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By Adonica Black, JD | Director, Global Talent Development and Inclusion, LexisNexis®
More than 500 legal professionals participated in the 2022 LexisNexis Equity in the Law Symposium in Washington, D.C., celebrating the work completed by the second cohort of an innovative fellowship program that is placing a spotlight on how we can advance the rule of law by eliminating systemic racism in the legal system.
The event, moderated by award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien, was the second annual Summit to showcase the research and practical recommendations produced by recipients of the LexisNexis African Ancestry Network & LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation Fellowship. The Symposium featured presentations of the projects completed by the 18 law school Fellows, each of whom attends an institution from the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Law School Consortium, including Florida A&M University College of Law, Howard University School of Law, North Carolina Central University School of Law, Southern University Law Center, Thurgood Marshall School of Law, and the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law.
Each Fellow was awarded $10,000 and given nine months to conduct their research, working alongside LexisNexis employees to identify solutions to systemic racism challenges in the U.S. legal system. When contemplating the mission of the Fellowship – to eliminate systemic racism in the legal system and thereby advance the rule of law – we thought about what would create a tangible impact. We then quickly realized that tackling such an entrenched, systemic issue requires a systematic approach. This led to the development of our Fellowship cluster model when contemplating how Black lives are affected by the legal system, oftentimes, unfortunately, it can start with an ill encounter during their youth. This ill encounter may lead to a lack of trust or interest in the legal system overall and a potential legal career. Our first cluster focused on how to upend that negative impression, by making the legal system more equitable and attractive to the youth.
Then, as we move forward from youth and build a sense of interest and connection to the legal system, we considered how to make legal education more diverse and inclusive. This will hopefully lead to a more diverse practice in the law and inclusive and equitable remedies. This brings us to our next few clusters who have contemplated how to make leadership in the legal profession more diverse, which will lead to greater diversity in the areas of practice that are represented by attorneys of color and greater outcomes for all. Followed by greater representation and equity in the court system, with a particular focus on eliminating bias in the dispensation of justice. This connects to our fifth cluster focused on the criminal justice system holistically and ensuring reduced disparate impact in the courts, including how juries are selected. Finally, our sixth cluster focused on wealth and ownership underpins a more prosperous future for us all.
Some of the topics that our Fellows tackled include:
To watch the virtual webinar of the 2022 Fellows’ presentations, click here. To learn more about the 18 Fellows and take a deep-dive into their research findings, click here.
This unique Fellowship initiative is an extension of LexisNexis’ commitment to eliminate systemic racism in legal systems and to build a culture of inclusion and diversity within our company. Our corporate vision is that we must do what we can, where we can, whenever we can, to keep moving forward in the pursuit of creating a more just world. The Fellowship Program launched in 2021 with a class of 12 Fellows and grew by 50% to a class of 18 Fellows last year.
It is my privilege to serve as Director of Global Talent Development and Inclusion for LexisNexis Legal & Professional, as well as Director of the Fellowship program. In the aftermath of the successful 2022 Equity in the Law Symposium, we were approached by a number of legal professionals who work at organizations across our industry — they wanted to know how they could get in on this important mission that is bigger than any one company or law firm.
Thus, in response to this outpouring of support and interest from other members of the legal community, I am pleased to announce that we have decided to join with select strategic partners in the industry, including organizations and firms, on this important work. These partners share our vision and would like to help us tackle systemic racism in America.
There are a few specific opportunities for appropriate organizations to step up and join us in this initiative. Sponsor the entire program as a Fellowship Partner for 2023 —this is an exclusive, impactful opportunity for 15 firms or organizations that will be invited to join as co-sponsors of the entire program, with prominent recognition of their commitment to an innovative industry-wide project to address systemic racism, focus on inclusion and diversity in the legal system, and interest in identifying diverse law school talent.
Sponsoring partners can expect to enjoy benefits including:
There are challenges that come with dismantling a system of oppression and reconstructing one of equity and inclusion. Identifying the underlying causative issues that created systemic racism and prescribing directed solutions are the two essentials immediate actions standing at the top of that list of challenges. This mission is at the heart of the LexisNexis African Ancestry Network & LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation Fellowship program.
For more information about how your firm or organization can participate by financially supporting this important initiative, please contact Adonica Black at email@example.com.