Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Timeline

Highlights of BBA History: Our Work Towards Fostering A More Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Profession  

Highlights of BBA History: Our Work Towards Fostering A More Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Profession  


Amicus Brief in Federal Case Further Emphasizes BBA’s Commitment to Diversity and Equity in Education

The BBA signed onto an amicus brief by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in support of the Boston Public Schools’ one-year policy for admission to its three exam-based high schools. Several other community groups with an interest in ameliorating long-standing educational disparities also joined the brief, which argued that the school system has a compelling interest in advancing diversity of all kinds at the exam schools, and that it helps the City of Boston compete in a global marketplace where “having more diverse, well-credentialed graduates is an essential competitive advantage.” Ultimately, the ruling upheld the one-year policy that enhances the racial, socioeconomic and geographical diversity in the city’s exam schools.


BBA DEI Summer Fellowship Program Doubles in Size with BBF Support

By 2021, the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Summer Fellowship program expanded to include additional Fellowship positions at the Massachusetts Office of the Solicitor General, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, and the Committee for Public Counsel Services. Six students, who demonstrated a commitment to advancing the values of DEI in law school and beyond were selected for the Summer of 2021 Fellowship Program. This pipeline project continues to ensure that law students of color, first generation law students, LGBTQ+ law students and students from other underrepresented groups can afford to work in public interest summer internship programs, which are normally unpaid. It also provides additional mentoring and professional development opportunities through the BBA.


BBA Facilitates Affinity Bar Town Halls in Collaboration with the SJC’s Standing Committee on Lawyer Wellbeing 

The BBA facilitated Town Hall meetings, organized with each of the seven Affinity Bar partners and the SJC’s Standing Committee on Lawyer Wellbeing, to examine and highlight the extraordinary challenges underrepresented and historically excluded lawyers face. Following these sessions, the BBA released a statement pledging to continue to expand upon efforts to provide programming addressing the needs of law students and lawyers from underrepresented and historically excluded groups and vowing to persist its efforts to address systemic racism and exclusion. Read the summary of these listening sessions.  


BBA Expands Programming to Maintain Commitment to Advancing DEI in a Virtual World 

Recognizing that keeping diversity, equity and inclusion topics front and center was even more important in a remote world, the DEI Section expanded their programming, hosting a panel on How to Be an Effective Ally.  The popular program welcomed 300+ viewers for insights on practical tools to become a better ally to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) members of the community. The DEI Section also co-sponsored a series on Amplifying Unheard Voices in partnership with several organizations and affinity bars, seeking to highlight and amplify underrepresented perspectives of attorneys, clients and communities that engage with the legal system regularly, and to move towards more equitable representation of and opportunities for these communities.

BBA Amplifying Unheard Voices program.



BBA Launches Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Summer Fellowship Program 

In partnership with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and building on the success of the Boston Municipal Court Judicial Internship Program, the BBA launched the DEI Summer Fellowship Program to provide paid opportunities for deserving law students.  The BBA seeks applicants who demonstrate a commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion within the legal profession, and who seek to gain practical experience, develop legal research and writing skills, and expand their professional networks. Funding for these positions is made possible by the Boston Bar Foundation Beacon Fund.

DEI Summer Fellowship Program group.


BBF Supports Trial Court Transgender Training Project

The Boston Bar Foundation provided a $10,000 grant to the Massachusetts Trial Court to support the Transgender Training Project, a training designed to create an inclusive environment for staff and the public. Created in collaboration with GBLTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), the training covers issues and obstacles that transgender persons face in society and in using the courts. With an aim to increase staff awareness of and sensitivity to issues affecting this population, the training works to improve transgender court users’ experience of the Trial Court and increase access to justice for this all-too-often marginalized group. All 6,300 trial court employees have participated.


BBF Supports Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association on Building the Legacy Scholarship Fund 

The Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association launched the MBLA Building the Legacy Scholarship Fund, created through a fiscal sponsorship partnership with the Boston Bar Foundation. Each year, the MBLA awards scholarships to deserving students from area law schools who intend to remain in the Boston area to practice law, harnessing the area’s concentration of law schools and addressing a troubling gap in diversity of the local bar. To date, over $25,000 in scholarships have been disbursed to well-deserving Black law students.

A man smiling in front of a framed portrait.


Boston Bar Foundation Establishes Beacon Fund for Diversity & Inclusion

The Boston Bar Foundation Board of Trustees voted to establish the Beacon Fund to support the diversity, equity & inclusion projects of the BBA. Today, it supports theprojects and programsthat engage hundreds of members each year, including the DEI Summer Fellowship Program. 


BBA Endorses ABA Resolution 113

In November 2016, the BBA Council voted to formally support ABA Resolution 113, which called on providers of legal services to expand and create opportunities for diverse attorneys, and urged clients to assist in that effort. The Council created a working group to consider issues related to implementation of the Resolution and the accompanying general counsel commitment letter and Model Diversity Survey.

Three men and two women in a group photo.


