Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)

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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.   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 Lawyers 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.

YouTube thumbnail of Magdalena Bordeaux
Click here to view the Diverse Voices of the Legal Profession videos

Beyond mentoring, the Diverse Lawyers Video project, and partnering with law academies around the state based on their needs and ask, our work in the space also includes planning a training for high school teachers to talk with their students about racial justice issues and societal changes;  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. Much of this work is done collaboratively with law school outreach programs and affinity bars around the state.    

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 Pipeline to Law projects are coordinated through our Diversity Equity and Inclusion Outreach Committee.  

Racial Justice

We're listening and learning.

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:

  1. Programming Sub-Committee plans educational programs, at times in collaboration with external organizations;
  2. 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;
  3. 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;
  4. 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 convenes an annual meeting of statewide diversity champions and stakeholders each February so that we may learn from each other, identify opportunities for collaboration and explore potential gaps in our collective work to diversify the profession.  

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.     

Diversity Awards 

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.  

Internal Efforts

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.  

CLA Policies

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.    

CLA’s DEI Committee is working on a project to encourage greater participation of diverse authors.  That project will be completed in 2021.    

Appointment Policy

To review the current appointments policy, see CLA’s Appointment Policies and Procedures.

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.  

CLA’s Associate Executive Director of External Relations and Initiatives is also available to work with CLA groups to discuss CLA wide diversity efforts or entity goals, statewide diversity data or how to create a diversity plan or diversity fellowship program.  Diversity Plans specifically include internal procedures to ensure diversity is a priority and whether pipeline work needs to be added.  If you would like to learn more about Section-specific diversity efforts, or if your Section is interested in pursuing a diversity plan, reach out to Ellen Miller.

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 Ellen Miller.

Committees

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.  

Our DOC Committee is complimented by our internally focused Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee that is focused 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 a diverse and inclusive organization.  

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:  

Promoting excellence, diversity and inclusion in the legal profession and fairness in the administration of justice and the rule of law.

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 
Organizations & Groups Dedicated to Promoting/Enhancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion 
Tips and Best Practices

For more information about CLA’s Initiatives contact: 

Ellen Miller, Associate Executive Director of External Relations and Initiatives  
(916) 516-1703 
Ellen.Miller@calawyers.org

Lauren Oakley, Initiatives Coordinator  
(916) 516-1721 Lauren.Oakley@calawyers.org

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