Diverse in diversity thinking

November 19, 2009
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When the word diversity first comes to mind, you may think of people of different ethnicities, races, or gender. And that’s become the problem because “diversity” has become a bit stagnant in what people think makes up a diverse population and workforce. As the years have passed since diversity became a hot topic in the legal community and what firms look for to achieve, diversity has expanded to include religion, sexual orientation, and people with disabilities.

The American Bar Association just released its report from its second national conference in June on the employment of lawyers with disabilities. The ABA Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law first conducted this conference in 2006.

The timing of this report comes just before Indiana Lawyer's Diversity in Practice event Friday. The event and awards recognize and celebrate those who have excelled in their committment to diversity in all its aspects.  

In the 99-page report from the ABA conference, participants attempt to persuade law firms to recruit, hire, and promote attorneys with disabilities as well as why attorneys with disabilities are needed in the profession. There are plenty of interesting personal stories from attorneys who are blind, in a wheel chair, or have Tourette syndrome about how law firms or other attorneys have reacted to their disabilities.

It’s true that people with disabilities make up a small percentage of the legal profession – only about 2 percent of 2007 law school graduates reported that they were disabled. A study conduced by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association this year found that around 2 percent of attorneys from the AmLaw 200 firms that responded to the survey identified themselves as disabled.

But as one speaker pointed out, everyone faces the possibility they may become disabled due to an accident or illness. Graduates with disabilities are also somewhat less likely to get jobs in private practice, according to the report.

One main reason for the conference was to encourage legal employers to sign a “Pledge for Change” and implement and promote disability diversity. The ABA says it’s important to promote disability diversity with the same level of diversity based on race, ethnicity, and gender.

The point of having a diverse workforce is to include people of differing backgrounds. This report helps to remind us that we shouldn’t consider only certain categories or the same two or three when thinking diversity. We need to be diverse in our thinking when considering diversity.
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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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