MSBA's diversity department mission is to promote and advocate for the diversification and inclusion of historically underrepresented attorneys through out the organization and within all areas of the legal profession.
MSBA's diversity and inclusion efforts are led by its Director, Danielle Shelton Walczak. To learn more about her, click here.
This week the Star Tribune published an article about Minnesota's first black female attorney, Lena Olive Smith. Born in 1885 in Lawrence Kansas, she received her law degree in 1921 from William Mitchell College of Law predecessor, Northwestern College of Law. Her advocacy in the 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond (Ms. Smith practiced until the day she died in her 80s) for equality and fair treatment may seem far away. However, the Star Tribune suggest that it's not. In 1937 Ms. Smith took on a case where a black man named Curtis Jones was beaten with fists and flashlights by two white off-duty officers. These issues, highlighted once again in our current consciousness by Ferguson, have not abated to the dismay of justice-minded Americans. When Ms. Smith was asked about her fearless advocacy during the height of legally imposed racial inequity she said, “I’m from the West and fearless. I’m used to doing the right thing without regard for myself. Of course, battles leave their scars, but I’m willing to make the sacrifice. I think it is my duty.” Whether it's 1921 or 2015 its fair to say that Ms. Smith speaks for all the advocates for equal justice and treatment.
Diversity advocates have been arguing the business case for diversity for years. They have been saying diversity equates to economic advantage. Over time, more and more data confirms the truth of this, such as the McKinsey & Company’s report, Diversity Matters released in February 2015. Their research bore out that: “Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.” Most importantly, "In the United States, there is a linear relationship between racial and ethnic diversity and better financial performance: for every 10 percent increase in racial and ethnic diversity on the senior-executive team, earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) rise 0.8 percent." Diversity is a differentiation when it comes to business economics. Follow the link above to read the report in its entirety. To read a summary of the report (where the above quotes and graphics originated) go to the McKinsey and Company website.