Greater diversity and inclusion creates a stronger, better-rounded legal profession, and the BBA has taken steps to actively support it and ensure that the legal community more closely reflects the larger community of Boston. Among other things, we offer public service opportunities for lawyers looking to introduce diverse youth into the legal field, and we provide valuable mentoring and professional experience to help retain a diverse population of lawyers in Boston.
In 2010, the BBA solidified its partnership with six affinity bars: the Asian American Lawyers Association of Massachusetts (AALAM); the Massachusetts Association of Hispanic Attorneys (MAHA); the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association (MBLA); the Massachusetts Black Women Attorneys (MBWA); the Massachusetts LGBTQ Association; and the South Asian Bar Association of Greater Boston (SABA GB). The BBA values these partnerships and is fully committed to promoting their continued growth in the community and helping to create exciting and engaging opportunities for their members.
One of these opportunities is the Affinity Bar Leadership Institute, a collaboration between the Boston Bar Association’s Diversity & Inclusion Section and the affinity bars. We spoke with Christina Miller, Co-Chair of the Diversity & Inclusion Section, and Rachel Lee, Co-Chair of the Section’s Affinity Bar Relations Committee, to learn more about the program and how it will shape the future of the affinity bars.
The background of the program, as Miller explained, reflects the positive relationship between the BBA and the affinity bars. The Affinity Bar Leadership Institute originally grew from a discussion between the members of the Diversity and Inclusion Section Steering Committee and, particularly, former Chairs and Presidents of several Affinity Bars about how the BBA could support the Affinity Bar Associations to become stronger and develop their future leaders. Operating almost entirely with volunteer contributions from busy lawyers, affinity bars are challenged to hone their message, manage their membership and fiduciary duties, and expand their membership and leadership. The Institute provides knowledge and support in all of these areas, and tips about leadership, management, and support.
Now in its second year, the program has responded to continued interest from affinity bar leaders and expanded from a single three-hour session to three separate sessions on different days, all focused on a single aspect of great leadership within an affinity bar. The different modules, Lee explained, build on what was presented last year and allow affinity bar members who want more information on a specific aspect of leadership to have the flexibility to attend that session alone.
So far, the Institute has covered how to design a successful event – no matter what size – and the fiduciary responsibilities and expectations of a bar leader. The final session will be a culmination of the previous two on leadership development and succession planning. We applaud this development in the series, which focuses on engaging membership and looks to the future of the affinity bars and diversity and inclusion within the profession.
All are welcome at the Affinity Bar Leadership Institute – a fact that we think is worthy of emphasis. Anybody can learn more about leadership techniques that will help in practice. A refresher on how to balance professional life, personal life, and outside activities is a lesson applicable to all. But perhaps what is most important: it opens the door to leadership opportunities for a broader range of affinity bar members and provides them with the tools they will need to continue the success of these associations for the future. What’s more, it piques their interest in being not only a part of that association, but possibly a member of its guiding officers.
As Lee pointed out, the emphasis is on the ways the BBA can help its members – particularly key partners like the affinity bars. “We want everyone to be more engaged, excited, and thinking about how we can support one another,” said Lee. The Affinity Bar Leadership Institute represents a great partnership, and the BBA seeks to help the affinity bars develop their capacity from within and continue to promote diversity and inclusion in Boston’s legal community.