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Diversity panel wants to expand opportunities

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Diversity panel wants to expand opportunities

The Bar’s Standing Committee on Diversity and Inclusion is pursuing a variety of initiatives as it seeks to expand opportunities for all Florida lawyers.

Brittany Maxey “We want to ensure the Bar will reflect the demographics of the state, that we develop opportunities for community involvement, and to make leadership roles in the profession and The Florida Bar accessible to all attorneys,” Chair Brittany Maxey told the Board of Governors in December.

The Bar’s broad definition of diversity includes race, citizenship, gender orientation, gender, geographic location, and many other factors, she said, and the committee has 130 members, plus liaisons to Bar sections and divisions to work on its goals. The panel currently has five initiatives.

Law Schools
One is to work with legal education.

“We want to be very visible at the Florida law schools,” Maxey said. Alumni from each school who practice nearby have been assigned to work with the schools, disseminate information about the committee and the Bar’s diversity efforts, and report on diversity and inclusion at each school.

“We are also working on implementing a sustainable pipeline initiative for students who may have an interest in our profession and may need a little more guidance. . . than others,” she said.

Diversity Grants
The second undertaking is the annual $50,000 grant program to local bars to hold diversity and inclusion programs. For 2016-17, the committee approved 27 of 28 grant applications and each program must be completed before June 30, 2017, with a report submitted to the committee, Maxey said.

Multicultural Development
In the wake of the Pulse Nightclub mass shooting in Orlando, the committee set up its Multicultural Program Development Subcommittee, she said, to coordinate responses to bias-related incidents.

“What happened in Orlando showed us we as attorneys are in key positions. . . to help when help is needed,” Maxey said, noting lawyers pitched in to provide legal help for victims and family members. “A second initiative is called ‘Know Your Bar.’ It’s being modeled after the United Nations’ HeForShe campaign, which is a campaign to understand gender equality is not a women’s issues, it’s a human rights issue, and to encourage men and boys to be change agents.”

Leadership
The fourth initiative is a subcommittee “to help diverse people who seek leadership positions, including on judicial nominating commissions and on Bar committees,” she said. “We’re also working very closely with the Judicial Nominating Commission Procedures Committee to ensure that diverse Bar members continue to apply for appointments to the JNCs and the judiciary.”

Finally, the committee is working to set up a diversity and inclusion summit for November. The committee has submitted a proposal for review by the board’s Program Evaluation Committee, and the tentative date has been set for November 9-10 in Orlando.

Maxey said the summit will look at implicit and explicit bias, gender bias under the federal Title IX laws (which were passed 45 years ago), and challenges in multiculturalism.

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