By Aida Neimarlija and Marshall Thompson
Utah’s population is changing, but the legal profession is not keeping up. 2016 census data shows that 22.8% of Utahns belong to one or more racial minority groups, and that number is projected to increase to 30% by 2050. Women now constitute half of law school graduates. This demographic shift is certainly not peculiar to Utah. Nationwide, issues around diversity and inclusion are becoming increasingly important in government, business, and the professions.
Despite these trends, however, Utah’s bar and bench remain largely homogenous and do not reflect these numbers. The Deseret News reported last July that “79% of judges are white men, making the Beehive State the least diverse in the country.” Dennis Romboy, Utah State Courts Lack Diversity Among Judges, deseret news (July 21, 2018), available at https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900025600/utah-state-courts-lack-diversity-among-judges.html.
The term “diversity and inclusion” (D&I) is most commonly used to describe the effort to advance traditionally underrepresented groups defined by race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and age. Experts in D&I teach that the two concepts – diversity and inclusion – are vastly different. While diversity is defined as a range of identifiers used to differentiate groups and individuals one from another, inclusion refers to intentional efforts on the part of organizations to reach their full potential, along with practices in which individuals or groups from different backgrounds are welcomed and treated equally. Inclusion has been described as creating a sense of belonging, of having a seat at the table, and having access to leadership positions.
Most proponents of D&I consider both ideals to be moral imperatives. And in the legal field in particular, many view both concepts as inherently tied to access-to-justice issues. The American Bar Association (ABA) reported last August that our profession and the judiciary are struggling with decreased public confidence in the justice system. The report suggests that with a more diverse and inclusive legal profession, we are more likely to have the capacity to critically examine issues such as potential bias, racism, sexism, inequities, and cultural and language barriers. Earlier this year, the ABA House of Delegates passed Resolution 113 called “Promoting Diversity in the Legal Profession,” which launched a detailed survey of hundreds of national law firms and urged all providers of legal services, and particularly law firms, to expand and...