New CLE Policy To Enhance Diversity, Promoting Healing For The Legal Profession

By Nethani Palmani | Apr 03, 2017 05:37 PM EDT

The American Bar Association Board of Governors announced in June 2016 that its Continuing Legal Education (CLE) policy would be modified to further Goal III of the ABA Mission & Goals, "To Eliminate Bias and Enhance Diversity." The new CLE policy went into effect on Mar. 1.

According to ABA, the new CLE policy sets minimum diversity requirements for any ABA-produced or sponsored CLE panel program with three or more panel participants, and to have at least one diverse participant. It's largely because the legal profession has had a long history of diversity issues.

Most lawyers are subjected to mandatory CLE requirements as they watch an average of 10 hours of CLE programming every year. When they attend CLE programs and begin seeing the real face of the profession - overwhelmingly white, straight, cisgender and male.

Producing diverse CLE not only benefits the attendees but also lawyers who can use the opportunity to hone their expertise. Diversity standards in CLE mean that faculty recruiters must reach beyond the usual candidates to recruit qualified, highly skilled attorneys who also reflect the true diversity of the profession - exactly what the new CLE policy strives to achieve.

Besides the new CLE policy, the ABA additionally adopted a resolution in early February, revising its model rule on MCLE to recommend one hour of programming on diversity and inclusion every three years. According to the ABA Journal, only three states currently require lawyers to take CLE on Elimination of Bias but it is likely that more states will adopt this requirement in response to the new CLE policy.

Understanding the biases better equips decision-makers to reflect on how unintentional factors may impact decisions in the workplace and elsewhere. If the concern is not reflected at the highest levels of the profession, the legal industry as a whole will suffer.

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