To the Editor:

Although the commitment of the Connecticut Bar Association to maintain and expand diversity in fact and in spirit has been a pledge of all recent presidents, we acknowledge that the CBA could and should be even more diverse and that the creation of full diversity within the association is a work in progress.

We know that there is work to be done. All of the recent and known future leaders of the CBA have made it clear that the achievement of true diversity within the organization is a goal which can and will be met. It should be understood that the CBA does not view diversity as an individual achievement because it, like our membership, is ever-changing. We view diversity as a continuous pursuit of inclusion, throughout all levels of the organization. As the largest volunteer statewide bar association in Connecticut, the CBA welcomes legal professionals of all backgrounds to become a part of our community and strongly encourages anyone who would like to have a more active role in our organization to pursue it.

The CBA does not keep statistics on any identifying, protected class information regarding its members. It does not request that kind of information when considering members for leadership positions. The presidents, like all leaders within the association, are chosen for their leadership, character, and overall commitment to the CBA. While there has not been a lawyer of color yet assuming the office of president, our leadership represents a broad spectrum of interests that are not self-evident from their color. To say that the CBA is not diverse based on color alone is a disservice to the many other protected classes of individuals, who have struggled historically with adversity and discrimination.

The CBA recognizes and appreciates all of its volunteer leaders who identify as a member of a historically under-represented group and are leading the way for future diversity, but who were not recognized in the recent editorial. (“CBA Is Failing In Diversity Efforts,” Connecticut Law Tribune, April 21.)

Many characteristics, aside from one’s color, contribute to the diversity of a bar association, such as ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, disability, geographic and practice area, and firm size. In the CBA’s more than 40 sections, thriving groups such as young lawyers, women in the law, LGBT and more are welcomed. Sections are chaired by people, in accordance with the section by-laws, who have generally served as volunteers on the section for many years and been identified by their professional peers as strong leaders. All lawyers are welcome to join in the effort to improve our diversity and inclusiveness as the statewide bar for all lawyers in Connecticut.

Finally, all leadership positions in the bar are valued and significant. Being president is a four-year commitment, which generally involves over a thousand hours of day and night work after many years of leadership positions prior to the nomination. Not everyone can or wants to dedicate themselves to that level of commitment and responsibility. Positions such as secretary and treasurer are essential to the CBA’s member-driven organization and allow for extraordinary leaders to meaningfully participate in the executive leadership without a four year commitment. To say, as the editorial does, that the CBA has “been providing token appointments of minority leaders” in non-track positions is not only grossly disrespectful to the truly exceptional leaders that have held or hold these positions, but is an insult to all of the members who have been proponents of progress for the CBA.

The CBA also has had a long history with an active and dedicated Diversity Committee, comprised of a representative cross-section of its membership. The CBA Constitution supports participation of diversity and affinity bar associations through ensuring them representative seats on the House of Delegates, a constitutional provision which we believe is unique to Connecticut among all of the states. The Diversity Committee, along with members of the CBA Membership Committee, meet regularly with representatives from the affinity bar associations to work together on ways the association can collaborate with and support the mutual interests of all the bars in fostering and encouraging diversity participation in leadership roles in the CBA. Finally, the CBA’s Council of Bar Presidents meets and works collaboratively with all the bar association’s leaders, including the affinity bars.

The CBA is currently in the process of selecting leaders for the upcoming bar year, so if you are interested in taking a leadership role, please contact the CBA Member Service Center at 860-223-4400 or via e-mail at msc@ctbar.org. This is a great way to be involved in effecting positive change within the association and getting valuable leadership experience, while adding to the diverse culture that makes up the Connecticut Bar Association. •

Kimberly A. Knox

President

Connecticut Bar Association

Mark A. Dubois

President-Elect

Connecticut Bar Association

William H. Clendenen Jr.

Vice President

Connecticut Bar Association

Barry C. Hawkins

Immediate Past President

Connecticut Bar Association