Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

UC-Berkeley 3L: Reflections On Equity, Inclusion, And Change In The Legal Profession

Daily Journal op-ed:  Solving the Inclusion Conundrum: Reflections on Equity, Inclusion and Making Change in the Legal Profession, by Noor-ul-ain Hasan (J.D. 2020 UC-Berkeley):

California Law Review 4Legal profession surveys consistently show a persistent, systematic inclusivity problem: at 70% male and 88% white it is one of the least racially and gender-diverse professions in the U.S. Over 80% of all federal judicial clerkships are secured by white applicants. At large U.S. law firms, women are only 20% of full equity partners and minorities are just 9% of full equity partners. Professor Meera Deo's "Unequal Profession" demonstrates how race and gender dynamics affect the legal academy. 

Through my experience as editor-in-chief of the "California Law Review," I have seen firsthand the power of inclusive and diverse teams. Our journal is about 50% people of color and 59% women. About 30% of our editors identify as LGBTQ+ and nearly a third are first generation professional students.

Although representation certainly matters, when it is the sole goal, deeper issues of inclusion remain unaddressed. At CLR, we encourage editors to critically engage with the variety of marginalized perspectives on our journal and create meaningful connections with people who have different experiences. During my tenure, we did not eradicate prejudice on the law review. However, we knew that CLR is the most diverse workplace we would encounter in our careers, so we tried to make it a just and inclusive one by building collective capability in matters of equity and confronting institutional pressures head-on. 

The legal profession's inclusion efforts will improve if we view equity and inclusion as inherently meaningful. This means being committed to inclusion because we are empathetic to those who are different from us, not simply because it will improve our bottom line, because the client said so, or to appease law student activists. It only works if you mean it. 

Inclusion doesn't just benefit marginalized people; equity makes the law better for everyone. Plus, the cost of being inclusive is significantly outweighed by its social benefits: enhanced teamwork, empathy for one another's experience, and a more just work environment. And isn't justice, at its most granular level, why we all chose to become lawyers anyway?

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