Women’s History Month Feature Series
Paulette Brown: Making Strides While Making History
“It is important for our youth to see the diversity of our profession and for members to show them what is possible, because it’s difficult to aspire to be something you can’t see.”
That’s what Paulette Brown told the ABA Journal shortly before starting her term as president of the American Bar Association (ABA) in September of 2015.
Brown was the first African American woman to lead the ABA, and she made diversity in the legal profession the focus on her term. Motivated by Bureau of Labor statistics showing the legal profession to be among the least diverse s in the country, Brown convened the Diversity and Inclusion 360 Commission, which gathered thought leaders across the country to focus on a comprehensive plan for diversity. She took that plan – and that focus – to all 50 states as ABA President. During her visit to Massachusetts in March of 2016, Brown moderated a panel at the BBA with other professionals who hold diversity in the legal profession as a high priority.
One result of the Commission’s work was the passage of ABA’s Resolution 113, an initiative designed to increase diversity in the legal profession. The Resolution urges all legal services providers to expand and create opportunities at all levels of responsibility for diverse attorneys, and urges clients to direct a greater percentage of the legal services they purchase to diverse attorneys. A report on the Resolution includes a model survey for providers of legal services to complete, which would allow prospective clients to view current levels of diversity among providers.
Brown’s leadership in driving the profession – both nationally and here in Massachusetts – to renew their focus on taking concrete steps to increase diversity in the legal profession caught the attention of the BBA; she was selected to receive the Beacon Award for Diversity and Inclusion, which will take place on March 30th at 6:00pm at the Taj Hotel in Boston.
In November of last year, the BBA announced its strong support for Resolution 113 and is working with other partners in Boston on the implementation of the model survey.
“We applaud the American Bar Association for advancing Resolution 113,” BBA President Carol Starkey said. “We are grateful to the ABA for their leadership on this important issue, and we look forward to learning of this initiative’s progress in the coming years. We strongly believe that one of the most significant benefits of this initiative is that it will facilitate an ongoing constructive dialogue between law firms and corporations concerning diversity and inclusion within our profession. We view this initiative as one that affirmatively supports change through collaboration, and we are excited to be part of that discussion.”
Before serving as ABA President, Brown was on the Commission on Women in the Profession and was a co-author of “Visible Invisibility: Women of Color in Law Firms.” She also chaired the ABA Council on Racial and Ethnic Justice (now Coalition on Racial and Ethnic Justice) and is a past co-chair of the Commission on Civic Education in our Nation’s Schools. Brown has been recognized by the National Law Journal as one of “The 50 Most Influential Minority Lawyers in America.”