S.J.D. candidate Mohamed Sweify, who is also a teaching fellow at Fordham Law, wrote an essay for the New York State Bar Association discussing how diversity and inclusion have become important parts of the legal field and in the practice of ADR.
Diversity and Inclusion are relative concepts. Speaking of DI means speaking of the compositions of teams and institutions. Diversity should have a positive, not a repellent, meaning. Diversity should mean difference. This difference is the value diverse stakeholders bring to the institution or team.
How do we get the ADR field to be more successful at DI? Whose responsibility is it: the system itself or the practitioners? Diversity is not about checking a box to include a group of few minorities nor making a group only for minorities. The first step of diversity is having diverse people of different cultures, experiences and backgrounds in different levels in the ADR practice. While this might seem easy, it requires an action plan. Who is in charge of this action and how do we execute the plan? These are the real questions. Different institutions are responsible for making this happen, including law schools, law firms, corporations, professional institutions and associations.
I will try to provide some answers followed by some recommendations from a practical perspective. These observations are drawn largely from my experience as a teaching fellow at Fordham Law School where I teach a tutorial course on the U.S. legal system and ADR practices. All of my students are international and come from diverse backgrounds, including legal, cultural, geographical, experience, gender, etc. During my encounters with these diverse students, I have noticed how fearful they are of the U.S. legal market. Students do not consider their diversity to be assets for the legal market. I tried to help them understand that being diverse is a true asset they bring to the market. However, my advice to these students seemed to be mere words that did not change their beliefs with regard to the importance of diversity.