By Chasity Q. Thompson, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law
Intentionality in seeking career opportunities helps propel progress. The legal profession is no exception. We strive to have a legal workforce that is representative of the clients and communities that we serve. In this current climate, now more than ever, we need lawyers to be leaders in the courtroom, the legislature, in business and family matters and in our community to help eradicate unfair social stratification barriers. This endeavor starts with having a representative workforce: committed, diligent and prepared to be advocates on behalf of their causes and clients. For many, diversity is a melting pot of people representing differences based on race, age, socio-economic status, gender, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, exceptionalities, religion and/or culture. When assembling a team, there is great value in building a cadre of diverse perspective and experience to solve the problems with which lawyers are presented. Each of us has a unique gift that we can contribute to the task, if given the opportunity, and we accomplish more and overall better serve our clients.
In our profession, the American Bar Association, National Bar Association, and a host of state and local bar associations continue the conversation about the “case for diversity” in all facets of our legal landscape. The conversation is more impactful when it manifests into actionable implementation. Locally, champions of diversity have fought for decades to have more diverse representation on the bench and within the practicing bar. Our pioneers of diversity have paved a way for change, but their efforts must not end because of some progress. As the legal profession is a relationship driven culture, the value of diverse experiences and perspectives contribute to cultural competence, an appreciation for differences and potential access to new and emerging business opportunities. Affording the opportunity for new and diverse talent has the potential to broaden access to and for a new client base while continuing to provide high level service to existing clients.
Over the years, I have seen our law school, and others, work hard to prepare many students from varied backgrounds for careers in traditional legal practice areas and alternative career opportunities. This legal training helps students develop critical thinking, leadership, problem solving and other essential skills to be successful as lawyers and as leaders. Many are poised and ready to contribute to the profession positively; employer access and engagement are essential. Seeing a need to connect the potential pool of candidates from diverse backgrounds with the Indianapolis legal community, the Indianapolis Bar Association launched the Diversity Job Fair as one initiative to help all students meet potential employers, and to learn more about the legal profession and the Indianapolis legal market, in particular. In addition to building connections with legal employers, this job fair helps students discover the advantages that a professional experience in Indianapolis can offer. Students are encouraged to participate in interview skills training and networking opportunities as well.
While we cannot dispel notions that have resulted from historic lack of diversity and the influence of unconscious bias, we can work to be more intentional about having a workforce that is more representative of the citizenry that it supports and to which it provides legal assistance. The Diversity Job Fair is a great place to start. Many past participants, and other law clerks and lawyers from historically underrepresented backgrounds, have contributed greatly to our legal community through producing quality, competent work product, building client relations for business and by becoming bar leaders.
Interested? Registration is currently open for employers to meet talented, hardworking and enthusiastic students from varied backgrounds at the Fair. The Diversity Job Fair will be held August 6-7, 2018 at the Hilton in downtown Indianapolis. To register as an interviewing employer and/or sponsor for the event, please visit ibadiversityjobfair.org or contact Lesley Hayes at (317) 269-2000.•
Chasity Q. Thompson is Assistant Dean for the Office of Professional Development at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from Indiana University.