BBA Collaborates with Boston Municipal Court on Judicial Internship Program 

The BBA’s Diversity & Inclusion Section’s Pipeline and Recruitment Committee collaborated with the Boston Municipal Court to offer a judicial-law internship program to deserving law students who may not have had other legal internship opportunities.  For 8 years, the program placed over 100 students, offering them the chance to work directly with a judge, observe courtroom proceedings, and enhance their legal research and writing skills. Today, the program has evolved into the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Summer Fellowship program which provides law students with paid summer opportunities in a variety of public interest and court settings.

BMC judicial internship.


BBA Receives American Bar Association (ABA) Partnership Award

The BBA filed an amicus briefin Fisher v. University of Texas, et al., recognizing that diversity within the legal profession cannot be achieved without diverse representation at both undergraduate institutions and law schools.  The BBA’s amicus brief in “Fisher II” later argued that under-representation of lawyers of color harms the legal profession and society as a whole.  Joining the BBA in signing the briefs were the Asian American Lawyers Association of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Association of Hispanic Attorneys, Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association, Massachusetts Black Women Attorneys, Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association, South Asian Bar Association of Greater Boston and the Women’s Bar Association. The US Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the admissions process here did not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Use of race as a factor in the holistic review was narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest.  


BBA Signs MOUs with Six Local Affinity Bar Association 

The BBA signed Memoranda of Understanding with six local affinity bar associations (MBLA, MAHA, Mass LGBTQ Bar, AALAM, MBWA, SABA GB) to formally institutionalize their partnership with the BBA.  In 2017, the BBA welcomed its seventh Affinity Bar partner – the Hispanic National Bar Association – Region 1 (HNBA). This partnership includes access to BBA staff and resources, but our increased engagement with these organizations also helps us flag issues, learn from their experience and expertise, identify opportunities for collaboration, and build a pipeline of leaders, many of whom go on as Section Co-Chairs or Council Members. Additionally, the president or a representative of each association serves on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Section Steering Committee.


BBA Launches the Beacon Award for Diversity and Inclusion 

The BBA’s Beacon Award (link to Beacon Awards page) was established to recognize and celebrate outstanding efforts by an individual, organization, group, or firm that demonstrated exceptional leadership in creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive legal profession in Boston. The event continues to grow in scale and impact: today the BBA welcomes more than 300 attendees annually to recognize honorees in three areas with the Corporate Champion Award, the Empowerment Award and the Voice of Change Award.  A portion of the proceeds from the event support the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Summer Fellowship program. The list of prior Beacon Award Honorees can be found here.

A man receiving the Beacon Award.


BBA Creates a Mentoring Program 

The BBA Mentoring Program, at its inception, aimed to build networks for lawyers of color by fostering lasting relationships between seasoned attorneys in Greater Boston and a group of new attorneys and law students. Today, the BBA runs four mentoring programs, including the Bar Coaching program, which assists law students they prepare to sit for the bar exam.  Nearly 60% of participants in the Bar Coaching program have been bar applicants of color.

BBA mentoring program.


The BBA Creates the Diversity & Inclusion Section   

At the recommendation of the Diversity Leadership Task Force, the Section (now called the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Section) is created to coordinate and provide oversight to the BBA’s numerous initiatives to increase diversity, equity and inclusion in the profession. The Section also focuses on amplifying the voices and perspectives of those from underrepresented populations. The president or a representative of each affinity bar association serves on the Section Steering Committee.

2006 – 2008

BBA Forms Diversity Leadership Task Force

BBA President Jack Cinquegrana formed the Diversity Leadership Task Force, which was charged with creating and endorsing a plan for the recruitment, retention, and advancement of a diverse and inclusive community of lawyers in Boston. The Task Force addressed the issues of broadening the pipeline of diverse law students, mentoring young lawyers, tracking their career trajectories, and instilling in them a commitment to clients and best practices.


BBA Receives American Bar Association (ABA) Partnership Award 

The ABA Partnership Award, which honors bar association projects directed at increasing the participation and advancement of lawyers of color as well as other underrepresented communities, was awarded to the BBA.  The Award recognized the BBA’s many pipeline activities which offer mentoring, tutoring, teaching and employment programs for young people that connect them with local attorneys and foster an interest in the law and support legal careers.  In particular, the BBA was honored for its Law Day in the Schools program, the annual Strategies for Success programs, and the BBA Summer Jobs Program, which are funded in part by the Boston Bar Foundation (BBF).  These activities continue to reach students of all ages, from Boston public school students to those currently in law school.


BBA Files Amicus Brief in Grutter

The BBA submitted an amicus brief in Grutter v. Bollinger, opposing the abolition of race conscious admissions policies that harm efforts to diversify the legal profession. The brief argued that maintaining race-conscious admissions at higher-education institutions, particularly law schools, is necessary to promote a fair and representative judicial system and legal profession. The Court held that the Equal Protection Clause does not prohibit law schools’ narrowly tailored use of race in admissions decisions to further a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body.


