By 2044, our country will become a majority-minority nation. And yet, the legal profession that represents it remains 85% white, more so at the highest levels of the profession. Meanwhile, despite the massive entry of women into the workplace over the last century, the legal profession – which long excluded women from its ranks – remains 64% male, a number that has barely budged in the past five years. Meanwhile, the numbers of lawyers with disabilities (0.54%) and openly LGBT lawyers (2.64%) are both low, and likely do not reflect their true numbers in the population. As a profession, we need to do a better job of hiring, training, and promoting minority attorneys in every legal field. The shifting demographics of our country demand change.
At the same time, we have another crisis brewing in the legal profession, one of well-being. As disturbingly portrayed in the 2017 article, The Lawyer, The Addict, attorneys live a high-stress, high-stakes lifestyle, one that can have severe repercussions on us and on those we love. That article gave increased momentum to a lawyer wellness movement, particularly as it was released on the heel of two 2016 studies about law student and attorney wellness. Over the past two years, dozens of task forces, wellness groups, well-being conferences, and more have sprung up around the country. Lawyers everywhere are recognizing that our colleagues are in need and we as a profession need to do more to help them.
New CLE Carve-Out Requirements
It is with the twin concerns of diversity and well-being in mind that the Illinois Supreme Court passed its new CLE carve-out requirement. Now, every licensed attorney in Illinois is required to take at least one hour of diversity and inclusion CLE and one hour of mental health and substance abuse CLE as part of their overall six hours of required professional responsibility credit in each reporting period. The Commission recommended these changes in light of the dramatic transformation in our legal profession and the need to equip lawyers to readily meet that change. It also noted that despite seeing an exponential growth in professional responsibility courses over the past ten years, most of the courses offered were either ethics or professionalism, with few courses offered in diversity and inclusion or mental health and substance abuse. In addition, making these courses mandatory would help remove the fear of stigma that attorneys think others will infer from their attending these courses.
It has now been over a year since the requirements went into place. In the first year alone, we have seen a dramatic rise in mental health and substance abuse and diversity and inclusion courses offered for CLE credit in Illinois. Along with our sister organizations the Illinois Attorney and Registration Disciplinary Council (ARDC), and the Lawyers’ Assistance Program (LAP), we offer free online courses that any attorney can take on these carve-out topics as well. And now, Illinois attorneys have even more no-cost opportunities to get their CLE credit hours.
Regional Diversity and Well-Being Conferences
On October 11 and 12, 2018, the Commission, the ARDC, and LAP will join together to offer two diversity and inclusion and mental health and substance abuse conferences at locations around the state. The conferences, Diversity and Well-Being are Essential to Effective Lawyering, are free and open to every Illinois attorney. The first hour, The Transforming Face of Law, will address the twin roles that implicit bias and cultural competency play in attorney interactions with each other and with clients. The second hour, Recognizing, Understanding, and Referring a Colleague in Need, will focus on how lawyers can recognize when their colleagues need assistance and how those attorneys can offer help.
The first conference will be held on October 11 at Southern Illinois University School of Law from 12:00-2:20 pm. The program will feature Judge Debra Walker of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission of Professionalism, and Nelson Wood of the Lawyers’ Assistance Program. The second will be held on October 12 at Loyola University Chicago School of Law from 3:00 to 5:20 pm. It will feature Lea Gutierrez of the Illinois ARDC and Dr. Diana Uchiyama of the Lawyers’ Assistance Program. The Loyola program will also be live-streamed online. The conferences are free and attending both hours will give attorneys one hour of diversity and inclusion CLE credit and one hour of mental health and substance abuse CLE credit.
Registration is currently open, and spots are filling quickly. You can register for your preferred location on our website. Our profession is transforming, and we all need to be equipped for a diverse and healthy future. We look forward to meeting you in October as we together navigate the rapids of change.