ABA to Honor National Native American Bar President-Elect Mary L. Smith for Promoting Diversity in Law
WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 2011—Mary L. Smith, president-elect of the National Native American Bar Association, will receive the 2012 Spirit of Excellence Award, the American Bar Association Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Legal Profession announced today.
The annual Spirit of Excellence Awards celebrate the accomplishments of lawyers who promote a more racially and ethnically diverse legal profession.
“Mary was the highest-ranking Native American in the Clinton White House,” said commission Chair Reginald M. Turner. “During her time in the White House, Mary was the architect for a historic Native American policy initiative, which spanned areas such as health care, economic development, education, the digital divide and criminal justice issues. This initiative resulted in an increase in funding of $1.1 billion for Native American programs across all federal agencies.”
Smith advances diversity in the legal profession through her participation in the American Bar Association, the National Native American Bar Association, and the Chicago Bar Association and its Alliance for Women.
In 2009, Smith was elected the first Native American woman to the ABA’s Board of Governors in the association’s more than 130-year history. That same year Smith completed a three-year term with the Commission on Women in the Profession, where she was the only enrolled tribal member of the commission in its entire history. She was the chair of the Women of Color Committee and directed the Women of Color Research Initiative, a nationally known research program that has developed seminal national research and landmark reporting on the hiring and retention of women of color in the legal profession.
Smith has focused her diversity and inclusion efforts on promoting issues of importance to women of color and Native Americans. Her work in the White House lives on today. Smith coordinated the legal issues related to Executive Order 13175, Consultation and Coordination With Indian Tribal Governments, which requires federal agencies to establish regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with tribal officials in the development of federal policies that have tribal implications. This executive order is still in effect and provides the current guidance for all federal agencies.
The Spirit of Excellence award will be presented during the 2012 ABA Midyear Meeting, Feb. 4, in New Orleans.
The 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.
With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the world’s largest voluntary professional membership organization. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.
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