BBA Adopts Diversity Statement 

Under the leadership of BBA President Renée M. Landers, the first Black female to serve in this role, the BBA adopted a statement reaffirming the Association’s commitment to achieving diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the legal community by striving to be inclusive of all people regardless of gender, race, ethnic origin and heritage, religion, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, or disability, in all BBA activities and as BBA members and staff. The statement included a call to action to involve lawyers in community projects and to partner with professional lawyers’ organizations that share the BBA’s commitment to a more diverse and inclusive profession.


Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) Launches

Working with Judge Mark L. Wolf, BBA President Michael Keating led efforts to establish a program to showcase the public interest work of young attorneys, and establish an important pipeline for diverse leaders within the BBA and the legal community.  Today, this selective leadership program attracts talented and highly motivated lawyers who have demonstrated a commitment to pro bono, public service, and organized bar activities. Participants have gone on to hold leadership positions within their firms and companies, serve on the boards of local nonprofits and take on leadership roles at the BBA and Boston Bar Foundation.

Group photo of the Public Interest Leadership Program.


New Co-Chair Appointment Policy Doubles the Amount of BBA Leaders 

In order to ensure a more diverse and inclusive leadership team, the BBA enacted a new Section Co-Chair policy. Today, approximately 44% of the Section and Forum leaders are lawyers of color or members of the LGBTQ+ community.


BBA Organizes Strategies for Success for Summer Associates 

The BBA held the first Strategies for Success event to bring together summer associates from all backgrounds to discuss the challenges of starting a career, and the importance of enhancing job skills. Now an annual highly anticipated program series, the events engage law students and attorneys at all levels in insightful panel discussions and networking, with many participants going on to later hold leadership positions in the BBA, in government, and in the community.

Strategies for Success event.


BBA Forms First Diversity and Inclusion Committee    

Following a series of meetings between President Joel Reck and the presidents of the affinity bar associations, the BBA formed its first Diversity Committee.  Renée M. Landers, who would later go on to become BBA President, served as the Committee’s first chair.  The mission of the Committee was to advance diversity within our community; to improve the diversity of the BBA’s membership; to help implement the recommendation of the various BBA task forces that have worked on that topic, and to analyze the progress made since the SJC Commission to Study Racial and Ethnic Bias in the Court. Today, the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Section of the BBA carries on and expands on this important work, providing educational and networking opportunities to lawyers from all backgrounds.


BBF Supports Trial Court Transgender Training Project

President Sandra Lynch started the Summer Jobs Program, a collaboration with the Boston Public Schools and the Boston Private Industry Council, providing opportunities for high-school students to earn a paycheck and gain professional experience working in law firms, government agencies and non-profit organizations.  Since its inception, the program has played a key role in providing summer employment and valuable work experience to more than 800 Boston teens, engaging them in internships at law firms, courts, legal services organizations and government agencies.

BBA Summer Jobs program.


Task Force on Parenting and the Legal Profession

In the fall of 1989, President Rudolph Pierce appointed The Task Force on Parenting to address key issues central to balancing work and family life.  In recognition that these issues created barriers to attracting and retaining a diverse work force, the Task Force examined and make recommendations on in four key areas: parental leave, direct day-care services, tuition assistance, and part-time work within the profession.  This insightful analysis was expounded upon several years later, when a joint Task-Force on Part-Time Lawyering between the BBA and the Women’s Bar Association produced a second report in 1995.


BBA Reaches Out to Affinity Bar Associations

In an effort to increase participation in the BBA and help alleviate economic barriers for lawyers of color, Rudolph Pierce, the BBA’s first Black president, approved a proposal to offer members of four affinity bar associations a credit on BBA dues.  The initiative would eventually grow to include seven affinity bar partners: Asian American Lawyers Association (AALAM); Massachusetts Association of Hispanic Attorneys (MAHA); Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association (MBLA); Massachusetts Black Women Attorneys (MBWA); South Asian Bar Association Greater Boston (SABA GB); Hispanic National Bar Association – Region 1 (HNBA) and Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association.  Today, the BBA collaborates at the highest levels with these affinity bars – developing programming, identifying leaders and providing them with meeting and office space at 16 Beacon Street.


The First Law Day in The Schools Program Begins 

The first Law Day in the Schools program was sponsored by the Young Lawyer’s Section in 1987.  Working in conjunction with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Education, attorneys visited Boston area schools with Special Education programs. In recent years, the BBA’s Law Day in the Schools Program (link to Law Day in the Schools page), has connected hundreds of volunteers with over 1,700 Boston-area K-12 students to explore various lessons in the law and civics such as Miranda Rights, Voting Rights, and Free Speech .  This program has provided a unique opportunity for students to engage with a lawyer, and for lawyers to get directly involved in local schools. Today, the BBA produces virtual learning modules that provide flexibility in bringing these lessons to students.

A child smiling.


BBA Forms Special Committee to Assist Minority Students

Recognizing the low representation of law students of color attending area law schools, the BBA created a special committee committed to providing financial support and scholarships to underrepresented students in order to make law school more accessible. By 1970, nearly $30,000 had been raised for student scholarships through this program. Today, the BBA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Summer Fellowship Program continues to support the pipeline of young lawyers of color through paid stipends to students pursuing summer internships in the public interest.