Does Diversity Advance Our Profession?
Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day last month, I was struck by
one of King’s quotes as it relates to the State Bar’s efforts to
increase diversity and inclusion to improve legal services:
Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable ... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.
Reaching our maximum potential as a profession is neither automatic nor inevitable. Indeed, the State Bar’s purposeful efforts to involve a widely diverse body of lawyers in all areas of our bar are fundamental to achieving our goal. I know this from many different facets, but let me cite three examples:
1. At Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner. When I became managing partner at Abraham Watkins (a 69-year-old plaintiff’s firm), the lawyers in our firm were seasoned white males. Today, our firm sports a much more diverse lineup of talented lawyers who bring approaches and ideas never before imagined. As a direct result of our intentioned diversity efforts, the firm has witnessed record success. Partners Benny Agosto Jr. (Houston Bar Association president) and Mo Aziz—two of the best lawyers in the country—have been instrumental in leading our firm to new heights.
2. In my trial practice with mock trials. As a trial lawyer, I routinely present facts, theories, and evidence in the cases I handle to mock juries. I want to hear what others think about the important issues in a case, and the feedback received provides a road map to a better presentation in the actual trial. Great emphasis is placed on securing mock jurors from diverse backgrounds, and the more diverse our mock jurors are, the better the feedback.
3. Brainstorming in business. Back in the 1930s, advertising executive Alex Osborn began developing the concept of many people using their brains to storm a creative problem, with each stormer attacking the same objective. Today, this concept is known as brainstorming. Most often, the best brainstorming occurs when people from varied backgrounds work together sharing ideas and considering others’ ideas to reach the best possible solution. It is well recognized brainstorming brings about successful solutions in business. It works in the practice of law too.
I recognize there are lawyers who oppose the State Bar’s diversity
and inclusion efforts. In fact, one of the complaints in the federal
lawsuit against the State Bar concerns our efforts to promote and
advance diversity in our profession. After personally witnessing the
success diversity has brought to the improvement of our law firm in
providing legal services, and after witnessing the success of
brainstorming in my trial practice and the business world, I could not
disagree more with those lawyers.
Leaders of the State Bar, including our sections, our CLE department, and all other affiliated departments, have steadily pursued a path of increased diversity and inclusion of all in our bar and profession. The State Bar of Texas supports the Office of Minority Affairs, the Texas Minority Counsel Program, the Texas Minority Attorney Program, the Diversity Summit, the Diversity Forum, the Diversity in the Profession Committee, the Women in the Profession Committee, the Disability Issues Committee, and several State Bar sections and other groups to ensure substantial involvement by lawyers of diverse backgrounds. These programs are open to all Texas lawyers and serve to improve the quality of legal services in our state.
Having all legal profession stakeholders at the table brainstorming ideas, offering different views, listening, sharing, and expanding perspectives is paramount to our State Bar’s continued success. Legal services will improve, the regulation of our profession will be made easier, and greater benefits will be realized as the State Bar continues its goal to reach its maximum potential. So yes, diversity does advance our profession.
I want to hear your feedback on ways to improve our diversity and inclusion efforts to improve legal services and help better regulate our profession.
2019-2020 President, State Bar of Texas
Randy Sorrels can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or by phone at (713) 222-7211 (office) or (713) 582-8005 (cell).