Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives: What Is the Bar Doing Now?

Author:Hardmon, Anika Royster
Position:Florida Bar - Special Section: Diversity & Inclusion

The 2016-2019 Strategic Plan of The Florida Bar (1) outlines its objectives in its continuing effort to encourage and promote diversity and inclusion in all aspects of the profession and justice system.

The Bar objectives include:

* Creating a diverse judiciary, as well as diverse judicial nominating commissions, that reflects the population of Florida;

* Continuing the Bar's "Get Involved" campaign;

* Encouraging members to provide self-identifying information to The Florida Bar to develop baseline data;

* Requesting that the Board of Governors become more active in their outreach to members and the public by increasing the number of speeches they give and by participating in an ambassador outreach program;

* Tasking recent graduates of the Wm. Reece Smith, Jr. Leadership Academy to develop ideas for outreach; and

* Continuing to enhance The Florida Bar's diversity grant program. (2)

The Florida Bar and its Board of Governors are fully committed to enhancing diversity within the Bar, legal profession, legal education, and justice system by developing committees, implementing programs, and providing financial support. But despite the Bar's continued affirmation of its commitment to a diverse and inclusive environment with equal access and opportunity for minority lawyers, women lawyers, lawyers with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) lawyers, there is a gap between the Bar's aspirations and achievements. In examining what the Bar is doing now to close that gap, we begin with the nexus and evolution of current diversity and inclusion initiatives.


In 2004, volunteers and presenters from The Florida Bar, voluntary bar associations, the judiciary, and universities and law schools from all over the state gathered for two days at the St. Thomas University School of Law for the Diversity in the Legal Profession Symposium. (3) The brainchild of former Florida Bar President Miles McGrane III, the attendees were charged with developing concrete proposals and recommendations to be used by The Florida Bar, law schools, the profession, and those responsible for selecting the judiciary, to achieve the goal that the legal profession in Florida, in all its parts, accurately reflect the makeup of society. (4) The fruit of this labor was the presentation of the 2004 Diversity in the Legal Profession Final Report and Recommendations to the Board of Governors. (5) These recommendations still serve as a blueprint for The Florida Bar and others affiliated with the legal profession in Florida to follow in developing a plan to increase participation, retention, and representation of diverse attorneys.

In 2010, following recommendations from the Program Evaluation Committee, the Bar reexamined and overhauled its diversity efforts, including creating a new Committee on Diversity and Inclusion (CDI). (6) The CDI is charged with oversight of the Bar's voluntary bar grant program, which supports diversity programing implemented by local and specialty bar associations, and the development, continuation, and communication of the Bar's diversity efforts. (7) Through its uniquely inclusive committee of 138 members, including a representative from each Bar section, the CDI develops and implements projects, programs, and partnerships to further its mission of increasing diversity and inclusion in the Bar. In addition to the CDI, the Bar addressed the ever-changing spectrum of diversity by expanding outreach and development through the special committees on parental leave and gender bias. (8)

In 2011, the Bar stepped up its diversity efforts by hiring Arnell Bryant-Willis as diversity initiatives manager. Bryant-Willis' appointment provided a continuity of effort while creating an epicenter for diversity and inclusion information, resources, benchmarking, evaluation, and reporting. Since joining the Bar, Bryant-Willis and Brittney Clemons, The Florida Bar's diversity initiatives program coordinator, have centralized, organized, coordinated, and reported the Bar's...

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