IndyBar: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Indianapolis Bar Foundation — What We’ve Done and Where We’re Headed

Michael McBride

By Michael W. McBride, Cohen & Malad, LLP

In late 2021, the Indianapolis Bar Foundation adopted a series of recommendations to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive environment for its volunteers, staff and community while also proclaiming that diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) must be recognized as an ongoing core responsibility within the IBF. These recommendations came on the heels of the association’s commitment to “address, dismantle and transform systemically problematic policies, structures and biases throughout the IndyBar.” One year later, the IBF has made initial steps in its long-term goals, but there remains significant work to be done. Now is the time for further action rather than complacency, while also taking the time to recognize positive changes and achievements along the way.

As the charitable arm of the IndyBar, the IBF hosts several events and fundraisers each year aimed at raising money to support ongoing grants and programs and to further its mission to advance justice and lead positive change in Indianapolis through philanthropy, education and service. Law Prom, the Lawyer Links Classic, Trivia Night and the newly created Talent Show are just a few of the fun events organized by committees within the foundation.

This year, the chairs of each committee within the IBF challenged themselves by looking at former practices and policies to see what could be changed in order to increase diversity, equity and inclusion within the cornerstones of the IBF’s work for the benefit of the organization internally and the community as a whole. Committees were intentional with their efforts to increase diversity within their members, attendees and suppliers while identifying potential long-term changes and partnerships necessary to effect a lasting change for years to come.

The committees will reexamine their efforts before the end of the year to provide additional recommendations and insight to next year’s committee chairs to help improve annually. Additionally, the information compiled from the committees will be used to create an annual accountability report available to the IndyBar to publicly measure the IBF’s progress.

In addition to the work of the committees, the IBF set additional diversity, equity and inclusion goals, which will be included in the annual accountability report along with progress and updates on future planned efforts. At the forefront of these goals is implementing DEI training for bar leadership, board members, committee members and IndyBar staff. Efforts are already underway to identify the individual or individuals who will lead this training.

While the foundation continues to make direct and intentional efforts to improve diversity, equity and inclusion within the organization, there are certain key recognitions and statements by both the foundation and association that are important for continued improvement and success in reaching DEI goals. First, the IBF proclaimed that diversity, equity and inclusion must be recognized as an ongoing core responsibility within the foundation. It is important to know there is no quick fix to existing issues, and the commitment made by the IBF to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive environment must be long-term and dedicated. As IndyBar also recognized, “issues related to racial equality, diversity and inclusion in the Indianapolis legal community are historically large and complex issues that cannot be addressed by a single set of concrete action steps.” IBF will hopefully be able to build upon its efforts year afteryear to create and cultivate an inclusive environment.

Second is the need to “self-examine” and take accountability for deficiencies and downfalls. Looking into the mirror to assess one’s own faults is never an easy task. Allowing others to look with you and provide constructive criticism can be even more uncomfortable. Nonetheless, this is exactly what is necessary to implement the IBF’s DEI plan and long-term goals. The foundation aims to achieve these tasks through the annual appointment of a diversity, equity and inclusion accountability director and annual public reporting on its efforts.

At the end of the year, the IBF looks forward to presenting its first-ever DEI report to both celebrate achievements reached and recognize continued areas in need of improvement. This journey to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive environment within the Indianapolis legal community will be ongoing and shared.•

This article is based upon the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of all members of the Indianapolis Bar Association, Indianapolis Bar Foundation, Indiana Lawyer or the author’s law firm.

Michael W. McBride is the 2022 diversity, equity and inclusion accountability director for the Indianapolis Bar Foundation and a partner at Cohen & Malad LLP, concentrating his practice in the areas of business and real estate litigation and services.

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