Columbus Bar Wins Another Award for Diversity Program

Written by Patty Wise

It has been said it is difficult to gain honor in one's own community, but this is not the case for the Columbus Bar, which will be honored on October 16 by the United Way of Central Ohio as the recipient of its Corporate Diversity Champion Award.

The United Way Diversity Champion Award seeks to identify not the one-time hero, but those individuals and companies/organizations that have made a commitment to the well-being, growth and development of our community through celebrating and recognizing diversity as a core community asset.

In 1994, the Columbus Bar officially codified a 20-year effort to improve the diversity of its members, making the quest for diversity the first theme of its long-range strategic plan: "The Columbus Bar Association will build the most diverse and inclusive legal organization in central Ohio." The 4,800-member association embraced the concept with extraordinary passion, integrity and discipline. They unleashed a remarkable succession of programs, services and partnerships that has reinvented how the Columbus legal community sees itself, that has been recognized nationally by other bar associations, and most importantly, that inspires each generation of Columbus Bar leadership to reach for ever greater heights in Columbus.

Consider the history of this nearly 135-year-old institution. From 1869 to 1995, neither a woman nor a minority had served as president of the association. No longer. Between 1996 and 2005, five of the Columbus Bar presidents have been or will be women, lawyers of color, or both. This was a long time coming, but no accident - for the past twenty years the association has recruited, provided leadership opportunities and nominated a diverse pool of candidates for election by the general membership. With a truly diverse leadership at the helm - and a new standard embraced by the organization - the Columbus Bar was empowered to turn its wealth of human resources and community ties to the task of transforming the promise of diversity into the reality of inclusion.

The Columbus Bar's mission is to, "through the active involvement of a broad and diverse membership, focus on professionalism, education, advocacy and community service in order to advance the justice system for all." Significant diversity efforts, identified below, have advanced each area of focus and in 2002:

  • Managing Partner's Diversity Initiative
  • Sexual Orientation Task Force
  • Minority Clerkship Program
  • Joint Recruiting Brochure for Capital University Law and The OSU Moritz College Of Law
  • Racial Profiling Task Force
  • Pro Bono Efforts Serving Diverse Populations
  • Hired a Full-Time Diversity Director