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July 20, 1999: American Legal Community

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I ask you to focus your efforts on the most enduring challenge of our nation the task of building One America. Just as your predecessors stared down the sheriffs of segregation, you must step forward to dismantle our time's most stubborn obstacles to equal justice poverty, unemployment, and discrimination.

President Bill Clinton
July 20, 1999

Today, at the White House, President Clinton met with representatives from America's leading law organizations to urge them to work to promote racial diversity; to close opportunity gaps; and to lead our nation in the task of building One America. The President announced new commitments from the legal community in response to his call to action.

Renewing the Call for Equal Justice. Thirty-six years ago, President John F. Kennedy issued a call to America's legal profession to enlist in the fight for equal justice. Today, President Clinton renewed that call in a meeting with leaders from every major sector of the legal community, including corporation counsels, managing partners, academicians, and civil rights attorneys. President Clinton urged the lawyers to use their profession to promote racial diversity, improve opportunities for minorities, and work towards building One America. The President pledged support from the Department of Justice and the White House Office on the President's Initiative for One America to assist the legal community in these efforts.

Announcing New Commitments. President Clinton announced the following commitments from the legal community in response to his challenge:

  • The American Bar Association will undertake a major new initiative to ensure greater racial and ethnic diversity in the legal profession. The initiative will include:
    • providing financial assistance to law students;
    • mentoring law students and young lawyers to help them become successful practitioners;
    • expanding existing programs to encourage greater use of minority law firms by America's corporations; and
    • involving lawyers in providing free legal services for the disadvantaged.
  • The American Corporate Counsel Association, whose 11,000 members control billions of dollars in legal fees, will:
    • encourage its members to retain minority counsel and law firms;
    • promote corporate pro bono service through training and educational resources at its national and local meetings; and
    • devote resources to enable corporate counsel to implement diversity and pro bono initiatives at the local level.
  • Leading law firms will adhere to the ABA's 3 percent pro bono standard. This means that every lawyer will spend 50 hours per year or 3 percent of billable time on pro bono work, with full credit for time spent.
  • The American Association of Law Schools will seek ways to impart the values of racial justice and public service in our nation's law students, and will call upon law schools to give every law student the opportunity to volunteer their legal skills in their communities.
  • Leaders of major law organizations nationwide will hold monthly meetings to implement a nationwide plan of action to respond to the President's call.


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