Diversity matters, Archer tells prospective Pledge signatories

Just steps away from the Rosa Parks bus at the Henry Ford Museum, Dennis Archer offered his take on diversity in the legal profession during Thursday night’s Celebrate Diversity Reception, as part of the State Bar of Michigan annual meeting.

Archer — who served as SBM president from 1984-85, in addition to Detroit mayor, Michigan Supreme Court justice and 2003-04 ABA president — noted that between 2015-19, the majority of people ages 18 and younger in the U.S. will be people of color, and that 30 percent of the U.S. population as it stands now represents people of color.

And, he said, as the population has grown, the business community, wanting to capture global market share, has moved through diversity initiatives as a means of meeting what the rest of the world truly looks like.

As far back as Victoria Roberts’ term as SBM presidency, he said, gender and ethnic bias in the state court system has been studied. Under recent SBM presidents Edward Pappas, Charles Toy and, most recently, W. Anthony Jenkins, the Pledge to Achieve Diversity and Inclusion was formed, making its debut at the 2010 State Bar meeting in Grand Rapids. Although many small and big firms and solo practitioners have signed it since, the Pledge was reintroduced at the 2011 reception, with cleared room for new people to sign it. (The online version can be found here.)

Incidentally, the day before, Jenkins was overcome with emotion as he closed his final speech as 2010-11 SBM president. The soft-spoken Jenkins recalled how he grew up on Detroit’s east side and how hard he worked to make his professional dreams come through – a time that included a stint as a professional basketball player – and how proud he is to be in the legal realm. The room gave him a lengthy standing ovation.

What does Jenkins plan to do now? He told Lawyers Weekly that a break was in order, “just to regroup,” and then he’ll go back to his full-time gig as a corporate, municipal law and finance, and minority business enterprise specialist at Dickinson Wright PLLC.


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