What is the Diversity & Inclusion 360 Commission?

If you are considering a law career, you may want to hear more about the Diversity & Inclusion 360 Commission. This commission was instituted by Paulette Brown, the president of the American Bar Association from 2015-2016. Only the third African-American to be elected to that position, she used her time and influence wisely by calling for a year-long commission to study issues of inclusion and diversity in the American law profession and to develop plans that would help the profession grow in tangible ways in that area.

Why the Commission Was Called For

While many professions in the United States are well integrated or becoming increasingly more so, the law profession has tended to lag behind in diversity. Eighty-eight percent of lawyers working in the U.S. are white. As a Washington Post article written in 2015 pointed out, the membership of the legal profession “needs to be as inclusive as the populations it serves.”

The American Bar Association (ABA) seems to agree. In 2015, drawing on one of their four core goals, the ABA decided to establish a commission to do something concrete towards eliminating bias and increasing diversity in the profession. The Commission was led by Eileen Letts and David Wolfe. Under their leadership, and the work of many who cooperated with them in the undertaking, they produced a report. You can read the commission’s report online.

Some of the Findings and Conclusions of the Commission

Even an overview of the commission’s work would be long, but here are a few highlights. Primarily, they created policies to help the ABA accomplish its goal of increasing diversity in the law profession. They also pulled together a number of resources, including videos and other online resources, to help people examine the issue of bias in the legal profession and to think about creative ways to address that issue.

One of the resources they put together was an online database called the National Pipeline Diversity Initiatives Directory. Users can search the database for programs that help students at different ages and stages (from preschool through law school) who are interested in pursuing the law as a career. Another project they initiated was a collaboration with the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, which seeks to both make more aware and to recruit people in the military who might be interested in pursuing a career in law. The commission also created a web portal which can be used to search for all information and programs pertaining to diversity within the ABA. They also created videos that address the issue of “implicit bias” (stereotypes that unconsciously affect understanding and decisions) in the U.S. justice system. These videos and a toolkit to go with them can be used to make judges and lawyers more aware of their own biases and to address those biases in ways that will enhance fairness in the justice system.

These are just a handful of the findings and work of the commission. No matter your race or ethnicity, if you are exploring a law career or currently studying law, it is worth exploring those findings in full or at least gaining an overview of the Diversity & Inclusion 360 Commission.