Is Promoting Diversity and Inclusion Within the Legal Profession an Ethical Responsibility for all Lawyers?

The Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession believes so! This past month, the institute asked the ABA to amend its Model Rules of Professional Conduct to declare that lawyers have an obligation to promote diversity and inclusion.

The Model Rules of Professional conduct lay out the ethical and professional standards for all lawyers in the United States. Since 1986 the ABA rules have maintained a non-binding goal of eliminating bias in the profession and enhancing diversity.  Though the ABA’s rules only represent recommendations, corresponding state rules, which are binding, often mirror the ABA’s suggestions.  With that in mind the institute hopes the ABA’s adoption of a diversity rule will produce a “ripple effect” throughout the country.

The institute envisions a rule that promotes diversity based on race, sex, sexual orientation, disability and religion. It is believed that the general concept of making diversity and inclusion an ethical responsibility will likely achieve some support, while giving the  ABA a chance to examine how different states have approached the issue and perhaps lead to some uniformity.

The institute asked that the ABA’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility to develop a resolution for consideration by the House of Delegates in 2013.

“The legal profession continues to lag behind other professions in terms of diversity,” the institute wrote. “Given the importance of our justice system, and the roles and responsibilities that lawyers and judges bear, it is critical for our profession to affirmatively address diversity in the Model Rules of Professional Conduct.”

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