David L. Douglass: The Ethical Obligation to Promote Diversity


Our history compels the conclusion that lawyers have an ethical obligation to promote equality and diversity in the legal profession and in society. The profession has tried the moral route (it’s the right thing to do) and the business route (it’s good for business), David Douglass explained. However, considering the lack of progress, perhaps the legal community should consider a new approach.

Douglass proposed amending the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to endorse and adopt an ethical obligation to diversity. Model Rule 8.5, he said, would lay out lawyers’ “professional duty to undertake affirmative steps to remedy de facto and de jure discrimination, eliminate bias and promote equality, diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.”

This includes aspiring to devote time each year to such efforts, including “adopting measures to promote the identification, hiring and advancement of diverse lawyers and legal professionals; attending CLE and non-CLE programs concerning issues of discrimination, explicit and implicit bias, and diversity; and active participation in and financial support of organizations and associations dedicated to remedying bias and promoting equality, diversity and inclusion in the profession.”

About David L. Douglass

David L. Douglass is the managing partner of the Washington D.C. office of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, LLP. David represents clients in complex investigations and litigation. He is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Fellowship is extended by invitation only to experienced trial lawyers who’ve mastered the art of advocacy and whose careers have been marked by the highest standards of ethical conduct, professionalism, civility and collegiality.

Throughout his career, David has championed diversity in the legal profession. He serves on Sheppard Mullin’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and co-chaired the D.C. office’s Diversity and Inclusion Group. He’s on the Advisory Board for the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession, an organization comprised of corporations, law firms and attorneys devoted to driving progress toward creating a more inclusive legal profession. In 2015, David received the American Bar Association Health Law Section’s Champion of Diversity and Inclusion Award.

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