To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:
The legal community has historically been a difficult place to succeed for people of diverse backgrounds.
Studies routinely show that from the perspective of demographic and cultural diversity and the concept of inclusion, while some meaningful efforts have been made to open the profession to all, minority representation in the legal field is still significantly lower than in other professions.
The New Jersey State Bar Association is dedicated to making solid strides toward opening the doors of leadership in the legal profession to people of diverse backgrounds.
One of my goals has been to provide opportunities for people to access the leadership pipeline and educate us about what can be done better -- from the inside out. To address this in a concrete way, I made sure that at least one-third of the appointments I made to fill our committees went to women and minorities.
Finding the right people meant meeting with leaders of specialty bar associations representing women and minorities to start a conversation. During that initial meeting, many of those attending expressed feelings of disenfranchisement and said communication between the state bar and specialty bar associations was lacking. That first gathering was many months ago, and we continue to work hard to maintain and foster a dialogue with the specialty bar associations by opening the New Jersey Law Center to those groups for meetings and inviting their leaders to take part in meetings of the association’s Diversity Committee.
These steps have allowed us all a forum to continue talking about the issues that matter, learning from each other’s experiences and identifying areas where we can make improvements and work together. In addition, planning is underway for the state bar association to hold its second annual Diversity Summit this coming spring. Over 50 people attended the first annual event in March, and we look forward to growing that audience at the upcoming summit. The gathering strives to raise awareness and foster the exchange of information and ideas to help find solutions to problems facing diverse members of the profession throughout the state.
The 2012 program is expected to focus on promoting diversity in the corporate world.
Taken together the state bar association believes these efforts represent real steps to ensuring the legal community better reflects the rich diversity that is integral to our great state’s history and future success.
Susan A. Feeney