Written by Dionne Kellier
I am a Black Woman. Very early on in my career, even in Law School, I was made aware that WE are few and far between in the Legal Profession. Each experience I had, and still have that “questioned” my title or aspirations only solidified the harsh reality. I will not provide statistics; I am just going to speak as to what I, and so many of my similarly situated counterparts, experience. I was the ONLY Black woman sworn in during my ceremony when I passed the Florida Bar in 2006.
People tend to ask what I do. I tell them I am a Tax Attorney. The utter shock on their faces is very unsettling. I used to think the “I am an Attorney” shocked looked was hurtful, but now that I have my LLM in Taxation and I let people [who ask] know, I have to make a split-second choice to not show how angry it makes me. Actually, more hurt than angry. I wonder what profession would make them not shocked. Not one of my Non-Minority male or female Attorney friends has ever experienced this. We talk about it. But every single one of my Minority Attorney friends can tell me at least five instances, sometimes per year, when something exactly like this or similar has happened.
Despite this, I still see things changing in a positive direction. I see more and more Minority attorneys in my daily life. I can pretty much name the Black Woman Attorneys in the Cannabis Industry. They are all highly exceptional. But none of us work in the same firm. I find that the Cannabis Industry is not very diverse. The untoward reality is that Minority communities have been disproportionately negatively affected by Cannabis, which guides our choices in the type of law we practice. Our families do not want the stigma attached to their names because, for so many years, we have seen Jail and Prison for those who get involved in Cannabis.
Diversity and Inclusion In The Workplace
I applaud the efforts at Hoban Law Group in getting involved with helping to change the system. No Law Firm is obligated to be Diverse and Inclusive. I appreciate Mr. Hoban [Bob] for taking affirmative steps to address issues regarding the lack of Diversity and being serious about it. This effort is not just for the time being or trendy.
The creation of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and the actions that we have already taken speak volumes. I am very passionate when it comes to addressing the systemic issues faced by Minorities, including the lack of information and opportunity. We just want the SAME opportunities and access to funding, information, licenses, record expungements, law firms, locations, products, etc.…the list can go on and on, as Non-Minorities have access to. We are in the beginning stages of creating partnerships and alliances that will redress the disparities, including Improving Diversity internally, supporting the Last Prisoner Project, Pro Bono Criminal Representation, among other initiatives. As the Chairwoman of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, I am committed to making Hoban Law Group a Leader in this space!!