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Chinn: Diversity Efforts Can't End with Successful Job Fair

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iba-chinn-scottOn Friday, July 27, 2012, the Indianapolis Bar Association held its 5th Annual Diversity Job Fair. By all measures it was a success. And let me give you both tangible metrics and intangible ones. On the numbers, we were pleased that 27 employers participated, more than 60 students were interviewed, and 15 organizations contributed sponsorships of the event.

This was truly a national job fair in the sense that the students were from all over the country and from coast to coast. And the diversity among employers was impressive as well – representing boutique firms, large firms, and public interest and government employers. We’ll see later how many students were hired as a result of the fair, but we know that some students were offered jobs even on the day of the interviews.

I don’t have room in this column to recount the less tangible measures. But it starts with recognizing the hard work of the Diversity Job Fair Committee. Brita Horvath chaired the 11-member committee this year and they did an inspired job. IndyBar staff member Caren Chopp ably supported the committee as always. The result was a series of events that should make the IndyBar and the City proud.

The welcome reception on the Thursday evening before the interview day was a great event. The students were greeted by federal and state judges, members of the bar and IndyBar leadership and staff. It was held at the Skyline Club, which we might take for granted, but whose views of the City make quite an impression on students unfamiliar with Indianapolis. I talked to one student from Oregon after seeing her gazing out the tall widows. Committee member Shelley Jackson summed it up in her remarks by speaking of the excitement we all felt about the possibilities engendered by the fair.

At the Friday luncheon, we heard from Thea Kelly, Senior Counsel with Dow AgroSciences – a great business employing so many people and professionals in our community. Ms. Kelly spoke of her time in law practice in Indianapolis and of being the first African American female lawyer at Dow. Her remarks were inspiring, touching, funny and, above all, real.

The IndyBar Diversity Job Fair won’t by itself create the kind of diverse and inclusive environment that so many of us want to see promoted in our legal community. But being part of it this year put me in mind of what we would lose without it. First, we would lose the student-employer connections. That would result in some students that would otherwise get jobs with the participating employers missing out on those opportunities. Second, perhaps less tangibly but just as important, those employers and the rest of us participating in the fair would not get to interact with an important part of the hiring market and would miss an opportunity to add to best practices in promoting diversity in hiring. And finally a reservoir of dynamic energy directed toward diversity in our legal community that is being filled up today by your participation would be empty. It is the last point that is so easily seen in the work of the Diversity Job Fair Committee and in the contributions to the events by Thea Kelly, the sponsors, employers and students.

As a postscript to the fair, let me observe that we can’t put the issue of diversity on the shelf until next year. On the heels of the successes of the fair, IndyBar leadership attended the annual meeting of the American Bar Association and its affiliate groups the first week of August in Chicago. A good bit of the programming and few other special events were on the subject of diversity and inclusion in the legal profession and IndyBar representatives attended all of those sessions, coming away with more information, inspiration, and ideas.

Our work continues.•

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