the understanding that the mentor has agreed to engage a minimum of two times. If the pairing is a good fit, a mentor/mentee relationship may continue beyond the two interactions. Even if not continued, the students walk away with more insight than before an additional contact for their network. If you would like to schedule a roadshow event for your community college, undergrad, or law students, please click here.
Most of these Pathway to Law projects are coordinated through our Diversity Outreach Advisory Committee.
Judicial Diversity Summit
Stronger Together: Judicial Diversity Summit was the fourth summit in the series focusing on the status of diversity in the California Judiciary and is co-sponsored by the California Judges Association, the California Lawyers Association and the Judicial Council of California. Prior summits were convened in 2006, 2011 and 2016. The 2021 Summit served as a five-year review of accomplishments since 2016 and will encourage open dialogue on key issues and solutions impacting judicial diversity. The next Summit will take place in 2026.
In 2021, the Summit took place over three consecutive Tuesdays in September: September 14, 21 and 28 beginning at 4:30 p.m. Leading up to the Summit, we hosted a series of “pre-sessions” in August & September. These weekly educational sessions, planned by affinity associations, addressed different facets of the pathway to the bench. The intended audience for the summit was judicial officers, attorneys, and law students.
After the killing of George Floyd, CLA created the Racial Justice Committee. This statewide effort addresses issues regarding racial injustice and reform. All California lawyers, regardless of CLA membership, are welcome to join. We focus on four main areas of content: public education, member education, member engagement, and legislative/other advocacy efforts. This CLA-wide committee meets monthly on the 3rd Tuesday of each month at noon. Four sub-committees are working on specific projects including:
- Programming Sub-Committee plans educational programs, at times in collaboration with external organizations;
- Policy Sub-Committee researches and pursues systemic change through the legislature. This group has also brought three resolutions to the ABA House of Delegates on racial justice issues;
- Publications Sub-Committee worked with the Litigation Section to produce a special issue of California Litigation which focused on civil rights and racial justice content;
- Resources Sub-Committee works to curate and produce meaningful resources for both the public and legal practitioners to assist those seeking to enact change.
Members and leaders of the Racial Justice Committee are willing and available to talk with students about the legal profession and racial justice issues in society and the law. If you would like to coordinate an event with our volunteer attorneys, please click her to complete a brief online form.
Convenings and Collaborations
CLA also convenes a variety of meetings with stakeholders to help facilitate coordination and collaboration and/or co-develop projects. In particular, CLA convened statewide diversity champions and stakeholders so that we may learn from each other, identify opportunities for collaboration and explore potential gaps in our collective work to diversify the profession. Click here to view the report from the February 5, 2021 inaugural convening.
CLA also proudly partners with the Judicial Council to help pave the way for judicial diversity. To learn more about the hope the bench can partner with local communities, and how you might assist, please review the Judicial Council’s Pathway to Diversity Toolkit. Every four years, CLA co-convenes the annual Judicial Diversity Summit with the Judicial Council and the California Judges Association. The next Summit is scheduled for Fall 2021.
Celebrating Those Committed to Diversity
Each year, CLA celebrates organizations and law firms that significantly contribute to diversifying the profession.
CLA’s Diversity Awards are to recognize outstanding efforts made by a law firm, bar association, or organization to promote diversity in the legal profession, in their organization or among their peers. To learn more, or to submit a nomination, click here.
We are also taking a hard look at our own house, to ensure our policies promote inclusion and that we are creating opportunities for those entering the profession. This also requires a multi-faceted approach.
Diversity in Education and Publications
CLA’s Model Diversity in Education Policy now requires at least 1 non-male speaker and a 1 person color in all CLA-wide educational programs and webinars with 3 or more speakers. Specifically…
- For webinars, panels or seminars that have 3 or 4 speakers at least 1 non-male speaker and at least 1 person of color should be included.
- For webinars, panels or seminars that have 5-8 speakers at least 2 non male speakers and at least 2 people of color (or 1 person of color for 5 speaker panels) should be included.
- For multi panel programs, conferences and events this policy will apply to each component rather than the entire event. For reference, a person of color is defined as a non-Caucasian person.
- For purposes of this model policy, moderators are not speakers.
Sections also have diversity policies that apply to section-specific work.
At the direction of the CLA Board of Representatives, the DEI Committee crafted revisions to CLA’s Appointment Policies and Procedures which were unanimously adopted in January 2023. The revisions to the policy and procedures generally prioritize consideration of the the immutable qualities of applicants among others and establishes a two-prong benchmark with a goal to be realized within five years of adoption.
Section & Committee Diversity Plans, Presentations, and Diversity Fellowship Programs
CLA has developed a Diversity Plan Toolkit to assist Sections and Committees to create an entity-level diversity plan tailored to the specific needs, goals, and vision of each group.
Several CLA Sections have created either Diversity Fellowship Programs or Scholarships to support law students by creating opportunities within the practice area. These include the Environmental Law Section, the Antitrust and Unfair Competition Section and the Labor and Employment Section, most of which are co-sponsored by the California Lawyers Foundation. To learn more about these DFPs, or to create a DFP program, please contact Lauren Oakley.
