Every law firm, legal aid organization, law school and legal internship program claims to place a high value on diversity and inclusion, but the reality is that law is the least diverse profession in the nation. Thus, there’s huge gap between the legal professions’ diversity messaging and diversity numbers in actual practice. i.e “Talking the Talk, But not Walking the Walk.”
While my African American and Dominican American identity constantly reminds me of the lack of diversity and inclusivity in our curriculums, professors, and thought leadership in legal education. Being a heterosexual male in law school affords me a great deal of privilege in this space.
Therefore in designing the ATJ Tech Fellows program, diversity and Inclusion was intentionally an integral pillar of the fellowship program’s core values, and we embrace it as a central element to fulfill our mission and create a space that welcomes all law students from all backgrounds. Our differences — race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, socioeconomic status, abilities, experience and more — enhance our ability to achieve the fellowship program’s core mission of preparing future lawyers with the knowledge and practical skills to reshape our profession and make justice more accessible for underserved communities. We welcome fellows from all backgrounds and want participants in the program to feel respected and valued.
From the initial inception of the fellowship program, we were very intentional in fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion at all levels of our organization. Specifically, we have taken steps to foster a culture of diversity and inclusivity through the overall design of the fellowship program with inclusive language and messaging in all ATJ Tech Fellows materials, the make up of our team and advisory board, the selection of program speakers, and the fellowship application process.
To improve the chances of attracting diverse fellows to our program, our team has directed specific recruitment and outreach efforts to target diverse law students. These marketing efforts include outreach to the Latina/o Law Student Associations, the National Black Law Students Association, The National LGBT Bar Association, and HBCU Law Schools.
Being cognizant that diversity recruitment issues in the legal profession can be attributed to implicit bias, we suggested that each of our applicant selection committee take Harvard’s Implicit Bias Test before making applicant selections to raise awareness of potential biases that reviewers may make in selecting candidates.
While far from perfect, I am extraordinarily proud to say that we were successful in selecting a well rounded diverse inaugural cohort of fellows for the program. Spanning from all different backgrounds, races, religions and sexual orientations. As we are still very interested in learning more ways to address diversity and inclusion within our organization, we would appreciate any feedback and comments.