DIVERSITY IN THE LEGAL FIELD 

Diversity in the legal profession is a necessity that helps to improve the overall focus of the profession.  A group of culturally, racially, ethnically, and gender-diverse legal practitioners can attract and effectively connect with a broader network of clients than can their non-diverse counterparts.  Such diversity strengthens the belief in the fair delivery of justice, regardless of the background of the client. By more broadly representing and mirroring the values and cultures of a diverse community, a team of diverse lawyers can more effectively solve their clients’ and communities’ problems. Diversity in the legal profession helps to prevent discrimination, promotes inclusiveness, and encourages a broader understanding of the world around us.

DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION TASK FORCE 

In 2021, the Santa Barbara County Bar Association (SBCBA) created the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force (Task Force) to promote access, diversity, and inclusion amongst professionals in the local legal community; an idea that was envisioned for years prior to Elizabeth Diaz becoming SBCBA President in 2020. As the Task Force took shape, the Santa Barbara Women Lawyers joined forces with the SBCBA towards the promotion of gender equality. This collaboration also led to others. Currently, the Task Force is made up of local attorneys and representatives from the Santa Barbara Women Lawyers, Santa Barbara Barristers, Santa Barbara County Bar Foundation, and the Northern Santa Barbara County Bar Association. 

The Task Force committee members include Elizabeth Diaz, Claire K. Mitchell, Michelle Roberson, Elvia Garcia, Kate Lee, Ian Elsenheimer, Luer Yin and Jill Monthei. Committee members that were instrumental in creating the Task Force, but are no longer on the Task Force, are Zahra Nahar-Moore, and UCSB interns, Fatima Said and Ikenna Ojukwu.

GOALS 

The Task Force established goals that it has been diligently working on. The goals are to provide education on diversity to the local legal community and to create a mentorship and scholarship program to assist students of diverse backgrounds in the pursuit of a career in law.     

Education 

  • Under this goal, the Task Force created a survey to determine the depth of diversity. The results of the 2021 survey are in and the results can be found at 

Diversity and Inclusion Task Force’s First Annual Diversity Survey Results

  • The Task Force is planning a diversity presentation to take place in 2022. More details to come. 
  • The Task Force has also created a diversity and inclusion resource guide that was sent out to the Santa Barbara legal community.  The guide links various resources such as books, articles, and videos on the topic of diversity in the workplace and in the legal profession.  You will find these diversity and inclusion resources below. 

Mentorship and Scholarship 

Representation of diverse legal professionals is important for students to see so that they may be encouraged to pursue a career in law.  Additionally, most students do not have access to an attorney or a judicial officer to ask questions about their career path.  

  • The Task Force has created a program for students, in particular students of color and diverse backgrounds, to connect with legal professionals via career panels, informational interviews, and internships.  
    • Available for Students 
      • Career Panels – attorneys, judicial officers and legal professionals speak on a career panel for students interested in a career in law.  Panels may be via an online platform or in person.  Career panels available for high school and college students. 
      • Informational Interviews – attorneys, judicial officers or legal professionals are available to meet with a student, one on one, to talk about a career in law. Meetings may be in person or virtual. Open to high school and college students. 
      • Internships – referral to potential internship opportunities through non-profit legal services, attorneys, or legal professionals.   Internships open to college and law students. 
      • For those interested in scheduling a career panel, informational interview with an attorney or to obtain information regarding internships available, please send inquiries to email: sbcbar.survey@gmail.com
    • Opportunities for Attorneys, Judicial Officers, and Legal Professionals 
      • If you are interested in participating in career panels for students, or available for an informational interview, or if your law office or legal services organization would be interested in taking on a student intern, please contact sbcbar.survey@gmail.com .  
  • The scholarship component to the Task Force’s second goal is progressing steadily. The Santa Barbara County Bar Foundation is collaborating with the Task Force to create a special scholarship to help students of diverse backgrounds with expenses related to the Law School Administration Test (LSAT) and the California State Bar examination. We are currently completing the guidelines and procedures and plan to unveil the scholarship program in late 2022 to begin accepting donations. More details to come.  

RESOURCES 

The following are among the many resources available for legal professionals committed to learning about how diversity and inclusion supports legal initiatives and enhances productivity. These resources can help provide leaders with social context, as well as tools for fostering an inclusive work environment where legal professionals can thrive.

BOOKS

  • Hays-Thomas, R. (2017). Managing Workplace Diversity and Inclusion: A Psychological Perspective. Taylor and Francis. 
  • Meyer, E. (2014). The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business. PublicAffairs. 
  • Brown, J. (2019). How to Be an Inclusive Leader: Your Role in Creating Cultures of Belonging Where Everyone Can Thrive. Berrett-Koehler. 
  • Catlin, K. (2019). Better Allies: Everyday Actions to Create Inclusive, Engaging Workplaces Better Allies Press. 

ARTICLES

The Role of Diverse and Women Attorneys in Employment Law

The Business Case for Diversity: Reality or Wishful Thinking?

Report Card on the Diversity of California’s Legal Profession

Clients Push for Diversity

Diversity in the Workplace: Benefits, Challenges, and the Required Managerial Tools

TED TALKS 

Rocio Lorenzo, Innovation through Diversity

Janet Stovall, How to Get Serious About Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Melinda Epler, 3 Ways to Be a Better Ally in the Workplace