Multiple Bar Associations Call on NY CLE Board to Require Diversity & Inclusion CLE Credits

New York, July 22, 2016 – A group of over a dozen New York bar associations sent a letter to Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and the New York State Continuing Legal Education Board today urging them to heed the call of recently and unanimously passed ABA Resolution 107. The resolution would require, as a separate credit or credits among the biennial minimum required of  lawyers, programs regarding diversity and inclusion in the legal profession and programs regarding the elimination of bias (“D&I programs”).

The Amistad Long Island Black Bar Association, Association of Black Women Attorneys, Association of Law Firm Diversity Professionals, Dominican Bar Association, Hispanic National Bar Association, Jewish Lawyers Guild, LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York, Long Island Hispanic Bar Association, Metropolitan Black Bar Association, Muslim Bar Association of New York, New York City Bar Association, Puerto Rican Bar Association and South Asian Bar Association of New York signed on to the letter, which states, “The legal profession is grounded on principles of equality, access to justice and the rule of law. It therefore behooves us—as legal practitioners who advocate for these principles in the courtroom—to learn to recognize discrimination within our own organizations and law firms and to work toward eliminating bias in all aspects of the profession, including in our workplaces, in the courthouses and vis-à-vis our clients. CLE programs are an important tool to raise awareness of both explicit and implicit bias within the profession and to educate and empower those who can effect change, particularly law firm leaders.”

John S. Kiernan, President of the New York City Bar Association, said, “There is no more important time to do this. The ABA has led the way, California and Minnesota have done it, and New York should be next, without delay.”

Resolution 107 was approved unanimously and without opposition by the House of Delegates at the American Bar Association’s mid-year meeting this past February. The resolution expands upon a 2004 resolution which amended the language of the Commentary to Section 2 of the Model Rule for Minimum Continuing Legal Education to provide that regulatory systems require lawyers—either through a separate credit or through existing ethics and professionalism credits—to complete programs related to racial and ethnic diversity and the elimination of bias in the profession. Resolution 107 expands the definition of diversity and inclusion to include all persons regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disabilities; and it also encourages all licensing and regulatory authorities to include, as a separate required credit, D&I programs. While the resolution does not specify the number of hours of D&I CLE required or call for an increase in the total number of CLE credits required per cycle, making D&I a separate requirement would underscore its importance, along the lines of the four separate ethics credits required every two years.

The letter also argues that the CLE Board need not limit diversity and inclusion to the ABA’s suggested definition. Rather, the bar associations suggest that the Board adopt the broader definition set forth in New York’s Human Rights Law, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, disability, predisposing genetic characteristics, familial status or marital status (Executive Law § 296). Since New York has defined its protected classes under state law, any New York CLE program that educates lawyers on diversity, inclusion and the elimination of bias should follow suit.

The letter can be read here:

About the Association
The New York City Bar Association, since its founding in 1870, has been dedicated to maintaining the high ethical standards of the legal profession, promoting reform of the law and access to justice, and providing service to the profession and the public. The Association, through its 24,000 members, continues to work for political, legal and social reform, while implementing innovative means to help the disadvantaged. Protecting the public’s welfare remains one of the Association’s highest priorities.