To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:
When the New York County Lawyers’ Association was founded in 1908, it was the first major bar association in the United States to admit members without regard to race, ethnicity, religion or gender. Since then, the organization has led the way in supporting diversity in the New York legal community by expanding its efforts to promote diversity in new areas.
Throughout the Association’s history it has met the needs of this diverse community – a melting pot, filled with members from distinctive backgrounds, cultures and races – and this month, African American History Month, we celebrate our past and present efforts to promote diversity in the legal profession.
When NYCLA’s first members were practicing in the early 20th century, the legal field was male-dominated and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues were far from being at the forefront of discussion. In the last century, the legal field and NYCLA have come a long way, opening the doors to new areas of discussion from women’s rights to LGBT and other issues. Today, fifty percent of NYCLA members are female and, of course, NYCLA was in strong support of New York’s legislation legalizing gay marriage.
Many of NYCLA’s committees support the organization’s diversity goals. For example, there is the Minorities and the Law Committee, which examines issues of relevance to minority attorneys and law students. It also oversees the Hon. Harold Baer and Suzanne Baer Minority Judicial Intern Program, which provides stipends to law students of color who are placed as interns with federal and state court judges.
The Women’s Rights Committee helps advance the work of women in the legal field in New York. It works to assure equal rights and opportunities for women in the legal profession and the treatment of women by the legal system. The Asian Practice Committee promotes legal and business communications between New York and Asian countries. Members share experiences and insights about Asian law, interact with lawyers in Asia and grow Asia-related practices.
In honor of African American History month, together with the Metropolitan Black Bar Association, NYCLA will honor Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, with the 10th annual Ida B. Wells-Barnett Justice Award. Each year the organizations present the Award, named for Ms. Wells-Barnett, one of the first African American women to run for public office in the United States, to a woman of color who life reflects her spirit and courageousness by distinguishing herself in the right for racial and gender equality. The 10th annual award presentation will take place on Tuesday, February 21st, at the Home of Law, 14 Vesey Street, Manhattan at 6 p.m. – all are welcome to attend.
If you are not already a NYCLA member, I encourage you to join our network of more than 9,000 attorneys, judges, academics and law school students and take advantage of our wide-array of membership benefits including our many committees and sections, CLE courses, publications, mentor and pro bono programs, members-only networking and career-focused events, member directory, Career Center, and more. Visit nycla.org or call 212-267-6646 to join.
Stewart D. Aaron