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Nonprofit renews commitment to diversify the legal profession

Lawyers of color represent only 14.6% of the profession, according to the American Bar Association 2021 Profile of the Legal Profession. While an increase from years past, the ABA noted that “the legal profession has been very slow to diversify by race and ethnicity.”

With that in mind, Richmond-based nonprofit organization Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, or LCLD, is working to “create a truly diverse U.S. legal profession” through action programs meant to attract, inspire and nurture talent within member organizations and in the legal community as a whole.

Richmond attorney and LCLD President Robert Grey said he is excited for the future of the organization and the legal profession.

“I would say that what we’re doing has never been done before,” he noted. “And what we’re doing is with the support of not only the leaders of the profession, but those who are committed and have a commitment to building a more diverse profession. And for that we are grateful.”

In October, the LCLD held a virtual annual meeting, where 1,400 members of the LCLD community met to discuss future programs and diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

Among the meeting’s hot topics was the “Leaders at the Front” campaign, a “groundbreaking” initiative designed to advance diversity in the profession by having leaders make public pledges and commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and then acting on the pledge’s goals.

The LCLD board of directors recently announced that all 350 members will be required to post public pledges with measurable actions to advance diverse talent.

“When you join LCLD, we not only ask that you pay your dues, but we ask that you give us a pledge, and that pledge will be posted on the website,” Grey said.

Grey noted that the board came to this decision after a panel discussion examined the importance of the pledges.

“They talked about the areas of impact, where the pledges could make the most difference in giving us the best outcomes for women and minority lawyers,” Grey said. “That was a big lift for us, in terms of giving the audience really substantive ideas about what to do, why to do it and who to do it with.”

The Leaders at the Front website includes the pledges of leaders who have already fulfilled the requirement, with action items from committing to meet annually with a firm’s minority leaders and advance DE&I within firms, to seeking feedback on how to improve diversity efforts.

As of Nov. 1, more than 140 LCLD members had published their pledges.

Public pledges continue a shift for the LCLD, which began by focusing on programs designed around “elevating the career path and trajectory of minority and women lawyers to be leaders in the law.” Later, the LCLD looked to help organizations establish practices, policies and procedures to make them the best place for attorneys to work and succeed.

Finally, Grey said it was important for the LCLD to put into writing its action plans.

“We did need to do a better job of organizational development, as we had done with talent development,” Grey said. “And to that, in order for us to be clear that we are leading in this effort, let us be transparent and accountable with our efforts.”