Law firms and organizations with greater diversity are more engaged, more productive, and attract higher caliber talent than those that aren’t. However, nearly all BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized individuals are underrepresented in Big Law, according to the American Bar Association (ABA). A recent ABA survey reports that as of 2022, only 19% of the profession was made up of lawyers of color. Additionally, a 2021 survey conducted by the National Association for Law Placement found that only 3.7% of lawyers surveyed across 849 law firms openly identified as LGBTQ+.
Not all companies or firms are equipped with the tools or resources necessary to navigate the complex waters of Big Law. In fact, 32% of businesses report that their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives are only in the beginning stages. So, we at DraftWise have pulled together a list of resources that associates (and partners alike) might find helpful in promoting greater representation in the legal profession and beyond.
The National LGBTQ+ Bar Association and Foundation is a “national association of lawyers, judges and other legal professionals, law students, activists, and affiliated lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender legal organizations.” The LGBTQ+ Bar, then known as the National Lesbian and Gay Law Association (NLGLA), was founded in 1989, later becoming an official affiliate of the American Bar Association in 1992. Their mission is to promote justice both “in and through the legal profession for the LGBTQ+ community in all its diversity.”
This year, they’ll be hosting their annual Lavender LawⓇ Conference & Career Fair in Chicago, Illinois from July 24 - 26. Its purpose is to create a sense of “community and inclusion” for LGBTQ+ legal candidates during the recruiting process. Candidates have the opportunity to speak with LGBTQ+-friendly recruiters from “law firms, government agencies, LGBTQ+ rights groups, and corporate legal departments.”
Founded in 1925, the National Bar Association (NBA) is the oldest and largest network of predominantly Black American attorneys and judges in the U.S. The association represents the interests of about “67,000 lawyers, judges, law professors, and law students,” with over 80 national chapters and affiliations with lawyer organizations in places like Canada, the United Kingdom, Africa, Morocco, and the Caribbean. Their work has laid the foundation for major civil rights legislation, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The NBA allows associates to become members of their organization, and benefits of becoming a member include access to their Annual Convention, Exhibits, and Gala, where Black law professionals and students come together to collaborate on current legal, economic, and social justice issues. They also receive NBA-sponsored professional development and Continuing Legal Education (CLE).
Equal Justice Works is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that has a network of “law students, lawyers, legal services organizations, and supporters” whose mission is to promote a “lifelong commitment” to public service and equal justice. Their focus is on public interest law. Every year, they mobilize over 300 of their fellows to address “unmet legal needs” in the U.S.
Through fellowships and opportunities like their Career Fair, those interested in practicing public interest law can get a jumpstart on their career. They even help law students and lawyers manage their student debt through education and advocating for loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs) and Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). Their 2024 Design-Your-Own Fellowship program is now accepting applications through midnight Eastern Time on Sept. 12, 2023.
Law For Black Lives (L4BL) is a Black femme-led national network and community of over 6,000 “radical lawyers and legal workers” who are committed to transforming both the law and legal field, as well as supporting Black-led base-building organizations. Through their work, the team’s mission is to assist leadership within “directly-impacted” communities and have the values of movement lawyering represented in the field.
L4BL trains lawyers, legal workers, and law students in the “politics and practices” of movement lawyering through initiatives such as their annual Legal and Organizing fellowship. In addition, L4BL offers a membership program where members can get discounted rates for CLEs, networking, and volunteer opportunities, among other perks.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) is a nonprofit, national legal organization that’s committed to the advancement of civil and human rights of LGBTQ+ individuals through “litigation, legislation, policy, and public education.” It was founded in 1977 by Donna Hitchens, the first openly lesbian elected judge in the U.S., and was the first LGBTQ+ legal organization established by women. Their work tackles a range of issues, including discrimination, immigration & asylum, youth, and relationships & family. They’ve also launched their campaign, #BornPerfect, to ban conversion therapy across the country.
The NCLR provides different avenues for those interested in the organization's work to get involved, one of which is by becoming an ambassador of their National Leadership Council or National Family Law Advisory Council. Both councils aim to strengthen the organization’s national presence through legal outreach and counsel on issues concerning the LGBTQ+ community.
The Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) is a nonprofit organization that serves as an advisor to C-suites across corporate America on “diversity, equity, and inclusion” by providing “data-driven solutions.” According to its mission statement, MCCA works to advance the “hiring, retention, and promotion of diverse lawyers” in law departments and firms.
The organization provides a multitude of resources, events, and services for legal professionals to go further in their careers, as well as gaining insight into DEI in the workplace. These include annual reports and case studies that are “objective, peer-reviewable assessments of emerging demographic data, issues, and practices in the legal profession.” They also have an online career center where legal pros can search for jobs, internships/fellowships, and gain professional development.
It’s important to highlight organizations that are doing the work to diversify Big Law and create safer spaces for legal professionals year-round, as their efforts continue to allow for greater progress to be made both in and out of the legal sphere. While we've highlighted just a few organizations, we hope this serves as a helpful starting point for those seeking both external opportunities and communities to support or join.