In 2015, then-ABA President Paulette Brown created the Diversity & Inclusion 360 Commission to review and analyze the state of diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, the judicial system, and the ABA, with the aim of formulating methods, policies, standards, and practices to best advance diversity and inclusion. Among other efforts, the 360 Commission drafted and proposed Resolution 113 to the ABA House of Delegates. Resolution 113 urged all providers of legal services, particularly law firms, to expand and create opportunities at all levels of responsibility for diverse attorneys. It further urged the purchasers of those legal services, particularly corporate and governmental legal departments, to assist in facilitating opportunities for diverse attorneys and direct a greater percentage of the legal services they purchase to diverse attorneys. At its general session at the 2016 ABA Annual Meeting, the House of Delegates unanimously passed Resolution 113.
To implement the principles behind Resolution 113, the 360 Commission created the Model Diversity Survey, which took the best aspects of dozens of legal diversity surveys into account. The purpose of creating a standard model survey included uniformity in the collection/measurement of data, easing the burden on law firms that answered multiple surveys annually, and to allow the purchasers of legal services to benchmark diversity data of firms they use and firms they contemplate hiring. The Model Diversity Survey aimed to move the legal profession closer to reflecting the full panorama of the public it serves. The Model Diversity Survey was meant to create transparency and comparison of diversity data for law firms and allow clients to make informed decisions.
To demonstrate their commitment to Resolution 113, companies were asked to publicly support the resolution; ask the firms that provide a significant portion of their legal services to complete the Model Survey; agree that firms the companies currently do not retain but that are competing to handle a significant matter for your company will complete the Model Survey; and agree that the information obtained through the Model Survey will be used as a factor in determining what firms to retain or terminate in providing legal service to their company. With the Model Diversity Survey created and companies pledging to use it, the 360 Commission passed the survey on to the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession (the CREDP).
Since the resolution’s passage, the CREDP has gained numerous signatories, including general counsel from companies such as Walmart, Inc., Facebook, Verizon, Bloomberg LP, and Bank of America.
I have led the ABA’s Model Diversity Survey efforts for the last three years, after taking the reins from Alan Bryan, senior associate general counsel at Walmart, Inc. The ABA recently entering into a strategic alliance with Microsoft, a signatory of the Model Diversity Survey, which created a dynamic platform that will increase the ease and efficiency for signatories, law firms, and the ABA exponentially. Microsoft, in conjunction with the Law School Admissions Council and Coffee & Dunn, will support the easy-to-maneuver and manage system, which is designed to enhance the Model Diversity Survey reporting.
In addition, we have seen significant interest in the United Kingdom (UK) to expand the Model Diversity Survey for use internationally. In August 2019, Interlaw Diversity Forum, a well-known organization that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession, received ABA Board of Governors approval to adapt the ABA Model Diversity Survey for use in the UK. The Law Society of England and Wales, as well as the Solicitors Regulations Authority, have also demonstrated their willingness and intent to support the Interlaw Diversity Forum’s efforts to promote the distribution and adoption of the UK legal sector version of the Model Diversity Survey. Ultimately, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Baroness Patricia Scotland, has indicated a strong interest in utilizing an adapted version of the Model Diversity Survey in the other 52 Commonwealth countries as appropriate.
These global efforts, as well as those being done nationally, significantly advance the efficient and timely measure measurement of diversity, equity and inclusion in the legal profession and is further proof that corporations and law firms working in concert is the way forward.
About the Author
Gretchen C. Bellamy is the senior director for education, operations, and initiatives in the University Office for Diversity and Inclusion at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and is president of Bellamy Management Consulting LLC and a special advisor to the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession. Contact her on Twitter @gcb4.