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American Bar Association Head Says Diversifying Law Needs To Begin Early


Law is one of the least diverse professions in the nation. 88 percent of lawyers are white. Two-thirds are men. Only 1 of every 6 law firm partners is a woman.

Paulette Brown’s mission is to change those numbers. She’s the first woman of color to lead the American Bar Association, and she stopped by Dallas this week.

Interview Highlights: Paulette Brown…

…On the disparity in the law profession:

“It’s changing, but not at a fast enough pace. Especially in recent years, people are not just looking at the numbers, but also analyzing why things haven’t improved the way they have.

One of the ‘why’s’ are people’s unconscious biases and whether those biases have an impact on decision-making. You know, who becomes successful in law firms, whether barriers are being placed unknowingly that are keeping people from being progressed in the manner that they should be.” 

Credit Gus Contreras / KERA News
Paulette Brown is president of the American Bar Association.

  …On retaining women in law:

“When you hire someone, you hire them for the value they bring to the organization, so if you thought they were valuable in the first instance, I think people need to think of ways that you can keep that value within your organization and to be flexible in how a particular person works.

With all of the technology available now, there are many ways that it’s not necessary to lose a woman or a man who wants to be more involved with his or her family. Everything does not require 9-to-5 or face time.”

…On creating “pipelines” before law school:

“I think we can’t wait to look at the situation once they get out of law school, we have to dig down much further. That’s why I visit Boys & Girls Clubs wherever I travel so that they can see real life lawyers and then also have an understanding that all lawyers don’t go to court and it’s not all about what they see on television.” 

Paulette Brown is the president of the national American Bar Association. 

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter is KERA's vice president of news. He oversees news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News has earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.