Inside Inclusion: Change is Necessary for Justice

A diverse group of legal professionals meeting in the boardroom

In the President’s Corner of the June 2015 issue of NWLawyer, Barb Rhoades Weaver and I wrote an article on transgender awareness. Usually I post to this blog with reflections on my guest writers. Since I was a co-author for that particular article, I instead want to focus on another article in our June issue by Joy Williams, “Inside Inclusion.”

One of the pleasures of working with the WSBA over the last 15 years has been the opportunity to work with great staff who are often leaders in their own right on the subjects of diversity, inclusion and cultural competence. We have had many excellent diversity managers over the years, including Joy and Chach Duarte-White. Each brought their own talents to organizing efforts at WSBA. However, the WSBA also has added additional diversity staff to our work, including Robin Nussbaum, Ph.D., to improve our internal work with staff and board. Overall, these efforts have started to bring the WSBA into a leadership position regionally in these discussions, and in traveling to meet colleagues around the country, I find our state is usually among the leading developers in this field for state associations.

Joy’s article is an especially good primer on how to approach diversity and inclusion, in theory and practice. But what I applaud most about the article is an unflinching call-out to a central element hampering diversity and inclusion efforts — fear of change. The inherently conservative nature of our profession (“conservative” in the sense of preserving precedent, being slow to change — not political conservatism) makes our profession poorly equipped to tackle the kinds of change that are necessary to equality.

The truth is we need to be better at this. Society is changing both demographically and in how people demand legal services and access to justice. We cannot ignore it and the change will not stop. If our profession is not ready to adapt to that change now, then our profession will become irrelevant to and detached from the citizens we serve. As Franz Kafka stated in a couple of his works, detachment from the masses makes the law a machine of oppression that has little resemblance to justice.

My thanks to Joy for an excellent article, and congratulations to Joy as the recipient of the Loren Miller Bar service award this year for her continuing and tireless efforts. I also extend my thanks and appreciation to the entire WSBA team (staff and board) for all they do to work on these issues.