Celebrating Diversity within the Legal Profession

Jean LeeAMERICA RECENTLY CELEBRATED ITS 240TH BIRTHDAY on July 4 and since its founding in 1776, its fabric of citizens has changed drastically, according to the U. S. Census Bureau. Of 319 million U.S. citizens, 51% are female, 54 million are Latino, 40 million are senior citizens, 27 million are disabled, 18 million are Asian, 9 million are LGBTQ and 3.5 million are Muslim. Almost half the country belongs to minority groups. This is an excellent reminder that “everyday Americans” are more diverse than ever before. It’s also a painful reminder that the legal profession still has work to do.

According to the American Bar Association’s 2016 National Lawyer Population Survey, there are 1.3 million licensed lawyers in the U.S. Women make up 36% of those lawyers. 88% of the 1.3 million lawyers are white. On the flip side, law student numbers tell a different story. Female law students comprise 47% of the 2013-2014 academic year, and 28% are minorities. We know there is a disconnect between the percentage of women and minority law students vs. licensed lawyers. MCCA Diversity Gala honorees are bridging that diversity gap one small step at a time.

One night each year, MCCA and the legal profession come together to celebrate the efforts corporate legal departments and law firms are making toward diversifying our profession. In July, the MCCA Gala celebrated leaders in corporate legal departments by honoring our Employers of Choice: Bank of America, Exelon Corporation, Kellogg Company, Home Depot and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. We also applauded the work of the Thomas L. Sager Award Finalists, the law firms who are on the frontline of diversity efforts. Akin Gump, Littler and Sheppard Mullin are law firms heralding diversity within their law firm.

To find out more about how these corporate legal departments and law firms create diverse legal teams, our upcoming September/October issue will feature in-depth articles about them and our other winners. You will learn about the Lifetime Achievement Award honoree former Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.; the Paula L. Ettelbrick Award honoree Lisa A. Linsky from McDermott, Will & Emery, LLP; and the George B. Vashon Innovator Award honorees Winston & Strawn and WGL Holdings, Inc.’s Leslie T. Thornton, senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary. Thank you to all of the corporate legal departments and FANs who supported this event. It truly was a beautiful night celebrating leaders and legacies.

MCCA is conducting research to measure our profession’s progress in corporate legal departments and law firms. We will use the results of the research to develop best practices and training for our members to improve diversity at all levels. To be effective, we need your help. Please take a moment to complete our Corporate Demographic Survey and encourage your colleagues to do the same. It will help MCCA update and provide a more accurate picture of where we are today and how we can collaborate to be better. Thank you for your continued support of MCCA and its mission.

Jean Lee
President & CEO

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