Commission Reports ‘Milestone Year’ in the Status of Racial and Ethnic Minorities in the ABA
CHICAGO, Feb. 3, 2004 — The American Bar Association marked a milestone year in advancing minority leadership, with Dennis W. Archer of Detroit and Robert J. Grey Jr. of Richmond holding the association’s two highest offices. Archer, president, and Grey, president-elect, both are African American.
But much work remains to be done before minorities achieve full and equal representation in the ABA and the legal profession as a whole, concludes the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession in its Goal IX Report for 2003-2004.
“Progress has been made, but there is much more that can and needs to be accomplished,” said Lawrence R. Baca, chair of the commission.
The commission cited the 2000 U.S. Census report that 90 percent of all lawyers and judges in the U.S. were Caucasian, although only 75.1 percent of the general population was.
In a voluntary census of ABA members, only 37.9 percent of members identified their ethnicity. Among those, 90.99 percent listed themselves as Caucasian, 2.75 percent designated themselves as African American, 2.5 percent as Asian American, 2.23 percent as Hispanic and 0.52 percent as Native American.
These statistics are among data detailed in the commission’s Goal IX Report for 2003-2004. The annual report was developed to monitor progress by the ABA and its various entities in achieving “full and equal” participation of minorities throughout the ABA. The association’s ninth goal is to encourage “full and equal participation” of racial and ethnic minorities in the legal profession.
“We conduct this self-analysis because the ABA is the largest and most prominent organization in the legal profession. It should both reflect and lead the broader legal profession. If we in the ABA hope to maintain public confidence in the relevance of the justice system, then it is crucial that our profession reflects and incorporates the diversity that characterizes our nation. We can only lead the profession toward that goal if we continue to strive to achieve it within our own ranks,” said Baca.
One measure of progress used by the commission is the proportion of presidential appointees to leadership positions who are racial or ethnic minorities. Of Archer’s 688 appointees, 228 or 33.1 percent were minority lawyers, an all-time high for the association. Of the minority appointees, 44.2 percent were minority women, an increase of 3.1 percent from last year, and the first increase in three years.
The association’s Board of Governors, composed of 37 elected representatives from a variety of constituencies, includes six African American and two Hispanic lawyers, two more minorities than last year. Although the composition of the board changes each year and there have been members of other ethnic or racial minority groups in prior years, the commission is “concerned” that there are so few Hispanic and no Asian American or Native American lawyers on the board at this time, according to the report. It described as “disturbing” that only six members of the 67-lawyer nominating committee that selects ABA leaders are racial or ethnic minorities.
Of the association’s 28 sections and divisions, only 15 have elected minority lawyers to serve in primary leadership positions, a four-year low. Among ABA forums, the number of minorities in leadership roles increased, with four of the six forums reporting an increase in racial and ethnic diversity.
The report urges the leaders of sections, divisions and forums that report little or no minority participation in their leadership work to cultivate increased future minority leadership, and recommends that the future leaders of the ABA educate themselves about issues of racial and ethnic diversity in the profession.
The American Bar Association Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession is a catalyst to change the legal profession to reflect the society it serves. It helps racially and ethnically diverse lawyers advance their careers and standing in the profession. Its leadership, programs and information help the profession understand and eliminate racism, bigotry and discrimination. The commission works to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the legal profession, and thus enrich it.
The American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership association in the world. With more than 400,000 members, the ABA provides law school accreditation, continuing legal education, information about the law, programs to assist lawyers and judges in their work, and initiatives to improve the legal system for the public.