CLA’s Diversity Outreach Advisory (DOC) Committee reviews and creates opportunities for CLA members to volunteer or advance diversity, equity, and inclusion projects. Four sub-committees have been formed to focus on: (1) the 2021 Judicial Diversity Summit, (2) a diverse lawyer video project, (3) providing support to diversity pipeline organizations, and (4) creating outreach and mentor opportunities for law students.
The 2023 DOC is comprised of: Tristan Higgins, Chair; Leslie Abrigo; Arezou Bakhtjou; Heather Benton; Brooke Brooks; Josephine Broussard; Kathlynn Cadiente; Mario Choi; Valarie Dean; Terrance Evans; Huff; Serena Lee; Melissa Lelaind; Cuauhtemoc Ortega; Joanne Saint-Louis; Timothy Alan Simon; Kristin Smith; Lisa Stalteri; Brenda Suttonwills; Stephen Zollman; and Ryan Harrison, COAF Liaison.
The DOC Committee is complimented by our internally focused Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee that focuses on increasing diversity in the CLA and creating opportunities for more inclusion in the association. A major focus of the DEI Committee’s work has been to improve the diversity of our volunteer leadership ranks and craft policies in support of a diverse and inclusive organization.
The 2023 DEI Committee is comprised of: Toni Jaramilla, Chair; Sean Hecht, Immediate Past Chair; Kimberly Bick; Cara Ching-Senaha; Soyeun Choi; Brett Cook; Heather Dadashi; Terrance Evans; Jana FitzGerald; Sharon Glancz; Michael Iseri; David McCray; Letitia Moore; Mariana Paula Noli; Kyle O’Malley; Hon. Magdalena Reyes Bordeaux; Steen Vong; Jenny Wang; Michael Weinstein; and Jenny Yelin
We are working towards a diverse and inclusive CLA professional team with the cultural competency to work across lines of difference among our membership, one another and members of the profession and public with whom the team interacts. The CLA team has adopted a culture of positivity, collaboration, and accountability which is bolstered regularly with quarterly staff trainings. Policies drafted by the DEI Committee have assisted CLA with this effort directly.
Opportunities to Get Involved
If you are interested in volunteering for any of these efforts, see the Opportunities to Get Involved below.
IMMEDIATE & INTERNAL OPPORTUNITIES TO VOLUNTEER:
- The DOC Committee is creating a speaker bureau of individuals who can mentor, present or participate in programming for the high school and community college partner schools of CaliforniaLAW across the state. To sign up for the speaker bureau, please contact DOC Co-Chair, Somita Basu.
- The DOC Committee and the Criminal Law Section are both pursuing diverse lawyer video projects featuring diverse practitioners and judges across the state. If you are interested in participating in this video series, please send an email to Lauren Oakley, CLA Initiatives Coordinator.
- The California Lawyers Association regularly adds to our library of video content including public service informational videos, the diverse lawyer video project noted immediately above, free trainings for lawyers, and much more. The majority of these videos are currently only available in English, only serving a fraction of the diverse California population. If you are multilingual please consider volunteering to either translate closed captions or re-record an existing video in a language other than English. Email Lauren Oakley to learn more about what is involved or to volunteer.
- CLA is getting ready to launch a mentorship program for diverse law students. This program guarantees the student with a minimum of two interactions with their assigned mentor and requires that the students initiate contact. If you are interested in serving as a mentor, please email Lauren Oakley.
EXTERNAL & OTHER OPPORTUNITIES TO VOLUNTEER:
CaliforniaLAW is always looking for volunteers to participate in their various programs including mentorships and programming for high school and community college students, training for faculty, speakers for the Annual Pathway to Law Summit, and much more. Click here to sign up as a volunteer.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Resources
Diversity and inclusion work is at the core of our mission:
Want to learn more about why CLA is so committed to diversifying the profession? The collection of resources below demonstrate the critical need in our state – click the categories below to expand.
Diversity Reports & Analysis
- Report Card on the Diversity of California’s Legal Profession, The State Bar of California (2020)
- Bar Brief: Diversity & Inclusion in the California Legal Profession, The State Bar of California (2019)
- Bar Brief: New State Bar Attorney Census Captures an Emerging Multiracial Population, The State Bar of California (2019)
- Bar Brief: Employment Patterns Among California Attorneys, The State Bar of California (2019)
- Judicial Nominees Evaluation Reports, The State Bar of California
- Report on Racial and Ethnic Bias in the Courts, Judicial Council Advisory Committee (1997) … Executive Summary thereof
- Organizations & Groups Dedicated to Promoting/Enhancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Organizations & Groups Dedicated to Promoting/Enhancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Tips and Best Practices
- Tips on Completing Your Application for a Superior Court Appointment, The State Bar of California, Council on Access and Fairness (2019)
For more information about CLA’s Initiatives contact:
Lauren Oakley, Initiatives Coordinator
(916) 516-1721 Lauren.Oakley@calawyers.org