When racial disparity and inequality came to a head in Summer 2020, it quickly became obvious that the association had a responsibility to respond and to act on the many long-standing contributing structural issues present not only throughout the country but here at home in the Indianapolis community as well. 2020 Indianapolis Bar Association President Andrew Campbell empaneled the association’s Commission on Racial Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion in the Indianapolis Legal Community, which was led by Indiana Court of Appeals Senior Judge Carr Darden and James Bell of Paganelli Law Group, and the group began to strategize on the bar’s approach.
In the commission’s initial conversations, it became evident that the association would not be in a position to authentically lead a larger effort and challenge firms, courts and legal professionals to make changes and think critically about their roles, active or passive, in continuing systemic racism without first looking inward to identify issues and opportunities specific to the association.
The commission split into workgroups to address a variety of topics related to equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI), all specific to the IndyBar versus the legal community at large:
- Building a Culture of Accountability for those Participating and Representing IndyBar
- Doing Business with Diverse Vendors
- Building a Culture of Inclusion and Comfort
- Building a Pipeline for Diverse Membership
- Building a Pipeline for Diverse Leadership
- Building a Pipeline for Racial Equality, Diversity & Inclusion from Law School to the Profession
- Providing Quality Education to Create a Culture of Racial Equality, Diversity & Inclusion
The subcommittees completed thorough work and came back to the larger group with recommendations that would later form the recommendations within the Report and Recommendations from the Indianapolis Bar Association Commission on Racial Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion in the Indianapolis Legal Community, which were shared in a previous edition of the Indiana Lawyer. The full report can be viewed online at indybar.org/EDI.
As part of the report, the Indianapolis Bar Association Board of Directors adopted the following statement of purpose:
We recognize that issues related to racial equality, diversity, and inclusion in the Indianapolis legal community are historically large and complex issues that cannot be addressed by a single set of concrete action steps.
Instead, we acknowledge that we must self-examine by empaneling a standing Commission that is empowered to investigate and report on the state of equality, diversity, and inclusion within IndyBar, and build the IndyBar’s capacity to serve as a leader and catalyst for change within the Indianapolis legal community as a whole.
Accordingly, we propose empaneling a multi-phased Commission on Racial Equality, Diversity and Inclusion that will first focus on these issues within the IndyBar.
This phase one work will focus on making immediate, concrete changes within IndyBar and building IndyBar’s capacity to lead with others a more broad-based commission in phase two and beyond that will address similar issues in the Indianapolis legal community as a whole.
Work within each of the recommendations has already begun and is being monitored and reported on monthly by the IndyBar Board of Directors’ Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Accountability Manager Shelley Jackson of Krieg DeVault LLP.
You Can Help
As part of the phase one goals outlined in the commission’s report and recommendations, the IndyBar is seeking referrals for minority-owned businesses in Indianapolis and the surrounding area. These referrals will help the association achieve its goal to increase purchases from diverse suppliers and support local businesses. Services and businesses commonly used by the IndyBar include catering/food services, office supply providers, technology providers, event venues, printing services, florists, marketing and audio/visual services, financial management and more. Share your referral at indybar.org/EDIReferral.