Articles listed below were written by attorneys for attorneys and published in the “Diversity” issue of the printed publication, COMMUNIQUÉ (April 2017):
- “’I Don’t Think That Ladies Should Be Lawyers.’” By Tami D. Cowden, Esq.
- “Diversity in the Nevada Bar?” By Bryan K. Scott
- “The Case for a More Diverse and Inclusive Work Environment” By Bryce Kunimoto, Esq.
© 2017 The following articles were originally published in COMMUNIQUÉ, the official publication of the Clark County Bar Association. (April 2017).
All rights reserved. For permission to reprint this article, contact the publisher Clark County Bar Association, 717 S. 8th Street, Las Vegas, NV 89101. Phone: (702) 387-6011.
“I Don’t Think That Ladies Should Be Lawyers.”
By Tami D. Cowden, Esq.
Shocking title, huh? As it happens, those words graced the cover of the ABA Journal in December of 1986, five months before I graduated from law school. The quote was from a Chicago judge, spoken in open court, and provided an excellent introduction to an article about gender bias in the profession. That article predicted that such attitudes would necessarily change, given the vastly increased number of women entering law school. And indeed, my own law school class had been the first at my school in which the majority of the incoming class was female.
For years, I kept a copy of that cover pinned to a bulletin board in my office. It was meant to be a reminder of how things had been, so that as things changed, I would not forget. Somehow, over the years, I lost that cover. But that’s not a problem, because no reminder of how things had been is necessary. There has not been all that much change.
Oh, certainly, the numbers of women in the profession have increased. And we are not likely to see or hear judges, senior partners, or other persons of power and influence in the profession express such attitudes so overtly. But what remains is something far more insidious than those open expressions of predisposition: implicit bias.
“Implicit bias” is the name given to attitudes or stereotypes that are present and affect our understanding, actions, and decision making on an subconscious level. These unconscious attitudes develop based on our own experiences, absorption of cultural attitudes and biases, and the human tendency to show a preference for things, people, and groups that share attributes with ourselves. But because the bias is not conscious, the perpetrator is unaware of its effect.
For example, studies have shown that male candidates are preferred over female candidates, even though the resumes have information that is identical, save for either masculine or feminine sounding names. And, of course, implicit bias is not limited to issues of gender. Studies have also shown that resumes of candidates with names that suggest membership in certain racial or ethnic groups receive less favorable treatment than otherwise identical resumes with more culturally neutral names.
Nor is the bias limited to hiring. Another study posed the following scenario to partners: An important client has a sudden emergency, requiring immediate action before noon. However, the associate assigned to the file is unable to come to the office due to a home emergency. Partners who were told that a female associate could not come on due to a child care emergency were less sympathetic to her, than to a male associate who could not come in due to a plumbing emergency. And when the male associate reported a child care emergency, partners were even more sympathetic than for his plumbing emergency. Significantly, the results were the same regardless of the gender of the partner! Sorry, “ladies”‒we are not immune.
Given that even the perpetrator is generally unaware of the bias, addressing implicit bias may seem an impossible task. Fortunately, that is not so. Training to recognize and acknowledge these unconscious attitudes can teach individuals to check their own processes and decision for bias. You can find training materials and other resources at the ABA’s Implicit Bias Initiative, http://www.americanbar.org/groups/litigation/initiatives/task-force-implicit-bias.html.
P.S. Regardless of the need for reminders, I loved that cover. So if anyone happens to have a copy of the Dec 1986 ABA Journal hanging around, let’s talk.
Tami D. Cowden is Of Counsel with Greenberg Traurig LLP. Tami has more than 20 years’ experience as an appellate attorney with a focus on representations in the Supreme Court of Nevada and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Tami serves as President of the CCBA through December 2017. Contact her at email@example.com.
Diversity in the Nevada Bar?
By Bryan K. Scott
I am honored to have been selected as the 88th and first African American President of the State Bar of Nevada. I have been on the Board of Governors for more than 11 years. As the President of the State Bar of Nevada, I represent more than 11,000 Nevada attorneys—the majority of whom look nothing like me. It’s very likely that when I leave the State Bar of Nevada’s Board of Governors in 2018, after my presidential and ex-officio member terms end, there will be no lawyers of color serving on the Board of Governors. While gender diversity is present on all of the State Bar of Nevada’s boards and committees, important advisory panels, such as the Disciplinary Board and the Lawyer Advertising Committees, have sparse ethnic diversity. One of the most crucial panels, the Board of Bar Examiners, which writes, administers, and grades the bar exam, has no ethnic diversity. Lawyers of color are very much needed and desired to become members of the Bar and on all of the State Bar’s boards, committees and sections. With diversity, the Bar gains different perspectives, views, and insights. Further, the rights of the public are better protected.
