Thursday, April 5, 2007
LACBA Board Member: Diversity Summit Not ‘Too Ambitious’
By TINA BAY, Staff Writer
An upcoming diversity summit organized by the Los Angeles County Bar Association is expected to help boost ethnic minority numbers in the local legal profession, the organization’s senior vice president said yesterday.
Danette E. Meyers, who chairs LACBA’s diversity summit planning committee, told the MetNews yesterday the organization was not being “too ambitious” in hoping that a two-day summit on June 20 and 21 will play a meaningful role in changing the face of the local bar.
Set to take place at the Los Angeles Convention Center concurrent with the LegalTech West Coast Show this summer, the summit will gather together lawyers, judges, educators, corporations, and governmental and community leaders to discuss diversity issues and begin formulating plans of action, Meyers said.
“It’s a big undertaking but we’re committed to doing it,” she remarked. “We want to make sure that everyone understands that it is very important that our profession and other professions reflect diversity within society.”
Conceived collaboratively by Meyers and LACBA’s Executive Director Stuart A. Forsyth, Associate Executive Director Clark Brown and Chief Marketing Officer Tim Elliot, the summit will focus on the “pipeline” concept-how to provide support and mentoring to ethnic minority children starting at the earliest grade levels in order to ensure that they continue on successfully to a college education.
The event is formatted to open with a plenary session addressing the need for a diversity pipeline, and then move into a series of “breakout sessions” grouped into several “tracks,” or topics: K-12 education, higher education, the practice of law, and possibly a track relating to the courts.
At a meeting earlier this week, Meyers said, the planning committee finalized the content of the higher education track breakout sessions, which will include segments on countering the effects of Proposition 209 in colleges and law school, and college-level programs that have successfully recruited and equipped minority students for law careers.
The higher education track, she noted, will include all of the law schools in Los Angeles including the smaller State Bar accredited institutions, universities and junior colleges.
The summit is scheduled to conclude with a closing plenary session where participants will discuss how to get commitments to action based on information learned through the summit.
Meyers said she expects the estimated cost of the summit, $200,000, to be covered by sponsorships and donations. Among those who will likely sponsor and attend the event are corporations, she said, which she believes want the firms representing them to demonstrate racial and gender diversity.
Brown said the planning committee is currently in discussions with major corporate and law firm sponsors, and also hopes to draw a minority personality who is both a celebrity and community leader, like former basketball star Magic Johnson. Entertainment studios are among the 500 stakeholders that LACBA will invite to the summit, he added.
While the summit is not being co-sponsored by the State Bar, Board of Governors member Ruthe Ashley, chair of the State Bar’s diversity pipeline task force, is serving on the committee as an advisory member and one of its primary consultants.
Noting previous efforts by both the State Bar and American Bar Association to address the diversity issue, Meyers said LACBA’s efforts are at least five years overdue.
“We probably should have done it before, there’s no question about it, but now that the problem is a critical problem...we’ve got to do it.”
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company