This week, members of the Center for Women in Law’s Consortium for Advancing Women Lawyers sent a letter to Professor Jaime Dodge at Duke Law School’s Center for Judicial Studies urging her to include guidance to judges on how to promote diversity in court appointments in a new guide she is creating for MDL judges and practitioners.
In MDL proceedings, judges appoint lawyers to serve as lead counsel, liaison counsel, or members of steering committees, coordinating committees, management committees, or executive committees. These appointments not only confer prestige on the attorney appointed, they also increase compensation and the opportunities for future appointments. Unfortunately, women and minority attorneys are often underrepresented in these career-enhancing roles. The inability of women to secure their fair share of court appointments hinders their advancement in their law firms and their ability to participate fully in the profession. The new MDL guidelines provide an important opportunity to highlight this issue for judges and to emphasize that, in exercising their broad, discretionary appointment powers, judges should consider qualified women and minority attorneys.
In just a few days, Consortium members drafted the letter and secured over thirty signatures from prominent national leaders. It was well-received by Professor Dodge and we are optimistic that it will advance this important issue.