Model Rules Could Encourage Lawyers To Make Diversity A Professional Responsibility

Sep 17, 2012, 13:26 ET from Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession

The Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession and Robert A. Clifford urge the American Bar Association to codify the profession's commitment to diversity and inclusion

CHICAGO, Sept. 17, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a letter dated September 14, Marc Firestone, chair of the IILP, and Robert A. Clifford, Illinois State Delegate to the American Bar Association House of Delegates, urged leaders of the ABA to include diversity and inclusion in the Model Rules of Professional Conduct.  Doing so would ensure that all lawyers in the country understand the need to make the legal profession more diverse and more inclusive.

The letter, which went to ABA leaders, urges action to help the ABA reach its goal to "eliminate bias and enhance diversity," fulfill its objective to promote "full and equal participation in the association, our profession and the justice system by all persons" and eliminate "bias in the legal profession and the justice system." 

Studies show that the legal profession is lagging in meeting its own goals for diversity and in implementing programs that effectively expand diversity. It now falls behind other professions in these efforts. As a result, IILP and Clifford suggest that lawyers need to make diversity a priority, through including a professional commitment in the Model Rules. Illinois, the state Clifford represents in the ABA, already includes diversity as a component of professional responsibility in its Supreme Court rules.  IILP and Clifford suggest that the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility work with other entities to propose new language for the Model Rules for consideration by the ABA's policy-making body, the House of Delegates, no later than the ABA Midyear Meeting in 2014.

"If true diversity is to be a goal for our profession, the ABA is best positioned to take an active role in developing a new approach to diversity through language in the Model Rules. The Rules shape our core values and inspire and instill in each lawyer the dedication to improve the composition of the profession so that it serves and reflects our society. Through the Model Rules, lawyers are given a set of principles to guide them and help them be better lawyers," said Clifford. 

"All lawyers should share a common interest in making our profession more diverse and inclusive. It is an imperative across practice areas, geographies, and demographics. As such, diversity and inclusion, I believe, should be a fundamental component of legal ethics. We hope that with new language in the Model Rules, more states will follow the lead of those states that have already made diversity a priority," added Firestone.

Examples already exist in several states that make diversity and elimination of bias a matter of professional responsibility. Lawyers need to see diversity and inclusion as having relevance to themselves and their practices and they need to become educated about the many issues and facets of diversity. The ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility has primary oversight of the model rules, first written more than 100 years ago, to guide lawyers and provide a framework for ethical behavior.

Editor's Note: For more information contact Sandra Yamate at the IILP.

About the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession – REAL CHANGE. NOW. For more information, please visit the IILP at

About Robert A. CliffordFor more information, visit the Clifford Law Firm websites at or

About Marc Firestone. For more information, visit

Contact: Sandra Yamate
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SOURCE Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession