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The ARDC Commissioners Approve the ARDCís First
Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan

By Lea S. Gutierrez, Director of Diversity & Inclusion and Senior Litigation Counsel,
Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission

January 31, 2018

The Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission’s mission is to promote and protect the integrity of the legal profession, at the direction of the Supreme Court, through attorney registration, education, investigation, prosecution, and remedial action. It is essential to our mission that we have a staff and volunteer boards that reflect Illinois’ excellence and diversity, and that we leverage the different backgrounds, experiences, ideas, and perspectives of our staff and boards to meet the needs of the increasingly diverse public and profession that we serve. The ARDC has historically been committed to diversity and inclusion (D&I); and, over the years, we have worked to increase the diversity of our staff and volunteer boards. In recent years though, our commitment to D&I has become more structured, strategic, and focused; and our leadership has demonstrated a commitment to D&I as an organizational imperative.

In July 2015, we launched a formal diversity and inclusion structure by creating the role of Director of Diversity and Inclusion to lead the ARDC’s D&I efforts. As part of our formal D&I structure, we also formed a D&I committee, defined the concepts of “diversity” and “inclusion” for the Commission, and created a mission and vision for our D&I initiative. The envisioned “ARDC of Tomorrow” will reflect a diverse, inclusive, and engaged culture that inspires all to work together to provide services in a manner that meets diverse needs, and strives to be visible and accessible to all.

Over the past two years, the ARDC has committed to externally facing D&I initiatives. One of those initiatives involves developing relationships with local high schools that have pre-law programs, and working with their students so that diverse communities can envision themselves becoming members of the bar. Our work with those schools has included discussing various careers in law with students enrolled in the pre-law program, educating students on the lawyer disciplinary process and the Rules of Professional Conduct, and hosting visits to the ARDC to observe public lawyer disciplinary proceedings.

Over the past two years, with the assistance of local affinity bar associations, we have also significantly expanded our reach within the profession’s diverse communities, and provided educational programming to a broader segment of the legal profession in Illinois. Other externally-facing D&I initiatives included creating a module of our proactive management based regulation (PMBR) program that, in part, addresses D&I, and providing a free MCLE program on our website that has been approved for one hour of the Supreme Court’s mandatory D&I credit. In addition, in effort to be more inclusive of attorneys of all genders, we included “non-binary” as a gender option during the 2018 registration process.

In the past two-and-a-half years, the ARDC’s internal D&I initiatives have included designing and tailoring D&I education for our entire staff that incorporated unconscious bias, cultural identity, and inclusive leadership behaviors. The trainings were well-received by our staff who appreciated the personal, professional, and practical applications. During our annual Hearing Board Seminars in 2016 and 2017, we also provided D&I education for our volunteer board members that included cultural competence and unconscious bias.

To further infuse D&I, transparency, and equal access into the systems and structures of the ARDC, the Commission recently approved the ARDC’s first D&I strategic plan. The two-year plan identifies goals and corresponding initiatives that demonstrate the ARDC’s commitment to D&I, promote an inclusive workplace environment that values diversity, and encourage fairness and trust in the lawyer disciplinary system. One of the methods of promoting an inclusive workplace environment outlined in the ARDC’s D&I strategic plan is to have ongoing dialogue and education for staff regarding D&I, including facilitated “lunch & learn” sessions on topics of concern in various communities. This will assist ARDC employees in learning more about issues potentially impacting colleagues, board members, lawyers, and the public. To foster transparency and trust in the disciplinary system, the ARDC’s D&I strategic plan calls for, among other things, making the criteria and process for becoming a volunteer board member more publicly accessible.

The ARDC’s D&I strategic plan also provides for the ARDC’s continued contribution to efforts to increase diversity and inclusion in the legal profession and in the community in general. As mentioned above, the ARDC currently works to increase diversity and inclusion in the legal profession through high school pipeline programs. The strategic plan calls for exploring other prospective partners and resources with which to collaborate on pipeline efforts, including bar associations, schools, legal organizations, law firms, community groups and colleges. The plan also provides for promotion of diversity and inclusion within the ARDC’s network of suppliers for goods and services.

The ARDC’s D&I strategic plan is a living, breathing document that will be revisited, adjusted, and amended based on growth, evolution, and the current state and structure of the ARDC. Diversity and inclusion at the ARDC is an ongoing process and one that will continue to grow beyond the timeframe of the goals specified in the plan.