Statement from the Maine State Bar Association:
The Maine State Bar Association promotes the honor, dignity and professionalism of lawyers, advances the knowledge, skills and interests of its members, and supports the public interest in a fair and effective system of justice.
Events have moved at lightning speed in Maine and throughout the nation, as people respond to the killing of George Floyd. Indeed, we are living through a critical moment in history, as long-standing systemic issues of racial injustice are brought yet again into high relief.
As the state’s oldest and largest professional association of attorneys, our mission calls on us to support a “fair and effective system of justice.” This nation relies on the rule of law, and that rule must be fair to everyone, including people of color. Therefore, it is imperative that the legal community play a role in helping to dismantle institutional barriers, from within the legal system and in the larger community, and to address the biases that prevent people of color from enjoying equal protections under our laws in this state and this country. In short, racial inequality is a systemic problem that requires a systematic solution.
To that end, we pledge to work with the Board of Overseers of the Bar, legal organizations, and county bar associations statewide to provide more robust educational opportunities with respect to harassment and discrimination and racial equality. Following our attorney survey on harassment in 2018, we partnered with the Board of Overseers to deliver a significant number of CLE programs that have helped attorneys address Maine’s new harassment and discriminatory conduct education requirement. We will leverage that partnership to develop and deliver programming around racial equality. In addition, we pledge to redouble diversity and inclusion efforts already underway with the Maine Society of Certified Public Accountants (MECPA), as well as Maine’s engineering and medical professionals.
We should always seek to build a better system of justice and life for all Maine people, regardless of skin color, race, or ethnicity. The Maine State Bar Association does not speak for every licensed attorney in Maine, but through our collective actions we will speak for the rule of law and equal justice for all.
Statement from NALS…the association for legal professionals:
We are heartbroken, angry, and deeply saddened by recent incidents of police brutality toward African Americans that has focused the nation’s attention on longstanding racial injustice, systemic racism, and lack of accountability. Misuse of privilege and power by individuals, institutions, and political leaders undermines trust and the principles of a civil, democratic society. It is time for all of us to take action and to bring an end to racism that continues to define, undermine, and divide our country.
This is an opportunity to reflect also on how our professional organization can fight against racism. The ethos of NALS has always been one of inclusion, encompassing all positions that make up the legal support profession. It is time we expand that spirit of inclusion to recognize the rich diversity in our membership, condemn systemic racism and human rights injustices that continue in our society, and explore ways in which we can influence change in the legal industry.
To that end, we not only insist there is no room for racism or prejudice within our association, but also work toward societal solutions. NALS is committed to the following:
- We are planning several diversity sessions for September’s Virtual Conference.
- We will actively seek CLE speakers and topics for the coming months on the subjects of diversity and inclusion.
- We will highlight stories of local and state chapters that take actions to address issues of social inclusion.
- We will incorporate equity, diversity, and inclusion content into leadership and staff training.
- We solicit member involvement on a new Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Task Force to explore other ways that NALS can make an impact in the lives of our members and in the legal support profession. For more information on this task force, see below.
In the meantime, we realize many are seeking ways to address racism and all manner of inequities that permeate the legal system. We invite you to seek meaningful action in your cities or towns to build momentum for true transformation towards a more just and equitable society.