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Blomquist: Embracing Diversity for the Greater Good

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blomquist-kerryI sat down to write this column about recognizing the strengths in our diversity in the middle of the 2013 federal governmental shutdown…it was challenging at best. But then I thought the timing was perfect. Right now, it is pretty obvious that we spend much more time highlighting our differences than highlighting our many similarities. In the end, we have to rely on our abilities to focus on the latter to work for the greater good. It was Indira Gandhi who said, “You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.”

October has been designated “Diversity Awareness Month” by the American Bar Association. I know this because I am on the National Conference of Bar Presidents’ (NCBP) Diversity Committee and as such I get to work with some great bar leaders to promote the best and most effective diversity programs, initiatives and ideas from all different levels of the organized bar. Diversity refers to meaningful representation of and equal opportunities for individuals who self-identify with those groups that are historically under-represented in the legal profession.

This is an increasingly important issue for us as lawyers and as managers of lawyers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by the middle of this century white Americans will comprise less than 50 percent of the population of the United States. It is critical that diversity within the legal profession keep up with the overall growth of diversity in our communities. It’s a sound business conclusion because that represents an overlooked but substantial book of business. It is a clear ethical conclusion because as leaders of this bar and of this profession, we must help underserved populations access their system of justice.

This week I had a chance to email NCBP Diversity Committee Chair Steve Toole about the work the IndyBar is doing in this arena, specifically to brag about this summer’s wildly successful 2013 Diversity Job Fair. I said early on that this column will be used to highlight the great work of this bar association and its leaders and on that note, let me brag about one thing: every once in awhile, I can pick ‘em. Shelley Jackson from Plews Shadley Racher and Braun agreed to chair this year’s Diversity Job Fair Committee and she and her committee did an extraordinary job.

Shelley and her committee engaged 28 employers who interviewed 72 students of color and diverse backgrounds from all over the country. This year, they added a student workshop called, “What the employer wants to know in a 20 minute interview” with a capacity of 25 students. They had a waiting list. Also this year, and for the first time, they hosted an Employer Retention Workshop. It also proved successful, and showed again that one of the best things about the committee leadership in this bar is their willingness to try something new. They did, and it worked.

The results so far indicate that 25 callback interview invitations were extended, 24 callback interviews were held and 23 offers were actually extended. I say “so far” because hiring personnel is a fluid process; the work of that one day will continue to change lives down the road. The IndyBar Diversity Job Fair is growing in both numbers and prestige.

Thank you to our sponsors, our employers and our interviewees. Thank you to Shelley Jackson and her hard working committee for taking point on this and running full speed. Thank you to Caren Chopp and IndyBar staff for being flexible and willing to do what is not always easy but is always innovative, because the goal here is to serve our members and advance this legal profession. The IndyBar’s continued good work in this area will change the stars of this profession down the road, and definitely for the better. For more information or to get engaged for next year, check out ibadiversityjobfair.com.

Now that this column is going to press and the government shutdown is over, it means that fists have unclenched, even if just a little, even if just for a while. Taking a page from my weary and dog-eared book on positive anticipation, this is a chance to refocus and recommit to working together … and for someone to write, “Everything I know about being a Congressman I learned in Kindergarten.” It’s a bit overdue.•

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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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