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ABA Pledge Supports Disability Diversity and Inclusion in the Legal Profession

WASHINGTON, D.C.,  Feb. 19, 2013 – At the _’s Midyear Meeting in Dallas, the association’s Board of Governors signed — on behalf of the ABA — the ABA Commission on Disability Rights’ Pledge for Change: Disability Diversity in the Legal Profession for legal employers, including law firms, corporations, judges and law schools.  The pledge affirms the signatory’s commitment to disability diversity and calls upon the signatory to encourage other legal employers to make this commitment as well.  In signing the pledge, the ABA fosters its Goal III objectives to promote full and equal participation in the association, our profession and the justice system by all persons, and eliminate bias in the legal profession and the justice system.  

The pledge was created in response to the lack of individuals with disabilities in the legal profession, and was the centerpiece of the Second ABA National Conference on the Employment of Lawyers with Disabilities held in June 2009.  The first signatories were the law firms of Kirkland & Ellis LLP and Schiff Hardin LLP.  To date, the list of signatories is nearing 150, and includes corporations such as Microsoft Corp., Starbucks Corp. and Walgreen Co.    

In 2012 the Conference of Chief Justices, as a sign of its support of the pledge, passed a resolution encouraging its members to urge the state judiciaries and individual judges to work actively to foster a diverse workforce that includes qualified persons with disabilities, and to advance the employment of qualified persons with disabilities in the judicial system.  Shortly thereafter, the first two court systems signed on:  Polk County Circuit Court and Dunn County Circuit Court, both in Wisconsin. 

The ABA’s affirmation of its support of lawyers with disabilities serves as an example for other legal employers to recognize disability as a diversity group and to develop strategies for increasing the number of lawyers with disabilities in the profession.  In recognition of those pledge signatories who are making measurable progress and engaging in innovative practices to recruit, retain and advance lawyers with disabilities, the commission will award its first Champions for Disability Inclusion in the Profession Award in 2014.