In its 2016 Annual Report, the State Bar of Nevada reported that its membership consisted of 8,916 active members and 2,313 inactive members. The average age of those members is 54. Sixty seven percent are male and 33 percent are female. Forty nine percent practice in Clark County, 13.5 percent practice in Washoe County, 2.6 percent practice in Carson City, 2.8 percent practice in rural counties and the remaining 27.5 percent, practice outside of the State. While the annual report goes on to detail other facts and figures about our Bar, its budget, and its members, it does not detail the ethnic makeup of the membership. Why? Because the State Bar of Nevada does not track that information. I believe the Bar should track that information and am working with the Board of Governors and the specialty bars toward that end.
Although I do not know Nevada’s exact diversity numbers, based upon my 25 years of practice, consistent Bar service, presidency of three Bar organizations, and just my own visual observation while attending court and Bar functions, I would say that our Bar is not very diverse in Southern Nevada and is even less so in Northern Nevada and the rural parts of our state.
Nevada’s population is 2,700,000, of which 66 percent are white or Caucasian, 26 percent are Hispanic, eight percent are African American, seven percent are Asian, and one percent are Native American. According to the ABA’s 2016 Lawyer Demographics report, nationally, 64 percent of lawyers are male and 36 percent are female. As of 2010, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 88 percent of lawyers are white, five percent are African American, four percent are Hispanic, and three percent are Asian Pacific American. Our Bar does not reflect the diversity of the State.
As I recently mentioned to attendees of the Clark County Bar’s Volunteer Appreciation luncheon earlier this year, the ABA’s report on Diversity in the Legal Profession, from 2010, has identified several trends affecting the stagnation of diversity in the legal profession. According to that report, although both clients and law firms have increasingly come to value lawyer diversity, the resources to support diversity initiatives are drying up. The rising cost of legal education is only one factor; the report asserts that members of the legal profession must work to improve the educational pipeline for minority students, including younger students at all grade levels. Demographics may reveal information about our citizens for use by hotels, restaurants, retailers, school districts, voting districts, and even sports franchises in our state. Yet, we still do not know much information about our own profession.
Considering Nevada’s lawyers
More than a decade has passed since I served as the Chairman of the State Bar’s Diversity Committee. During 2006-2008, we tried to find out how diverse the State Bar of Nevada was. We added a voluntary ethnicity “check off box” to the annual dues statement together with a note from me explaining that the check off was voluntary and why we were asking for the information. Not many members chose to provide the State Bar of Nevada with the requested ethnic information. I am not sure if they forgot to make a selection, did not think it important for their colleagues to know, or thought it would be utilized for a more nefarious purpose. I believed then (and now) that having the information better enables the Bar to serve its members with more meaningful benefits and CLE programming. Detailed data about our members would provide the Bar with a baseline from which to determine if any diversity initiatives it implements, are successful.
The diversity of Nevada’s lawyers is being enhanced by the work and efforts of UNLV’s William S. Boyd School of Law and several specialty bars that are working to improve and support the legal profession in our state. I am also a past President of the Las Vegas chapter of the National Bar Association (“LVNBA”), an association of African American attorneys; it has supported the Las Vegas community for more than 30 years. That specialty bar has a three-pronged mission: pipeline work, community service, and historical preservation. Among their many worthwhile projects is hosting an annual gala, which raises funds to sponsor scholarships for law students from Nevada who they hope will return to Nevada to practice. I was fortunate enough to receive the LVNBA scholarship during the three years I attended Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon.
The Latino Bar Association of Las Vegas, active since 1999, has seen significant growth in their association recently. It works to advance the standing of its members in the community, as well as increasing collegiality through informal mentorships. Their significant work includes participation in a large communication campaign to educate the Las Vegas community about the difference between notarios and immigration attorneys.
The Las Vegas South Asian Bar Association ( SABA) has been active since 2005. It works to educate the community about issues relevant to the South Asian community, and it participates in community outreach efforts focusing on legal issues, such as immigration law and business law.
