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Instant Insights / A National Conversation on Racism: the Legal Profession's Role in Driving Equality

The tragedy of George Floyd's death at the hands of a white police officer has spurred a renewed conversation about who we are as a country. In the legal sphere, we are seeing members of the community come together and look inward, asking what they can do to better confront racism and inequality. At ALM, our reporters and editors have interviewed diverse law firm leaders, general counsel and law deans, as well as allies, about where the blindspots are and where we go from here. A collection of some of that coverage, along with photography from the protests and spot news, is below.

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(l-r) Howard University School of Law Dean Danielle Holley-Walke, Rutgers Law School Dean Kimberly Mutcherson, Penn State Dickinson Law Dean Danielle M. Conway and University of Law School Dean G. Marcus Cole. Howard University School of Law Dean Danielle Holley-Walker (from left), Rutgers Law School Dean Kimberly Mutcherson, Penn State Dickinson Law Dean Danielle M. Conway and Notre Dame University of Law School Dean G. Marcus Cole. (Courtesy photos)

Editor’s Note: In the wake of protests against police brutality and systemic racism across the country, we ran a story compiling statements from a number of law deans emphasizing the legal profession’s responsibility to seek justice and lead the way toward reform. However, we did not include any statements from black law deans. We should have.

On June 11, the Association of American Law Schools launched the Law Deans Antiracist Clearinghouse Project, curated by Boston University School of Law Dean Angela Onwuachi-Willig, Rutgers Law School Dean Kimberly Mutcherson, Washburn University School of Law Carla D. Pratt, Howard University School of Law Dean Danielle Holley-Walker and Penn State Dickinson Law Dean Danielle M. Conway. The project’s goal, according to its website, is to establish commitment to “a sustained Antiracist agenda,” beginning with “The Listening Phase”: “Before we begin to lead as a group in working to address systemic racism, it is critical to listen to the voices of Black deans, indigenous deans, and other deans personally impacted by police violence.”

With that in mind, below is a collection of raw and intensely personal messages Onwuachi-Willig, Mutcherson, Pratt, Holley-Walker, Conway and other law school leaders of color have sent to their students and the public in recent days.

— Zack Needles, editor-in-chief, Law.com

As law deans across the country released statements condemning systemic racism and police brutality and reminding their students of the duty and unique power attorneys have to seek justice, several black law school leaders described experiencing a similar feeling: hesitation.

“As a black woman and dean of a law school—the first dean of color at Boston University School of Law—I struggled with what message I should send to my students,” wrote Angela Onwuachi-Willig. ”I even wondered if I could send a message about the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Tony McDade, imagining the backlash when certain words come out of my black mouth.”

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Zack Needles

Zack Needles is Global Managing Editor, Regional Brands at ALM. He is also the Managing Editor of The Legal Intelligencer, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, Delaware Business Court Insider and Delaware Law Weekly. Contact him at 215-557-2373 or [email protected] On Twitter: @ZackNeedlesTLI.

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