MINORITIES REPRESENT 21.6%OF LAWSCHOOL STUDENTS, and enrollment is increasing. Despite increased enrollment in jurist doctorate programs nationwide, minority representation in the legal profession is significantly lower than in other professions. Only about one partner in 20 is a minority, according to a 2007 report from The Minority Law Journal.
Since 2001,Veta Richardson has been executive director of the MCCA, a legal association founded in 1997 to advance diversity in the legal profession. Under Richardson’s leadership, MCCA (www.mcca.com) has expanded its focus to include education, and networking as well as providing $380,000 annually to minority law students. Now in its fourth year, the program has served 72 students thus far.
MCCA’s approach to advancing diversity is called KAN-Do! KAN stands for knowledge, access, networks. How can students and professionals use this strategy to their advantage?
We want to support students and the attainment of the education and open access to opportunities that will assist their professional development. Through our outreach, we identify corporations that have summer internship programs, and we match students with [opportunities]. The 22 networking events MCCA hosts annually are open to students, and if they volunteer, they can attend for free. We also have a job bank and a hot jobs e-mail blast.
What can be done to combat challenges faced by minorities in the legal profession?
We have to become more focused on taking stock, taking risk, and taking credit: Plot where you are now versus where you want to go; volunteer for different stretch assignments; learn to document your professional achievements and take credit for the great things they bring to an organization.
What sets KAN-Do and MCCA apart from other organizations in the legal industry?
With MCCA and our KAN-Do initiative, we enlist a broader base of support. And through our leadership network, contacts, quality of information and the way we approach our facilitated discussions, we’re able to enlist a higher level of management support. It’s not unusual at our events to see strong numbers of majority males participating alongside women and minorities.