To the Editor:
Black History Month in February receives a lot of attention in the media, and rightly so. It is a time to honor the achievements and accomplishments of African-Americans and also consider how to encourage greater support for minorities interested in advancing their careers.
The lack of diversity in the legal profession has long been of concern to the Illinois State Bar Association and the reason why we are moving full-steam ahead on our lawyer diversity initiative. While women make up over half of the U.S. population and half of the entering classes in law school, racial and ethnic minorities – despite composing one-third of the population – make up only 10 percent of all lawyers.
A diverse legal profession is critical for many reasons. Foremost among them is having a legal community that better understands the vast needs of the richly-varied populations they serve. The challenge is how to best fill the educational pipeline with bright, promising students of color, support them in their education and training, and provide additional support to new lawyers.
We simply must make it easier for qualified people from diverse backgrounds to pursue and succeed at a career in the law. In the months and years ahead, we are confident that our efforts, and those who support our mission, will bear fruit. We'll settle for nothing less than a lawyer population that fully reflects the community it serves.
Mark D. Hassakis
President, Illinois State Bar Association