Two specialty bars work to support female attorneys in Nevada: the Southern Nevada Association of Women Attorneys (“SNAWA”) and the Northern Nevada Women Lawyers Association (“NNWLA”). Both groups, formed in the late 1970s, work to host CLE seminars and networking events, and offer scholarships to female law students.
Developing a more diverse bar benefits the Bar and the public. Lawyers from different backgrounds, various cultures, and practitioners from multiple legal fields bring different skill sets, concerns, and priorities to an ever-growing, diverse clientele. Since the State Bar does not have a formal diversity pipeline program which starts with kids at the middle and high school levels, I believe that the future of diversity (ethnic and gender) in our state rests mainly with the William S. Boyd School of Law. According to its entering class statistics as of September 23, 2016 it enrolled 116 students, 44 percent are female, 56 percent are male, and 34 percent of them identified themselves as “students of color.” The Law School attracts the best and brightest students of color who desire to practice law. That is a significant step toward helping build diversity in the State. The Bar’s role is to attempt to retain those future lawyers of color by being welcoming and inclusive, employing them while they are in law school through intern and externships, and hiring and nurturing them after graduation as they begin their legal careers.
Gaining diversity in a profession like law is difficult
There are many impediments to entry into our profession—the LSAT, getting into and graduating from law school, the ever-increasing cost of law school, and finally, the bar exam. With those impediments, combined with the pressure and hectic pace of our profession, people shy away from becoming lawyers. In the past, when I would go into middle and high schools for career day, I would always ask the students to raise their hands if they wanted to be a lawyer. I used to immediately get seven or eight raised hands. On recent visits, I have gotten zero hands raised. When I asked why no one raised their hands, they said it was too hard or they were not interested in going to “more school”. Some of them were not very familiar with what a lawyer does. Diversity requires a pipeline, and students must become interested and knowledgeable about the law and what lawyers do at an early age. Programs such as the State Bar’s Young Lawyers Section’s Goldilocks program, the State Bar’s Mock Trial Competition, and Clark County Law Foundation’s Trial By Peers program help in that effort, but more effort should be made to reach Clark County’s disadvantaged schools and those with a larger minority student population.
Past, present, and future
My family and I have lived in Las Vegas since 1970. From the age of three through the age of 24 (with the exception of law school), I grew up in North Las Vegas and did not know any lawyers, never had any contacts with lawyers and did not have any family members who were lawyers. It was not until college that I gained an appreciation and interest in the law. I graduated from Lewis and Clark Law School and passed the Nevada Bar Exam in 1991 and have practiced law in Nevada for more than 25 years. Bar service has always been an important part of my career. Bar service has afforded me the opportunity, to better our profession and to grow as an attorney and as a person. After a term as the President of the Las Vegas Chapter of the National Bar Association from 1996 to 1999, in 2000, I was elected to the Board of the Clark County Bar Association. In 2005, I became its first African-American President in its more than 50-year history. Thereafter, in 2006, I became the first African-American President of the Clark County Law Foundation. At the end of 2006, I was appointed by the Supreme Court of Nevada, to the State Bar Board of Governors to complete the term of a board member who left the State. After three successful re-election campaigns, and another reappointment to the Board in 2008 by the Supreme Court of Nevada from which I left after the passing of my mother, I made Nevada history again in June of last year by becoming the first African-American State Bar President in its 88-year history. I have been on the Board of Governors for more than ten years. Bar service makes for a stronger bar. I would strongly encourage lawyers of color to become more involved and stay engaged. Bar service is enjoyable, betters the profession, and helps to create better contacts both professionally and personally.
I continue to discuss and advocate for diversity on every occasion that I am able, even within my own family. I am proud to say that my youngest niece recently graduated from Whittier Law School, has taken the Nevada Bar exam and is currently waiting for her results. Hopefully, she will soon be joining me in an honorable profession that I have had the pleasure of belonging to for more than 25 years.
Bryan K. Scott is the 2016-17 President of the State Bar of Nevada, the 2005 President of the Clark County Bar Association and the 2006 President of the Clark County Law Foundation. He is the Senior Assistant City Attorney for the City of Las Vegas and practices in the areas of Land Use, Zoning and Planning. He has been employed by the City of Las Vegas for more than 20 years and has been practicing law in Las Vegas for more than 25 years.
