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Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin | Winter 2014

President’s Message Robin Burrell From the President The Business Case for Diversity My, how time fl ies when you are having fun! Th is is my last article as President of your Bar Association. I am still awed by the honor you bestowed by electing me to this offi ce, and I have certainly enjoyed serving you this year. I started my term with an article acknowledging the diversity of our Bar and lauding the eff orts of Tommy Wells, former President of the American Bar Association, in launching a 2009 initiative to assess the “State of Diversity in the Legal Profession.” My focus this year has been on serving this Bar in all of its multicultural diversity, and I would like to end the year by making a business case for diversity. Many of you attended the Bar’s recent CLE entitled “Was It Something I Said? - Tools for successfully managing your law practice with lawyers, judges, juries, clients and employees in an increasingly diverse environment.” Th e program was excellent and touched on many important aspects of practicing law in our rapidly changing world. Many thanks to Cathy Wright from Clarus Consulting for moderating the program, and to all the panelists who shared their thoughts and ideas. As presented in the Program, current statistics regarding racial and ethnic shifts in our national population are signifi cant. For the benefi t of those unable Moving Forward: to attend the program, a brief summary of the numbers follows: Between 2000 and 2012, and as a percentage of the total, • Th e population of Black Americans increased by .3%; • Th e population of Asian Americans increased by 1.3%; • Th e population of Hispanic Americans increased by 4.4%; while • Th e population of White Americans decreased by 6.3%.1 Viewed from another angle, and during this same time frame, • Th e number of Black Americans grew by 14.3%; • Th e number of Asian Americans grew by 52%; • Th e number of Hispanic Americans grew by 50.4%; while • Th e number of White Americans grew by only 1.4%.2 Th ese numbers display a startling shift in the make-up of our national population, and the data pertaining to the demographics of the legal profession refl ects signifi cant change as well. Data from the American Bar Association demonstrates that the number of women in the profession has almost quadrupled from 8% of all practitioners in 1980 to 30% in 2005.3 In contrast, however, the number of racial minority practitioners increased by only 2.3% between 2000 and 2010.4 Th e composition of our legal profession is not refl ective of the general population, though eff orts continue across many law schools and fi rms to recruit diverse students and lawyers. Law school enrollments have dropped 24% in the past four years,5 and applications to law schools nationwide have decreased by 37% in the same time period.6 Regardless, the staggering shifts in the composition of our national population will undoubtedly present many opportunities, as well as challenges, for legal practitioners, and conversations about the “business case” for diversity are increasing. Adding to these changes, the composition of the federal judiciary has signifi cantly changed under the current administration to one that more closely resembles the nation than ever before. In analyzing President Obama’s judicial nominees and confi rmed judges, a recent report from the White House notes that these persons “…embody an unprecedented commitment to expanding the gender, racial, sexual orientation, and experiential diversity of the men and women who enforce our laws and deliver justice. For the fi rst time, a majority of federal Circuit judges are women and 8 Birmingham Bar Association


Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin | Winter 2014
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