Celebrating Professional Strides
No matter what your race, gender, ethnicity, age, or sexual orientation may be, you can help to advance the goal of a more diverse legal profession and your participation is welcomed.
Given that March is National Women’s History Month, the editorial focus of this March/April issue of Diversity & the Bar® is Women and the Law. Our cover story takes a look at the law firms named by Vault Inc. as the Top 25 Law Firms for Women, based upon a comprehensive survey in which participants told Vault what they thought. We’ve also examined what issues are “top of mind” with several women who are key litigation strategists at their companies. And, we’ve taken a look at the unequal treatment still experienced by many lesbian women attorneys, and what to do to reduce those inequities. Through our editorial content, MCCA® seeks to spark a dialogue within the legal community about how to offer the professional support all women attorneys need and deserve to contribute to their fullest potential.
At MCCA, every month is a month in which we seek to celebrate professional strides by attorneys of color and women. However, this past February, during Black History Month, the legal profession marked a significant milestone on February 1: 130 years ago, John S. Rock became the first black man admitted to practice law before the U.S. Supreme Court. In addition, during March, as we celebrate Women’s History Month, the profession will mark another milestone. It has been 126 years since Belva Ann Lockwood became the first woman admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court on March 3, 1879.
One can only imagine the challenges these trailblazers faced as they sought to have their qualifications recognized before the highest court in the land.
Since the nineteenth century, there have been many Americans of Asian, Hispanic, African, and Native American heritage to follow the path blazed by John S. Rock and countless women attorneys have followed Belva Ann Lockwood to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court. Yet, one hundred thirty plus years after John S. Rock, only two lawyers of color—both African American men, have held the distinction of sitting on the other side of the bench to receive the jurists seeking to argue their cases before this revered group of justices. In addition, only two women justices have been appointed to serve on the Court in the 126 years since Belva Ann Lockwood was admitted. These facts should not be taken lightly and underscore why more work must be done.
Admittedly, racial heritage and gender are only two of many ways in which to measure diversity. Within the halls of the U.S. Supreme Court, there has certainly been much diversity of thought among its justices. In fact, most of the important decisions by the Supreme Court advancing civil rights and educational access for minorities were penned by justices who were not members of a minority group. So for the many readers of this magazine, let this be a reminder. No matter what your race, gender, ethnicity, age, or sexual orientation may be, you can help to advance the goal of a more diverse legal profession and your participation is welcomed. Working collectively much progress has been and will continue to be made!
Veta T. Richardson
From the March/April 2005 issue of Diversity & The Bar®