The Case for a More Diverse and Inclusive Work Environment”
By Bryce Kunimoto, Esq.
Workplace diversity is often portrayed as merely a warm and fuzzy goal that does not directly impact the bottom line of a business. However, focused efforts to build a diverse workforce play an important role in building a strong and profitable firm. More law firms are recognizing that diversity and inclusiveness (“D&I”) is a cornerstone business practice. The good news is that Nevada is home to a diverse population, one that is becoming more diverse each year. Companies, including law firms, are realizing that failing to build a diverse workforce means stunting their own growth.
As lawyers, we are in the business of solving problems. Studies have shown that a more diverse workforce brings together a variety of viewpoints from diverse backgrounds that allows for more creative solutions to solving problems efficiently.
However, one impediment to D&I is that some may feel a firm that promotes D&I will result in fewer opportunities available to non-diverse attorneys. So why should a non-diverse attorney care about D&I? Well, because D&I efforts do not have to be a zero sum game. Creating a D&I environment should not have to come at the expense of non-diverse attorneys. For example, having a diverse workforce can enable a law firm to more effectively market their services to a broader range of clients, including international clients, which can result in more billable work for everyone.
In addition, many in-house corporate legal departments require their outside law firms to staff their legal matters, at least in part, with diverse attorneys. Some in-house corporate legal departments are also monitoring the number of hours billed by diverse attorneys to ensure that those outside law firms are not merely staffing their matters with a token diverse attorney.
Many in-house corporate legal departments are also transferring legal work away from outside law firms that are not diverse. Hence, having a more diverse workforce can result in more legal work for an outside law firm, which increases the size of the pie for all attorneys, including non-diverse attorneys. All law firm attorneys can “rise with the tide” when they have a more diverse workforce.
Companies and law firms interested in building a more diverse and inclusive workforce may want to consider the following:
Form a Diversity Committee and give it real power.
Admittedly, creating and retaining a diverse workforce is not easy. Efforts must be consistent, personally supported by all employees at all levels of the firm, and accompanied by specific expectations for each person who works at the firm. It is also helpful to assign responsibility to a single person to provide leadership for workplace diversity efforts. Consideration should be given to creating a Diversity and Inclusiveness Committee (“Diversity Committee”) and assign the chairperson with voting powers on important firm committees which may involve recruitment, retention and promotion of attorneys, including, but not limited to, the promotion of senior attorneys to partnership ranks.
Implement a firm wide strategic plan that becomes a key component of firm policy.
Consideration should be given to creating and implementing a diversity plan that is supported by management and contains specific policies to create a more diverse and inclusive work environment. For example, a firm can require that efforts be made to locate and interview a qualified diverse candidate for every open attorney position.
But recruitment of diverse attorneys is only the beginning. Studies have shown that many law firms struggle with retaining diverse talent. Hence, a diversity plan should also include a comprehensive program to provide diverse attorneys with resources to succeed in the legal profession in the form of, among other things, a mentoring program, diversity retreat, and training seminars. Also, a diversity plan should be forward-thinking and seek to create a pipeline of diverse talent. A law firm may want to consider participating in the State Bar of Nevada and Boyd School of Law Diversity Fellowship Program, which allows a diverse law student to spend a paid semester working at a law firm/legal department to develop practical skill-sets which will further his/her professional development.
All firm employees should be involved in ensuring that a firm continues towards its goals of D&I. While this is easier said than done, an attorney’s efforts to hire, retain and promote a diverse workforce can be one of the metrics in performance evaluations, and hence compensation decisions.
Focus on inclusiveness and not just diversity.
A diversity plan should have strong support from firm leadership and be focused not solely on the number of diverse attorneys, but more importantly on fostering an environment of inclusiveness so that diverse attorneys can succeed at the firm. Verna Myers, a well-known D&I consultant, said it best: Diversity is being invited to the party whereas inclusion is being asked to dance.
Bryce Kunimoto, Esq. is a litigation partner at Holland and Hart LLP and also Chair of its Diversity Committee. He is responsible for developing and implementing the firm’s strategic diversity plan, including recruitment, partnership admission, retention, and development across the firm’s 15 offices 8 states and in Washington D.C.
COMMUNIQUÉ is published eleven times per year with an issue published monthly except for July by the Clark County Bar Association, P.O. Box 657, Las Vegas, NV 89125-0657. Phone: (702) 387-6011.
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