The American Association for Justice’s “Diversity in the Law” June 2017 issue of Trial magazine includes a new article by Lieff Cabraser founding partner Elizabeth Cabraser on “Five Ways to Increase Leadership Diversity in the Courtroom.” Focusing on inclusivity among counsel in large multidistrict litigation and class actions, the piece sounds a call for increased diversity in court-appointed leadership positions, and goes on to provide specific tips on how lawyers can work to ensure increased leadership positions for female lawyers, attorneys of color, and members of the LGBT community.
As Trial notes, “creating opportunities for female, minority, and LGBT lawyers to take on court-appointed leadership roles requires concerted efforts from veteran leaders–and those striving to join them.” Cabraser points out that these efforts start from paying close attention to what judges actually say at a case’s outset, when considering leadership appointments: “When you receive a court order describing the procedure the judge will follow and the factors he or she evaluates in appointing counsel to leadership roles, design your application accordingly. If you have a partner, associate, or colleague who could serve ably while increasing the committee’s diversity, encourage him or her to apply.”
The piece goes on to note that younger attorneys need to build up experience for that first court appointment, while pointing out that it is incumbent upon more established practitioners to foster development of other lawyers, and to step aside in the face of such appointments “to make way for younger colleagues with the necessary energy, desire, and skills.”
“If you have been careful cultivate diversity in your firm, then you will have younger lawyers who fit the bill. If not, reconsider your hiring and promotion practices, change them, and in the meantime, look beyond your firm to see who you can encourage and mentor.”
Ms. Cabraser rounds out her guidelines with a general recommendation to show respect at all times. “To encourage diversity in our profession and in court-appointed leadership positions, we must show the courts, our co-counsel, our opposing counsel, and everyone in the courtroom that we respect all of our colleagues as professional equals.”