A State Bar Association initiative to improve diversity within the organization and the legal profession was recognized by the American Bar Association during its recent annual meeting in Chicago.
The ABA awarded its prestigious ABA Partnership Award to the State Bar's President's Diversity Challenge. In 2011, then-President Vincent E. Doyle III of Buffalo (Connors & Vilardo) challenged the organization's 25 sections to find innovative ways to increase diversity in their membership, leadership and programs. Sections are comprised of attorneys who practice in specialized areas of law, such as business, criminal, environmental or health.
"This is a great example of the difference a bar association can make within its own membership and leadership development," said Roseanne T. Lucianek, the ABA's director of the Division for Bar Services.
"This is a great honor for the State Bar Association and for the individual sections whose enthusiastic support of the program contributed greatly to its success," said State Bar President Seymour W. James, Jr. of New York City (The Legal Aid Society). "It's important that the Bar Association and the legal profession reflect the diversity of society with regard to race, gender, age, sexual preference and disability," James said. "The strength of our organization depends upon ensuring that our membership and leadership are inclusive and that we fully represent the population we serve."
James credited his predecessor, Doyle, with initiating the challenge. He vowed to expand the program under his administration.
Doyle accepted the award on behalf of the State Bar during the ABA meeting in Chicago.
Among the initiatives undertaken through the President's Diversity Challenge were increasing the number of committee chairs from diverse backgrounds, reaching out to minority bar associations, offering scholarships and fellowships, expanding diverse speakers lists and hosting continuing legal education programs that focused on diversity.
The New York State Bar Association, with 77,000 members, is the largest voluntary state bar association in the country. It was founded in 1876.
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