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Young Lawyers: The Importance of Diversity: Embracing the Momentum for Change

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STATE BAR OF NEVADA
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Nevada Lawyer Magazine
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“As young lawyers, we have a duty to embrace the momentum for change to ensure that, in the future, diversity will not be an issue that aspiring, new lawyers have to contend with…”
Young Lawyers
BY GUEST COLUMNIST MARLA RENTERIA, ESQ.
THE IMPORTANCE OF DIVERSITY: EMBRACING THE MOMENTUM FOR CHANGE
Statistics show that, since 2010, Hispanics have comprised more than 25 percent of Nevada’s population,1 but only slightly more than 3 percent of Nevada’s lawyers are Hispanic.2 This difference is even more staggering when you consider that 39.6 percent of Nevada’s students are Hispanic,3 and 11.2 percent of students enrolled at Boyd in 2012 were Hispanic.4 However, in recent years this disparity has begun to decline, as evidenced by the Hispanic leaders featured in this issue and those currently occupying some of the highest positions in Nevada government today. Indeed, in 2010, the Nevada Legislature had eight Hispanic members, five more than the total number of Hispanic legislators elected in the preceding 136 years.5 These Hispanic leaders, as well as the various others who have emerged throughout our country, are redefining what it is possible for underrepresented members of our communities to achieve. Their accomplishments over such a short period of time have created tremendous momentum for change. We, as young lawyers, have a unique opportunity to embrace the momentum and be on the forefront of this dramatic and much-needed change. In fact, I argue we have a responsibility to ensure that underrepresented members of our communities looking to pursue a career in the law are given the tools and opportunities they need to succeed. This includes providing access to the legal profession. So many of us forget it actually was quite an endeavor to achieve this access, whatever our circumstances. To do this, we need to reach out to our communities and schools and offer our encouragement, assistance and advice as well as our own stories about the particular obstacles we overcame to attain our careers. We must breathe new life into the mantra “If they can do it, so can I.” We cannot ignore the challenges to success the underrepresented members of our communities confront, and must prove, through our actions and our words, that none are insurmountable. Different does not mean inferior. Diversity is about inclusion. It is about ensuring that every member of our community feels welcome and has the opportunity to participate and be heard. I recognize that I am both a part of, and have benefited from, the current momentum for change. Luckily for me, along the way I happened upon mentors and colleagues from all walks of life who acknowledged my personal challenges, as a woman and single parent, lent a helping hand and encouraged my success. Today we are young attorneys, but tomorrow we may have a chance to be a part of someone else’s climb to success and to perpetuate the importance of a diverse legal community. It is not only underrepresented members of our society who benefit from diversity; studies show that a diverse workforce is more profitable. In fact, in 2009, Douglas E. Brayley and Eric S. Nguyen studied 200 of the highestgrossing law firms and discovered the more diverse the firm, the higher the profits per partner and revenue per attorney as compared to less-diverse firms in the study.6 The authors go on to suggest that when a workforce is more diverse, the firm performs better.7 Diverse workforces were found to be more efficient than homogenous teams due to the expanded
46 Nevada Lawyer September 2013
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skill set and knowledge base of the group.8 Perhaps, this also is due to underrepresented groups seeing the potential for advancement, which translates into increased retention and motivation to not only remain with the firm, but personally invest in its success.9 Regardless of the reasons, Dr. Adela Artola Allen, a Hispanic woman who dedicated her life to education, said it best when she proclaimed that, “We should acknowledge differences; we should greet differences, until difference makes no difference anymore.” As young lawyers, we have a duty to embrace the momentum for change to ensure that, in the future, diversity will not be an issue that aspiring, new lawyers have to contend with, but instead becomes a reality they need only cultivate.
1 United States Census Bureau, Nevada State & County Quick Facts, found at http:// quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/32000.html. 2 Belcove-Shalin, Janet, Diversity Initiatives: The American Bar Association and the State Bar of Nevada, Nevada Lawyer, May 2012 at 9, Table 1. 3 Clark County School District 2011-12 Accountability Reports, p. 4, found at http:// ccsd.net/schools/pdf/acc_pdfs_2012/20112012._District_Accountability_Report.pdf. 4 Official ABA Data: University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law, 2012, found at http://www.lsac.org/lsacresources/ publications/2012og/aba4861.pdf. 5 Lopen, Tovin, Nevada’s Hispanics Come of Age Politically. Las Vegas Sun, Feb. 17, 2013, http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2013/ feb/17/nevadas-hispanics-come-agepolitically/. Last accessed Mar. 3, 2013. 6 Sheryl L. Axelrod, Diversity as Strategy, Diversity & the Bar, May/June 2013 7 Ibid. 8 Ibid. 9 Ibid.
Marla Renteria is an associate attorney at the Office of the Clark County Public Defender. Renteria was born and raised in Reno, Nevada and received her juris doctor from the William S. Boyd School of Law.
September 2013
Nevada Lawyer
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