The American Bar Association (ABA) established a program in 1998 to encourage corporations to retain minority lawyers. Initially called the Minority Counsel Demonstration Program, it is now known as the Minority Counsel Program (MCP). The goal of the program has grown to include the promotion of diversity in the legal profession through education and promoting relationships between corporations and lawyers who are ethnically and racially diverse.
Until recently, membership fees for the program were fixed and expensive. Member firms had to fork over a hefty $2500 fee to join the program. This limited the number of participating firms. One of best changes to the program is the creation of a new staggered fee structure. The new fee structure is based on the size of the law firm and ranges from $750 to $2500. Firms with less than three hundred attorneys are eligible to join for $750.
The MCP hosts two annual meetings which include CLE presentations, professional development sessions, networking receptions and roundtable discussions—all of which will include participation by in-house counsel. Previous meetings have been limited to members of the MCP. I have been informed by the ABA that non-member attorneys will now be allowed to attend these events for a registration fee.
I suspect that the Minority Counsel Program will see increased membership and increased participation as a result of the new changes. If implemented with proper planning and defined measurable goals, the changes may provide opportunity for the development of meaningful relationships between ethnically and racially diverse lawyers and corporate representatives who control legal spending. If implemented without measurable goals and objectives, the new enhancements may prove to be little more than a feel good gathering of individuals with good intentions. As for me, I will do all that I can to assist in the program’s success.