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Guest Column: Embracing Diversity Makes Us All Stronger

By: TaKeena M. Thompson, 2013 Marion County Bar Association President, Cohen & Malad LLP

Thank you, Kerry, for inviting me to write for your column. I also thank you, Julie Armstrong, John Trimble and the rest of the IndyBar family, for always supporting the Marion County Bar Association’s programs and events.

Many of you may know me. I have served as the president of the Marion County Bar Association for the last two years. I am proud to see how this organization has thrived over the last two years and the work we have done to continue our mission.

What is the Marion County Bar Association?
The Marion County Bar Association is Marion County’s only network of predominately Black attorneys and judges. An affiliate of the National Bar Association, the country’s oldest and largest bar association of Black attorneys and judges, the Marion County Bar Association (MCBA) was founded in 1925 to address the lack of opportunities for minority lawyers in Indianapolis and to increase diversity within the legal profession. The MCBA was also created in direct response to majority bar associations’ exclusion of Blacks from membership. While the latter no longer exists, the MCBA’s mission remains as relevant today as it did when the organization was founded 88 years ago.

We’ve come a long way…
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his iconic speech, “Normalcy, Never Again,” better known as “I Have a Dream.” His speech was a defining moment in our country’s history as Dr. King called for racial equality and opportunities for all regardless of race. It was only fitting that the MCBA would revive its signature event, the Kuykendall-Conn Dinner, this year.

The Kuykendall-Conn Dinner is an opportunity for the MCBA to recognize the progress our legal community has made and to celebrate those who have made tremendous strides towards increasing diversity in our profession and community. While the MCBA is proud to celebrate our profession’s commitment to diversity, we must also pause and remind everyone that there is still much work to be done.

Things are better. Progress has been made. I not only say that, but I do believe that. I do not want you walking away from this piece thinking that I believe otherwise. Like you, I see the minority partners in large law firms. That is progress. I see minority judges sitting at all levels of the bench. Definitely progress. But, the general sentiment among minority attorneys is that Indiana needs to pick up the pace in terms of achieving diversity. I couldn’t agree more.

Diversity Matters
Lately, diversity (or lack thereof) seems to be a hot topic among the Indianapolis legal community. I commend our community for trying to figure it out. I am often asked to participate in conversations on how to attract and retain diverse attorneys. My answer pretty much stays the same – just do it. Minority attorneys are looking for the same opportunities as our nonminority counterparts. We want to
feel included. We want to feel valued. We want to feel like our opinions matter. Our law firms and legal organizations must be intentional about recruiting, hiring, training, mentoring and investing in us.

The MCBA is here to help the
Indianapolis legal community with its diversity efforts. The issue of diversity greatly impacts our legal profession and serves to bring us together to accomplish a greater good. Diversity at all levels of our profession ensures that the clients and community we serve have a sense of faith and confidence in our legal system.

You can find more information about the Marion County Bar Association by visiting www.mcbaindy.org.

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