Equality Committee Multnomah Lawyer Articles

September 2006 Multnomah Lawyer article

Affirmative Action Program (AAP) Scheduled for Reauthorization

By Andrea Anderly, Gevurtz Menashe et al.

"The true and ultimate goal of an affirmative action program must be to increase the understanding of all races and ethnic groups in the workplace, to increase the appreciation of one for the other, to achieve a society in which no race, no culture, is dominant other than in a numerical sense. The goal is to achieve a heterogeneous culture, one in which racial prejudice and bias, overt or covert, intended or unintended, no longer exists."

Chief Justice Edwin Peterson, Ret., Oregon Supreme Court Task Force on Racial/Ethnic Issues (1994)

On September 16, the OSB House of Delegates convenes in Eugene for its annual meeting. One of the important tasks on the agenda is the reauthorization of the OSB Affirmative Action Program. After 30 years, the number of ethnic and minority lawyers in Oregon has grown from .5% to 5.5%. This is the direct result of the combined efforts of Oregon lawyers to support the AAP program since its inception in 1975.

The work of OSB AAP is not finished. Currently, 10% of Oregon's population includes people from ethnic and minority backgrounds. The various AAP programs including the First Year Internships, Clerkship Stipends, Public Honors Fellowships, Bar Exam Grants and OLIO (Opportunities for Law in Oregon), all of which serve to support law students who have experienced barriers to access to justice and who can contribute to the diversity in the legal community. Participation is not limited to ethnic minorities. Students who have experienced barriers due to economic hardship, disability, ethnic/racial identity, age, sexual orientation, etc. can also participate.

Historically, Oregon has had a reputation of bigotry. Oregon lawyers, through programs such as the OSB AAP, lead the state in assisting diverse students to find a place in the legal profession. While the programs initiated by the OSB AAP have increased the number of ethnic and minority lawyers practicing law in Oregon, parity has not yet been achieved. The members of the HOD, as representatives of the legal profession in Oregon, share the responsibility of assuring that legal services provided by the Oregon legal community meet needs and provide equality in access and equal justice to all citizens, especially when considering reauthorization of the AAP on September 16.