The Indianapolis Bar Association recognizes that equality, diversity and inclusion impact all aspects of work among members of the IndyBar, within the practice of law and within the communities where we live and work. The association, through its actions and those of its members, seeks to be instrumental in creating a more equitable, diverse and inclusive society.
The Indianapolis Bar Association Commission on Racial Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the Indianapolis Legal Community was formed in July 2020 and quickly began its work to address, dismantle and transform systemically problematic policies, structures and biases throughout the IndyBar.
The commission crafted a report and recommendations, which include phase one goals recently approved by the association’s Board of Directors. These phase one goals focus on making immediate, concrete changes within the IndyBar and building IndyBar’s capacity to lead a more broad-based commission in phase two and beyond that will address similar issues in the Indianapolis legal community as a whole.
The following details the recommendations approved by the Board of Directors in March 2021, in addition to action items within each goal. Action items are not limited to those noted within this article; opportunities to achieve meaningful change will continue to be identified as recommendations are turned into action. To view the full report and recommendations, visit indybar.org/EDI.
The IndyBar will participate in targeted community outreach and employ specific decision-making strategies to increase supplier diversity. The association will engage with community resources, such as the Indy Black Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Rainbow Chamber of Commerce, and certified Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) to utilize databases to identify diverse suppliers as well as seeking recommendations from members of the legal community.
The IndyBar will establish objective standards to determine whether it is meeting its goal of doing business with diverse vendors. Purchases from diverse suppliers will increase by at least 10 percent within six months following adoption of these recommendations and by at least 20 percent within 24 months following adoption of these recommendations. Beginning in fiscal year 2023, the association’s spending with diverse suppliers will equal at least 20 percent of its annual spending for goods and services.
The IndyBar will engage in specific and measurable outreach within the Indianapolis community to extend a welcoming invitation. This includes, but is not limited to, regular gatherings at various law firms with attorneys of color (membership in IndyBar not required) with an ambassador from the association. The IndyBar will also establish in-person and written contact with future attorneys of color during law school orientation about membership in IndyBar.
The IndyBar will invest in developing resources designed to add value and encourage new and increased membership and participation. This includes complimentary and/or reduced registration fees for first-time event attendees and reduced membership rates for attorneys of color. The IndyBar will also promote position openings in a year-round IndyBar job bank.
The IndyBar will educate its leadership on leading with an anti-racist lens and will engage in this work with openness, a willingness to listen and acknowledgment of the deeply rooted history and complexity at play. Anti-racist training for IndyBar staff, board, foundation, and sections/division executive committees will be implemented within six months, and continuing investment will be made to foster organizational understanding of and investment in equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) initiatives. IndyBar leadership will grasp and acknowledge the deep history and complexity that exists with respect to bar membership and engagement with Black and diverse attorneys and will be pressed to become more aware of and actively transform exclusionary environments. At the same time, an approach that suggests that the IndyBar is trying to steamroll or “fix” diverse attorney engagement will be prevented and leaders will actively listen to members, non-members and affinity organizations to candidly explore the association’s weaknesses and strengths with respect to EDI. Diverse attorneys will be acknowledged as not being a monolithic group and will be given agency and respect in choosing their response to any given initiative or outreach.
The IndyBar will establish a formal process to publicly benchmark current status, establish goals, and measure progress, both horizontally (over time) and vertically (within different layers of the organization). Accountability metrics will be established through commission recommendations and oversight, and an objective oversight panel will be created to review reporting on progress. These reports will be regularly published and will be objective in nature. Committees, sections and divisions will be required to develop and execute an EDI plan, which will be monitored over time.
The IndyBar will select specific attorney populations and will set goals and measure progress within such populations. This includes identifying and engaging diverse attorney populations, recruiting and retaining experienced attorneys of color who have opted out of IndyBar membership but remain members of local or national affinity bar associations and recruiting and retaining new attorneys who were/are members of affinity or advocacy groups during law school.
The IndyBar will reach out to local affinity bar associations to establish formal membership incentives and/or packages that would provide for joint membership at a reduced cost and cross-over benefits of membership. This should be a truly collaborative approach that avoids any characterization of an attempt to overtake or eliminate affinity bar associations. The organizations’ autonomy and independence will be respected, even if that results in a different approach.
The IndyBar will leverage the Bar Leader Series as an avenue to strengthen the pipeline of diverse leadership. Diverse participation in the series will increase by five percent by 2022, and sustainable mentorship and post-series graduation opportunities will be developed and established.
The IndyBar will employ a variety of strategies to expand its pipeline of diverse candidates with over 10 years of experience for leadership positions. This includes expanding aid to eliminate financial obstacles, establishing one-to-one mentoring programs, identifying specific representation and participation goals for diverse members, increasing funding for networking activities and implementing targeted educational opportunities for diverse practitioners to discover more about the aforementioned efforts to increase diverse participation on all levels.
The IndyBar will employ intentional strategies and practices to identify and engage minority and underrepresented students. Equality, diversity and inclusion will be increased within the IndyBar Law Student Division with key metrics established to track progress on this goal. The IndyBar will establish, strengthen or renew strategic partnerships with Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law’s Pathway to the Law and ICLEO. The IndyBar will support the cultural needs and goals of minority and underrepresented students by collaborating with the various affinity groups at McKinney and will engage in a partnership with McKinney’s Office of Student Affairs and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to facilitate a professional development alliance for minority and underrepresented students.
Compulsory training for IndyBar employees will be implemented to ensure that such employees are well-educated on such topics. Trainings should occur at least semi-monthly or quarterly and must include anti-discrimination and EDI topics. At least one training annually will be conducted in-person.
The IndyBar will commit to providing at least six hours of live continuing legal education (CLE) programming annually on anti-discrimination and EDI topics. Programming should mirror that provided to employees, with the addition of CLE credit. Mandated training of at least two hours per year for leadership in the association and foundation will be considered.
The IndyBar will support the Indiana State Bar Association resolution requiring one hour of diversity and inclusion CLE during each three-year renewal period. This resolution is currently pending before the Indiana Supreme Court.
Progress on these goals will be reported on monthly through the IndyBar Board of Director’s EDI Accountability Manager Shelley Jackson of Krieg DeVault LLP.•